Family holidays always sound like such a good idea at the time. However without careful planning they can quickly turn into a nightmare – not that I’m speaking from experience! I’ve listed just a few nifty hacks for a stress-free travelling guide. I’ve picked up some ideas over the years that can help to navigate some of the more common challenges of jetting off with your little ones.
Stress-free travelling tips
Organisation is Key
It may seem obvious but being well prepared can make a holiday with kids go so much more smoothly. There will always be things that catch you off-guard but being as prepared as possible for any and all eventualities can really help you to keep your cool if/when crisis hits.
Time – and lots of it
One thing to take into consideration when planning your trip is to build in lots and lots of wiggle room. Travelling with kids is great but everything, and I mean everything, just does take about 10 times as long. Tantrums, toilet stops, wandering off – all these things eat into your travel time. So it’s best to build in time for them rather than be stressing about missing a connection and remember your kids id bands.
If you’re travelling by car then it’s also good to stop every so often simply to let the kids have a run around and blow off some steam – trust me, this is good for everyone! If they tire themselves out running around then they’re more likely to sleep in the car too.
Sleeping it off
If at all possible, try to travel when your kids would be sleeping anyway, as this makes the journey pass faster for them and saves you having to answer the dreaded question “are we nearly there yet?” every 10 minutes.
When travelling overnight try to stick to your kids’ usual bedtime routine as much as possible – change them into their PJs, read them a bedtime story etc. Avoiding peak times for travel also makes it more likely that your children will be able to pinch some extra room to stretch out and sleep.
Maybe this is stating the obvious, but please do be safe when travelling overnight. Having your kids sleep through the journey is ideal but if you yourself are tired don’t risk falling asleep at the wheel for the sake of saving some time. If need be, break the journey up and make the travel part of the holiday.
Keep them entertained
Nothing is more excruciating than a journey with bored children! Plan ahead and make sure you have things on hand to keep them from getting bored. It can be as simple as packing some travel games, their favourite toy or downloading some audio CDs to listen to. Breaking up the journey as much as possible is also great for keeping things interesting.
Controversial, I know, but screens can be a real lifesaver when travelling. Having some films or TV series ready to go can come in handy if stories just aren’t cutting it any more. The secret is to make screens a last resort – use up every other weapon in your arsenal before bringing out the iPad.
You can also play some games like “I spy” or “pick a letter and count how many times you can find it on the next number plates that pass” or “pick a car colour and count how many of your colour we see”. There are plenty of others similar games. Prima have a good list of ideas for you.
Snacks, snacks and more snacks
Not only do snacks give you all the energy to get through the sometimes stressful experience that is travelling, they’re also a great boredom buster. Packing plenty of snacks and even a meal or 2 is a great way to save some pennies (airport and service station food is extortionate!) but it also means that if hunger strikes, you can quickly shut it down before the tears kick in.
On the subject of food, if you’re going to be flying, try and save a snack, or a feed if you’re still breastfeeding, for both take-off and landing. Eating can help kids’ ears to pop which makes the experience a bit more comfortable for them, especially if they’re not used to it.
How much and what you pack can really make or break your enjoyment of a holiday! Bearing in mind that most likely you’ll end up with your kids stuff too, less is definitely more. Take time to figure out what the essentials are and then look at ways you can minimise your baggage requirements. Use luggage straps in order to find easily your luggage, and use the stick on name labels to easy identify clothes.
One essential thing to pack, which I used to forget when my kids were much younger, was a change of clothes for everyone. Not only does this have you covered if your luggage gets lost, but with very young or first-time travellers, there will more than likely be some kind of nappy or sicky incident which requires at least one persons’ clothes to be changed! Don’t learn this one the hard way!
Chat to your kids
Lastly, chatting to your kids about what’s going to happen on holiday can make the idea much less stressful for them. As adults we tend to take things like airport security in our stride. For a young child, being met by a stern-faced security guard who’s taken teddy away and put him in a scary dark machine can be slightly upsetting. Making sure that your kid knows what to expect can save any unwanted airport break-downs.
Also, talk to your child about your destination and even letting them pick out some of the activities goes a long way to making them enjoy the holiday. They will feel more like they’re a part of it. Having a rough itinerary planned out is definitely a good idea but be sure to leave a bit of wiggle room for any unexpected situations but also for some spontaneity…like toilet or sick breaks!