It's the time of the year to get ready for your family summer holiday you've been waiting for all year. Will it be a tent in Torquay or a hotel in Hawaii?
While holidays are relaxing, getting to them, especially with young children isn’t – think screaming, overtired babies, bored, irritable children and long, flight delays. From prepping activities for them beforehand to planning your journey carefully, there are lots of ways you can make travelling with children fun rather than frantic. We’ve put together some expert parenting hacks to show you how.
If it's your first family holiday and you're looking for some advice on how to make it as easy and as enjoyable as possible, these ideas will make your holiday run more smoothly…
1.Talk with your kids about what the journey will involve. Getting on a plane can be a daunting experience so you’ll need to normalise it by talking about what it’s like taking off and role-playing going through security and check-in. Helping them prepare will make them feel in control of things and excited, rather than stressed and worried – and they’re less likely to tantrum on the travel day itself.
2. Boring as it is, organise as much of the admin side of things as you can beforehand. Check-in online, prebook taxis and covid tests and, most importantly, check the expiry date of everyone’s passport well before you need to fly.
3. Choose an airline that offers kid-friendly perks like high-quality and healthy children’s meals, great on-flight entertainment or an awesome activity pack. If you’re flying with a baby under one, try and book a bassinet seat if your airline offers it. Not only will they provide you with a cot but, because you are seating on the bulkhead, you’ll get a bit of extra legroom.
4. Don’t overpack. While it’s tempting to bring everything for every eventuality, you really don’t need to. You can pick up nappies at pretty much every place in the world and you’ll regret that second pair of heels when you’re trying to juggle multiple luggage carts with multiple children.
5. Strategically plan flight times so that you don’t find yourself hanging around an airport when it’s their nap time. Avoid flights with long layovers and late-night connections and, if you are flying overnight, try and time it so it coincides with their bedtime, and they can sleep on the plane.
6. Talking of sleep… set the stage for this to happen. You need to make it feel like bedtime so let them change into their pyjamas, bring their favourite stuffed animal or comforter, and snuggle down with their blanket. If you read a book last thing before bed at home, do that here too. You might even want to splash out on one of these Flyaway Kids’ Beds. This clever gadget inflates in 90 seconds so your child can stretch out and get comfortable.
7. Anxious children might like it if you make their seat seem a little bit special. Nice Seats has a range of washable covers in child-friendly designs that are fun and practical. While airlines often provide pillows, @themagiccitymom suggests getting a child-size neck pillow in their favourite colour.
8. Pack a bag with everything you’ll need to keep them entertained, says @healthy.living.with.emily. That might be their favourite snacks, colouring pens and paper, card games… anything that you know will keep them busy.
9. If you are feeling particularly organised, buy a few pound shop toys and wrap them up. You can then give them out over the duration of the flight as a reward for good behaviour or when you’re all out of ideas. Half the excitement will be in opening something that is NEW.
10. Alternatively, invest in one of these entertainment packs from Keep Em Quiet. They can be tailored for gender and age and come complete with educational games, healthy snacks, books, toys and puzzles.
11. The tray tables on aeroplanes are often too big for little ones so it might be worth splashing out on a Children's Travel Toy Tray so they can organise their bits and have somewhere easy to eat off.
12. Think about the clothes that your kids are wearing. The temperature on a flight can fluctuate wildly so opt for layers that can easily be taken off or put on (without your help if possible!) Avoid shoes with laces unless you want to be constantly doing them up, and, if you have a baby or a younger child, pack spare clothes (for both them and you!) Even if they rarely have accidents, going on a plane with very different-looking toilets, a long day travelling and a change in time zone might confuse them. And that’s not to mention the likelihood of spillages.
13. If your kids have a tendency to wander off, make sure they have your contact information in a pocket. Alternatively, you could invest in a GPS tracking device, which can be attached to your child’s wrist and followed with an app.
14. Planning to use electronic devices to get through a flight? @playwithmemammy suggests making sure all current downloads at up to date 24-48 hours before you fly. Then, 24 hours before, make sure all devices are fully charged and download some, new educational games for them to play. In case of emergencies – for example if the iPads die – have a few games and audio books downloaded on your phone. She also suggests using a separate bag for devices and storing headphones, chargers etc in the one bag so you know where everything is.
15. Make sure you remember to give everyone a set of headphones. These iClever headphones come with untangled wires and are foldable, perfect for maximising space.
16. Another way to keep kids entertained – before, on and after the flight – is to give them an old phone or camera, says @the_crafty_kiwi_teacher. They can amuse themselves taking pictures and will notice little details more and be able to talk about them later.
17. Children have narrower ear canals than adults so are often more affected by air pressure. Bring sweets or lollies for older children to suck and a bottle of milk or water for babies. These will help them to swallow, regulate the pressure and reduce pain.
18. For younger children, it might be worth investing in some ear protectors like these from Banz World Europe. As well as helping them to sleep, they will stop young ones getting startled when the loud announcements come on.
19. It’s easy to forget the basics when it comes to travelling with children but remember to always pack any medicines that you might need for the journey. Medication for headaches, allergies, upset stomachs, motion sickness and anything else that applies to your family, plus plasters, antibacterial gel and antiseptic wipes, are always a good bet.
20. The most important take-away when travelling with children is to take is slow, leave plenty of time and accept that things will go wrong. Remember, for them and you, a big part of the adventure is getting there.