Travelling with children can be stressful – here are some tips and tricks from educator Kerry Mcarthur to make your next trip away a little easier.
Holidays are planned and eagerly anticipated as a time when parents can get away and just unwind, forget about work and daily stress. The only problem with this is that a holiday away from home can often be more stressful for a young child due to the change in environment and routine.
Without careful planning and execution, your stress-free holiday could turn into a disaster. Here are some tips to consider when flying, whether locally or internationally.
At the booking phase
You might assume that because you have booked a child’s ticket that all the arrangements are in place, but don’t assume! Remember to request the child’s meal, the bassinet (in-flight cot) to make sleep time comfortable, and check with the airline with regards to their specific rules for car seats and prams.
It is worthwhile considering a night flight, as your child will be naturally tired and hopefully sleep most of the way. This will limit the amount of time you need to spend trying to entertain them in a very confined space.
Arrangements with your hotel or accommodation need to be made beforehand to ensure that you are able to get a cot or a family room.
Research your destination, as some areas can be very hilly or have very bumpy/cobbled roads, which may make touring these areas difficult with a pram. If you still want to travel to these areas, perhaps get a hiking carrier to make it easier to walk the routes rather than being confined to roads that a pram can easily navigate.
Check travel, airline and destination rules, and ensure that you have prepared all the documentation that is required including birth certificates and passports, and have certified copies of everything.
Top Tip: Leave a certified copy of all of your documentation with someone at home. This way, if something happens and you lose your documents, they can be sent to you for easier replacement.
I cannot stress the importance of researching your destination enough. Understand the weather patterns, amenities, accommodation and food, as understanding all of these will make your trip easier and a lot more comfortable if you are prepared.
If you are unsure as to what weather to expect then it is highly advisable that you layer your clothing, taking one or two easy cleaning warm outfits that can be mixed and matched along with a selection of lighter clothing.
Pack basic toiletries that you normally use at home – remember that the well-known brands we enjoy at home can often not be found in other countries and you don’t want to run the risk of allergies while trying to enjoy your holiday.
There are certain medications that will come in handy when travelling. A basic pain killer such as Panado or Calpol is always a good idea. It is also advisable to ask your healthcare provider about anti-nausea medications and medicines for an upset stomach that are safe for children as these might come in handy.
Carrying a first-aid kit with plasters, bandages and an antiseptic solution is also a must. Some form of an insect repellent is also important especially if you are travelling out into nature.
Remember to check the rules with your airline as to what you can pack in your hand luggage and how it needs to be packed eg. some airlines only allow 100ml of liquids and they need to be in clear packaging.
Top Tip: A tip to remember is to take empty plastic bottles with you. Once you are through security you can then fill these bottles on the way to the plane.
Changes in altitude can be hard on little ears, and drinking something during take-off and landing will help, so have something ready for them to drink using a straw, sippy cup or bottle. If you are breastfeeding you may not be allowed to remove your baby from their position during these times, but as soon as you are able to feed, do so, this will help regulate the pressure inside their ears.
The biggest trick is to keep busy. When not asleep, allow your little to walk along the aisle, or take them for a stroll to keep energy levels at bay. Take along some favourite story books, colouring books and games; often bringing in new options will keep them entertained for longer.
Top Tip: Wrap individual, small, inexpensive gifts. Not only will the toy provide entertainment, but the unwrapping adds value and excitement.
Once you arrive
Adjusting to new time zones can be difficult, but something to remember is that it is easier to keep children awake a bit beyond their normal time than it is to get them to sleep much earlier. Keep everyone entertained and busy for as long as possible on the first day, and get into meal time routines as quickly as possible, as this will help you get used to the new times a lot quicker.
Don’t try and cram too much into your holiday – too much change can increase stress levels. Rather focus on one city or destination and spend quality time there than rushing around from one space to another.
Schedule downtime, plan to spend time relaxing and enjoying each other’s company, and remember your holiday is more about making memories than keeping busy.
Remember to be flexible: not everything will go to plan and that is okay! Allow the memories to be built and have fun doing it. Opening your child’s mind is never easier than through new experiences, so enjoy watching them learn about different cultures, food and fun.