Parents' Essential Tips for Travelling With Babies & Toddlers
Our incredible Summer is in full swing and parents are heading to beaches on day trips, driving further afield for some sunny staycationing, or hitting the airports to fly abroad for some more sunshine.
But before the holiday can start, you've got the journey to contend with. And that itself can be enough to strike fear into the most seasoned of holidaying parents. So our fabulous Shepherds & Shakers have come up with their tip top tips for making any journey easier.
The Shepherds (Father guards the sheep...)
Aki & Minna: We made our first trip abroad with our our daughter when she was three months old and she has been a frequent traveler ever since.
- She is a relaxed traveler like her parents and actually we feel that is the key for successful traveling. If parents are stressed and tensed about travelling, kids pick it up.
- We always pack healthy snacks and don't rely on meals on planes for example. It keeps away hunger plus toddlers can spend a good amount of time munching blueberries and raisins.
- Talking about eating, pack spare clothes for the little one and do not forget yourself. Mess knows no borders.
- To keep her interest, we have a separate set of toys for travel only, including a tablet with songs, videos, drawing app etc.
- We pack some of her favourite toys, but also purchase something new for each trip which we give her as a surprise. We do not reveal all the cards in the beginning of the trip, so we have always a few tricks up our sleeve when situation requires it.
- Traveling across time zones can be tricky. We always try to avoid night flights. Babies sleep anywhere but we don't and we feel it the following day. It is easier to manage long days than short nights. Key is to start living the new time zone immediately after landing as much as possible.
- Finally you need to respect fellow passengers, but they are usually far more understanding than you think. With your toddler, use your "no" word sparingly for moments when you really need it. Let them explore, be curious and learn to enjoy traveling.
- For travelling by car, if you can try to plan the timing of your journey around nap times, rush hours etc.
- As a family we try to discourage the use of iPads as a childminder, so often play games instead like I Spy with colours.
- But whilst we try to make sure there is enough to keep children entertained, we don't shy away from leaving them to their own thoughts and having to create their own entertainment, especially in the car. Life is so full of stimulation that boredom is a much unappreciated creator of creativity.
- My saviour is the iPad. I have this mount for it so that it sits equally in the middle for all three children!
- Stop off at Service Stations.
- And we try to book plane journeys in tandem with naps.
The Shakers (Mother shakes the dreamland tree...)
Chrisy: I’ve taken several solo and family trips via planes, trains, and automobiles and the key to all of these has been to make sure there is enough to drink, eat, and do.
- I often go to a discount store and buy a number of different art/craft things, books, and toys to keep us occupied. I wrap them up and drip feed them throughout the trip....especially long haul.
- My advice for packing is start it two weeks before and repack at least two times....taking out all unnecessary stuff. The first few times I travelled with Bub I packed way too much and had to lug it around everywhere.
- Because I have just one kid I opted out of the pushchair/stroller and bought a very good lightweight carrier (without frame). I even have a toddler one that just rolls up in a nice little ball. Makes life so much easier. I also decided not to lug all the bed crap around and she just sleeps with me or us when away.
- I have a travel medical bag with everything I might need if she gets a cold/cut, etc. and I often buy mini toiletries when I’m at my destination to keep overall crap lugging down.
- As for organisation and the travel itself, make it as easy as possible. I download my boarding passes to my phone and set an itinerary with notifications to help keep me on track and low stress. Also at least the day before I check all travel info to help make the following day run a bit more smoothly. My daughter knows exactly when I’m stressed and in return chooses those moments to act up (most likely because she doesn’t feel safe bla bla bla). Also, always give yourself more time than you think...just in case someone (my bf) forgets his passport or we miss a connection. To help myself not feel overwhelmed I often just think one step/stage at a time and just focus on that one thing...not the overall trip, all the connections, and time it will take...just what I must do at that actual moment. And finally, maybe a Gin & Tonic before leaving might help (that is unless you’re driving, breastfeeding, etc).
