Does the thought of having to travel to your holiday destination put you off the whole idea of going away in the first place? You’re not alone. Every parent has experienced the dreaded question: ‘are we nearly there yet?’ But don’t forget your much-deserved break, with a bit of forethought and planning travelling with children can be (relatively) pain free.
Before you leave
It’s a good idea to start organising all the things you’ll need for your trip well in advance. If you can, start laying them out in a spare room a few days before you leave. This way you can keep adding to your pile and seeing what is missing.
Make sure you have all the documents you need – passports, tickets, visas, and certificates for any necessary vaccinations. Zip-up see-through folders are ideal for carrying these kinds of items.
Include some clean clothes in you hand luggage, just incase one of your kids spills juice on their t-shirt or has another disaster. Also include some wet wipes and small bags that can be used for rubbish and/or dirty nappies.
Remember jumpers for everyone in case of overly fierce air-conditioning on planes or buses.
Don’t forget favourite cuddly toys or comfort blankets, children need reassuring items even more when they are on the move and in a strange place.
Here are some top tips for ways to keep the time moving during those long hours in transit:
Everyone loves a bit of I Spy. It’s an old favourite that can be played on planes, in cars, or on trains. When you run out of colours, try things beginning or ending with certain letters.
The Number Plate Game is another good one if you are travelling by road. Challenge your kids to make up sentences using the letters and numerals of number plates, e.g. WWB 966 could be ‘we want 966 bananas’.
Sing-a-longs always make road trips go faster. Take your favourite CDs or music on an iPod, and take it in turns to pretend you’re auditioning for a TV talent show.
If you kids are any age from toddler upwards, give them a backpack that they can slip off their shoulders to carry their toys and activities. This way they have something to be in ‘charge’ of. Just make sure it’s not too heavy – this can hurt their backs and will probably end up with you carrying it.
Present them with a journal before you leave. This works for all ages, as both children and teenagers love documenting what’s happening, from airport to excursions while you are aware. Take some glue sticks so they can add plane and entrance tickets, photos, postcards and other holiday-related items.
Planes and trains are ideal places to encourage your kids with their reading. Don’t be afraid to take their most well loved stories, they will welcome something reassuring whilst in transit.
Cheap colouring and puzzle books are essential. Take pencils or crayons rather than marker pens, as your kids will probably be playing in a more restricted area and marker pens can leave stains on clothes and upholstery. Reusable sticker books are also fun for younger children.
DVDs or download movies on laptops or other devices are always sure winners, as are electronic games. If you’re travelling by plane, check in advance on the airline’s website to see what inflight entertainment might be available. Don’t forget headphones suitable for children, with limiters to prevent damaging their hearing.
As it can be so expensive in airports, at service stations and at train stations, stock up on long-lasting snack items for your journey. Take plastic containers and pouches of fruit, juices, water, yoghurt and sandwiches.
Have you got things covered if your mode of transport is delayed? Remember to pack enough essentials to carry you through some extra hours if necessary.
Plan ahead for any problems that children might experience due to changes in pressurisation during your flight’s ascent and descent. We all know how painful this is can be – and it’s even more distressing if you don’t understand what’s happening. Take something they can suck on to help regulate their ears during the flight. Chewable sweets are also good because they take longer to eat. Explain to your kids that yawning or just swallowing also sometimes works.
Finally, try to stay relaxed. Expect the unexpected, and try not to get wound up by minor irritations. Remember this is supposed to be a holiday, leave your work ‘frame of mind’ in the office and go with the flow.