There’s nothing new about the fact that travelling with children can be a challenge, and that some parents don't even bother taking the risk of stress exposure.
Some might say that a ‘challenge’ is actually a huge understatement. However, there’s also a side of the coin that shows it doesn't always have to be the case.
Let's be honest. How many times have we thought of moving seats on the plane when seeing a family with little ones settling down in front of us?
Or switching to another security lane after spotting a buggy? Probably quite often. The same goes with accommodation. How often do you ask for a different hotel room when seeing toddlers coming out of the one next door?
Time to get real
The truth is, that most parents feel the same, and those who say they don’t aren’t being entirely truthful. That, or they’ve learned how to manage their emotions better!
Being with, and looking after young children at home, in the play area, streets or elsewhere, isn’t always fun. It's responsibility, and going on holiday is no different.
So what’s important to ensuring a good holiday with young children? What are the secrets of successful family travel and a guaranteed fun getaway?
The answer is, there is no secret. It’s all down to the planning.
Top tips for travelling with young children
Below are some tips that I use when planning a trip with my own young children. Hopefully you’ll find them equally as handy as I do!
1. You know your child better than anyone else, take advantage!
Whether it’s a daytime nap at 1pm or a snack at 4pm, your child will be asking for the same things when travelling or on holiday.
Write down all the activities you’ve done with the children over the past few days. It’ll give you good insight about your child's day, and what to expect during your travel or holiday. It’ll also help you to build the right itinerary.
Top tip: Choose departure and arrival times wisely, especially if flying in different time zones. Typically, the first 3 to 4 hours on a flight are easiest to manage with young children.
If you’re flying long haul, consider a connecting flight. It’ll be cheaper in most cases and a lot easier to manage.
2. Be prepared
Pack the children’s favourite toys, activity books, snacks, bottles and blankets. These can be really useful particularly when going to sleep! Children’s sense of smell is far better than adults, and with a familiar blanket they can sleep longer and feel secure.
Don’t forget to take chargers for tablets — there's nothing worse than an iPad with an empty battery.
It's always a good idea to pack these things so that you can reach them easily at any time. Equally, it’s also worth taking extra supplies. There’s no guarantee that your luggage will be there when you need it most.
Top tip: Never give your children all the books, snacks, toys etc in one go. Chances are they’ll soon get bored and will be asking for something new.
3. The holiday starts when you leave your home, not only upon arrival to the hotel.
What most parents rarely think about is that an adventure starts much earlier than a check-in at the hotel.
A taxi ride or transfer, the airport and the plane ride are all situations that your children don’t experience on a daily basis. That said, try to make them fun and engaging as possible.
Count airplanes on the runway or enjoy a colouring book. Alternatively, simply go for a walk in the terminal building — there’ll be plenty of sitting time ahead.
Even simple things like waving bye to a taxi driver, plane spotting at the departures lounge is interaction and something different. Be positive about these sights and pass the excitement onto your child.
4. Never compromise on sleep and rest times
Children under the age of 1 or 2 typically sleep well and have their routine. On the aircraft when the cabin pressure changes as the plane takes off, children can easily fall asleep.
If you’re among those lucky parents, enjoy this time by reading a good book or having a little nap yourself. Yes, us adults can get tired sometimes as well….
I wouldn’t recommend drinking alcohol when flying with young children. It’s widely known that alcohol causes dehydration, and there's a good chance you may lose your focus when trying to care for the children.
Top tip: If your child’s struggling to sleep, it's a sign for cuddles and a walk. Normally 20 minutes in the arms of a parent does the trick.
5. Respect others
Most travellers are parents themselves or have had parenting experience in the past. You’ll be surprised at how helpful a stranger can be, and the light they can bring by just smiling, or talking to your child.
It pays to respect people around you, especially the staff. Airport, cabin and hotel staff are used to seeing families travelling every day, and are well aware of the challenges parents face.
Lastly, travel and holidays are supposed to be fun. It's the time you’ve probably been waiting and worked hard for. Children can always feel when you’re stressed, so leave it at home, and take that positive energy with you instead.