Em: We travelled to 5 places within a month when our youngest was only a few months old. Obviously super portable at that age!
- What made it massively easier was taking our very compact travel feeding pillow, so he would feed and fall asleep on it for pretty much the entire flight each time. From then on it has become increasingly harder to keep the boys' attention for long periods of time.
- Usually I have a large stash of madeleines to hand - a non-nutritious and butter-filled snack! Saves all in ear shot though.
- We are heading to America in the Autumn and have heard recommendations of wrapping up little toys, sticker books etc to increase excitement at using them and pass a bit more time. Let's hope that's a winner.
Katharine: Planes (and to a lesser extent, trains):
When our girls were very little I had to do a fair bit of flying on my own with them and military organisation was key.
- Make a list (check it twice): lists of what you need on the plane, what you're packing for the hold.
- Get to the airport with lots of time - checking in, getting through security etc can take a very long time with children.
- Have a snack to hand for the endless queues.
- Take a sling on the plane with you (for a baby or toddler) - the baby can sleep in it, you can carry the baby in it while you take your toddler to the loo etc. And most importantly, it's a lifesaver when your buggy, which is supposed to meet you at the door when you get off the plane, doesn't (happens more often than not) and you have miles to walk to get it.
- Take new toys, books, sticker books, colouring books, crayons on the plane. If they're new they'll be interesting for longer. Produce them as a surprise during the journey and drip feed the new things. And remember to pack new things for the return journey as well.
- Download some tv programmes onto an iPad if you have one.
- And some children's fun apps. Again, new things are great.
- Take snacks - not necessarily the ones you'd love them to eat to maintain healthy gums, but the ones you know they'll love and will make them and you happy!
- Remember you can't take water through security with you - although if you have a bottle of milk you will probably be asked to taste it to show it's ok.
- Choose an aisle seat if you can for the constant getting up and down.
- When taking off and landing, give your toddler a drink to sip to help the pressure in their ears, and feed your baby if awake (bottle or boob) at these times - make sure you do it when you're actually taking off not when you start taxying to the runway as this can take so long you'll use up all your feed before the actual take off!
- Don't be afraid to ask for help from airport or plane staff - they're usually only too happy to help.
- Try to travel over nap time, bed time or when they're tired.
- Travel when they're hungry - eating in the car is a great distraction and time passer. Although clearly this isn't a great option if a child gets car sick.
- Sticker books and colouring books are great. Again, new things will occupy them for longer.
- Audiobooks on CD or downloaded onto phones etc are brilliant. New ones even better.
- And a sing-a-long is good.
- We played I Spy from an early age with "I spy with my little eye something beginning with green..."
- If the babies/children are ok in the car, don't stop off. Whilst they're ok keep driving. Save the stops for when you really need them. So set off with a full tank of fuel.
Marysia: These helped in my experience:
- Write a to do list (and don't forget to check it).
- When flying, get to the airport way in advance: checking in car seats, buggies and getting through security, which can take ages especially if you have baby food.
- Take lots of sticker books and a new book (we usually don't show then so it's a surprise), drawing pad and crayons.
- Take lots of snacks.
- When travelling by car and children have problems with car sickness, recline the front seat and remove the headrest so they can look out of the front window and try and make them look out the whole time (reading books only makes it worse in my experience).
Wendy: I think that with babies trains were my favourite as you can move about easily.
- Planes I remember the sling being essential for walking up and down but annoying you have to take them out at take off.
- Also the maxing ability of babies to sleep through stuff - I remember with our first baby she went through 2 sets of “body searches” in and out of a car seat and stayed asleep!
- Also wouldn’t recommend business class (sadly not usually a choice!) but we did get upgraded once because of work with our first baby at about 1 year and it was a complete nightmare as we spent the whole time feeding her crisps and chocolate to try and keep her quiet while everyone was trying to sleep!