I’ve put together some (hopefully) helpful tips so you can look forward to (and maybe even enjoy!) the travelling part of your holiday and relax the moment you leave home. Having lived abroad with my two young children, our annual trips (minimum 13 hour flight) back to England to see family and friends were always a source of excitement but trepidation! Here are some of the things I’ve learned with travelling with small children - I’m not an expert but after lots of travelling you get good at knowing what works and what doesn’t (for my children…and my sanity!)
Quite often the thought of travelling with children can be a little scary…what to pack, how to manage their sleep, how to keep them entertained during the journey etc – the list is endless. BUT don’t let this put you off! The thought of creating memories and exploring with children by opening their minds in showing them new places (maybe new cultures) and eating new foods is amazing.
1. Preparation is key
A couple of weeks before I travel, I go through my packing list and edit it depending on where we are going (think climate, types of activities etc). I also have a separate packing list for the aeroplane (for all of us – what do I need and what will my children need). Having a list is a great starting point to think about what you and your family may need – you can easily tweak it if you’re travelling by car or train etc.
2. What to wear
Everyone wants to travel comfortably and not be too hot or too cold. Also think about what the temperature will be like when you arrive at your destination and pack layers accordingly. Pack changes of clothes for your children and you – having to sit in baby sick for a long journey is not fun! If you are travelling with a baby, ensure you have sufficient nappies (I plan for one per hour of travel time plus a few extra and you should have more than enough!)
- A pashmina or baby muslin. These are lifesavers and so versatile as you can use it as an extra layer for baby, a wrap-around for you or even a cover-up if you’re breastfeeding.
- A child-friendly necklace. You want to look stylish as you travel but you don’t want your favourite necklace to broken by your children. Halia Rose jewellery is super-durable, chewable and washable so is perfect for travelling with. It can also be a great sensory toy for babies to play with, keeping them occupied for part of your journey.
Pictured here is the Halia Rose Kata necklace in Vanilla Cream
3. Bags inside bags.
Although you’ll want to ensure you have something for every eventuality, especially if travelling with babies, you’ll want to travel as lightly and as comfortably as possible so I always find it handy to have bags inside of a larger bag. One bag is easier to carry but if everything is stuffed in, it can be difficult to find on a flight so I have smaller bags within that are separated into change of clothes, nappy changing, snacks, toys etc so you can easily grab what you need to.
4. Set your expectations
Having had to endure several 13 hour solo flights with my young children, I have often been on the receiving end of hard stares as we got on the plane, with passengers praying that we wouldn’t be sat next to them! You get used to doing what you need to do and you also realise that not only are you unlikely to see any of those people ever again but that it’s only a relatively small period of time in your life and at the end you can breathe a sigh of relief and know that it’s over (plus there’ll hopefully be a chilled glass of something delicious for you soon!)
Of course you want the trip to go smoothly but I always anticipate the worst and know that it is unlikely to ever be that bad (think of what your worst case scenario might be and keep it in mind before you travel…think children staying awake the whole time screaming, baby sick all over you, baby tries to climb out of bassinet! You will get through it and life will go on!)
Ask for help if you need it - most airline crew are pretty helpful and will hold baby if you need to get something from your bag or will offer to watch your children if you need to pop to the bathroom (it can be tricky taking 2 small children into those cramped toilets – it is possible but I wouldn’t recommend it!)
Some people prefer to travel when children are likely to be awake but I always prefer to travel when they should be sleeping – night flights are always my preference for long trips as I found it less daunting than the thought of trying to entertain them for most of the 13 hours! If your children are babies or young enough that they still have a bedtime routine, then you can do the same as you would do at home. I would give them their milk, read a story, put them into their pyjamas (and sleeping bags if you use them) and tell them it’s time for bed. Yes, it’s a different kind of bed time and there are lots of new and interesting things going on in the plane but try to keep things as calm and “boring” as possible so they aren’t over-stimulated - if it’s dark already then that’s a bonus! It may sound silly but I also had selotape and a dark blanket or muslin and tape it above the bassinet to block out the fire-escape lighting (plus prying eyes from passengers queuing for the bathrooms!) Just keep your fingers crossed there is little turbulence so you don’t have to take baby out of the bassinet! If all else fails then make sure you have a baby carrier so you can strap them to you whilst in you are in your seat or walking up and down the aisles if you need to.
Even when I’m doing long car journeys, I try and tie it in around nap time as they generally fall asleep and not only does it mean you don’t have to keep stopping to break the journey for them it makes for a less stressful (and quieter!) road trip!
6. Break it down
If you are travelling for a long period of time, break down the trip in to sections of time so it doesn’t feel so daunting.
1. New toys are great (I always buy a few cheap things so it doesn’t matter if we lose them down the side or under seats) but ideally not too noisy so you don’t annoy everyone (including you!). You could wrap them up as individual presents so it takes a bit of time to unwrap and adds to the excitement. Aim for roughly 1 “present” per hour of travel time and spread things out rather than giving them a bag of new things at the start of the trip as children can get bored quickly.
2. Stickers and drawing materials (make sure it’s crayons or colouring pencils, not pens – especially if you don’t want coloured marks all over you!) Create stories or games and use the stickers to bring it to life.
3. iPad or inflight entertainment – there is definitely a time and a place for technology and on an aeroplane is one of them! Pre-load the iPad with your child’s favourite programmes so you know there will be something they like to watch.
7. Snacks & meal times
Snacks, snacks and more snacks! For some reason, children’s meals on aeroplanes are like a sweet shop. I have been on several flights where my 2 year old was given a tray that had a sugary drink, 3 chocolate bars, ice cream and not much else! Sure, he would have loved it but the sugar high that everyone would have had to endure after that is not something I relished! So make sure you have some age-appropriate snacks with you (one tip is to have small things that they have to pick up individually and therefore take a bit longer to eat …things like cornflakes (skip the milk!), blueberries, dried fruit, crackers etc are ideal).
Also most airlines will let you have your meal at a separate time to your children, it may sound strange to do so but generally there is less chance of everything ending up all over you if you can separate out your meals. Your hands are free to help them and minimise spilling plus once they are fed you can generally distract them with something whilst you get to eat.
8. Mama time!
Fingers crossed the children will sleep or are happy to watch something and will give you those all precious moments to have some mama time – sleep (or at least rest) if you can, especially if you have a long trip ahead. If you find it difficult to switch off then try reading – I’m always disappointed if I start to watch a film as I generally either fall asleep or I’ll inevitably be interrupted before the end so I always take my Kindle. You can hold it with one hand (helpful if you are nursing a baby) plus it’s also a LOT lighter than a book and given all the added extra bits you need for your little ones, any weight and space saving is a bonus!
Travelling with kids is certainly a different experience, especially if you’ve previously only travelled on your own or with your partner but it doesn’t have to stressful – it’s just different!
Good luck and most importantly enjoy your holiday!
If you're looking for some summer styling options, check out our NEW Summer Lifestyle Collection with gorgeous cotton kaftans, ponchos, scarves and sarongs -gorgeous feminine and flattering designs for mamas-to-be, mamas of young babies plus mamas with older children!