If you are travelling with children, it can be challenging to say the least. Constant moaning, bickering siblings, and motion sickness are just some of the problems parents have to contend with. I've been travelling with mine from the time they were babies. It's easier now that they're older but it wasn't always easy. And we’ve learnt a lot as we’ve travelled.
Here are twenty-five tips for travelling with children...
- Think about your children when selecting your destination and planning an itinerary. Most children won't enjoy walking around ancient ruins under a hot sun, for hours on end.
- Plan ahead but don’t stress if you are unable to accomplish everything on your list as children can cause alot of unexpected delays.
- Let your children know what to expect. Include both positives and negatives. The positives are what they can look forward to experiencing while on holiday. The negatives are usually the long drives or long flights and many hours spent at the airport.
Bonus Tip: Letting them choose their own kids' luggage will help to get them excited about their upcoming trip.
- If you have a baby or toddler, then a travel stroller is a great accessory. They are lightweight and easy to fold - and infinitely easier than carrying your little one all day long. And when they’re not in it, you can use it to carry your bags or your shopping.
- Make sure that you have the correct travel documentation when travelling to other countries as well as the correct visas.
- Be sure to get the necessary vaccinations for your destination. Children should take these as well. Yellow fever, malaria and meningitis are some of the common vaccinations required in many countries.
- Travel at night if possible. The children will be tired and are likely to sleep during the trip making it easier for the parents.
- Ensure that you have enough snacks and drinks to keep them from getting hangry (hungry + angry). Try to avoid the sugary snacks though as you don’t want them on a sugar-high.
- If your children suffer from motion sickness like mine do, then carry some medication and some sick bags. Also, keep some Panado, in case of aches and pains.
- Ensure that you have a ready supply of age-appropriate toys to keep them from getting bored. Don’t give it to them all at once but rather give one every hour or so. Download games on their tablets before you set off.
- Wet wipes are always a good idea to wipe sticky fingers and faces.
- Give your children cheap cameras or even your smartphone to take photos with. You’ll be surprised at what they notice and it will keep them from getting bored.
- Encourage older children to keep a travel diary. This will keep them busy and help them to record their memories. I've done this with my kids and loved reading what they wrote. They can collect old tickets, postcards, maps and other travel memorabilia too.
- Use a child locator instead of leashes. They are much more child –friendly. You strap a small unit onto your child’s belt or shoe and keep the transmitter. If they go out of sight, just set off the alarm and follow the sound. Some alarms automatically go off if children go out of the required distance.
- Choose a child-friendly airline if possible. They usually give kids welcome packs and cater for kiddies meals. My children always look forward to the special treatment. And if they have their own TV on the plane they can keep themselves busy for hours with all the new movies and games they find on it.
- When travelling with babies on airplanes, find out in advance if they have a bassinet seat and be sure to book it. When my son was a baby, I had to carry him the whole time on a six-hour flight because I didn’t book the bassinet early.
- If you are a premium member of an airline's frequent-flyer club, you may be able to use a private departure lounge. Many credit cards also offer this value-added benefit. If you're not a member, you may be able to buy a day pass. You will have access to comfortable seating, free drinks and snacks, TVs and good bathroom facilities.
- Check in online before you go to the airport. This way you don’t have to queue for long. You can also book your preferred seats beforehand and ensure that your family sits together.
- You can request 'meet and assist' services when booking your flight if you'd like to be met at check-in and helped with your children and bags to the plane. Emirates offers priority check- in for families.
- Carry pacifiers for babies and bubble gum for older children to avoid earache when taking off and landing.
- Always use car seats whenever driving with children, until they are old enough. Then ensure that they use booster seats then seatbelts depending on their age. This is required by law.
- Have extra rear-view mirrors fitted into your car and facing the back seats. They will allow you to keep an eye on the children without having to turn around.
- Portable/Car DVD players used to be great for keeping children busy for hours. When our children were little, it was one of the best travel investments we'd made. Nowadays, they use tablets and smartphones of course.
- Encourage them to play car games, like “Rock, paper, scissors” and “I spy with my little eye” when they eventually get tired of their electronics.
- Stop often to allow the children to stretch their legs and take bathroom breaks. Service stations with play areas are a treat to look forward to.
Relax and enjoy your holiday! See my recommendations of family-friendly hotels in South Africa here.
Do you have any tips for travelling with children ? Please do share them here.
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