Family holidays are a hugely special time for parents and children alike. An oasis of time to be together in often hugely busy lives, whether you’re jetting off to summer climes or exploring all the activities on offer at Centre Parcs, it’s always time well spent. Relaxing, reconnecting as a family and making special memories together is so important, and something we look forward to all year long.
One slightly less appealing aspect, however, can be travelling with small children. The idea of dealing with tired meltdowns and tantrums in the confined space of an aeroplane or trying to talk them down from the driver’s seat of your car while hurtling down the motorway is extremely daunting. The sheer uncertainty of how small children will behave, and the fact that travelling and the excitement of going on holiday takes them out of their usual routine can be a big source of worry for parents. With a little preparation though, you can make things easier for them and yourself. By putting as much thought into the journey as the other elements of your trip, you can relax and look forward to your break together.
Always Book Flights In Advance
You’ve probably worked out by now that having a family puts paid to much spontaneity, and never more so than when it comes to travel arrangements. Now is not the time to wing it, no matter how tempting those last minute flight deals or Secret Escapes hotel offers might be! Instead of relying on online booking for flights, it can be worth actually calling the airline up in advance. A lot of international carriers block out their front-row, bulkhead seats, which are prime space for young families. If you call up well in advance and request those seats it can make a huge difference to the quality of your journey, as there is a little room for children to stand without blocking aisles or getting in the way of other passengers. And typically there is no extra charge for these places.
Talk About Your Travel Plans
Routine is a huge part of what makes your little person comfortable. Although all children are different, some more emotionally resilient than others, all of them are generally significantly worse behaved when their routines – and therefore their sense of security – is disrupted. Counter this by building as much of their routine into your holiday and travel plans as you can. Discuss with them what you will be doing in advance, so that they can understand some of what is coming up. Let them know the process – ‘First, we’ll be driving to the airport. Then, we’ll park the car and get on the little bus, and then we’ll be at the airport watching all the planes take off’ etc. Discuss what your holiday destination will be like and what you’ll be doing – and it’s a good idea to ask for their input on family summer activity trip ideas as well. The more sense of control and certainty they feel over the arrangements, the less likely they are to have a complete meltdown.
Pack Your Bags Right
The next step is making sure that you have packed the right items for your flight or train or car journey. Try to be ruthlessly organised with your supplies, and make sure they are easy to access and you know exactly where everything is – there’s nothing like having to dig through the overhead locker in a dimmed cabin with a wailing child to put the pressure on! A cabin size rucksack is the best choice – you’ll appreciate having your hands free when you’re trailing through the airport or clambering on and off train platforms with the kids.
Cover the basics first – nappies, wipes, deodorising nappy bags and a spare set of clothes. Then make sure you have drinks and healthy snacks – plus perhaps a couple of unhealthy ones to reserve as bribes in dire circumstances! Although you should definitely try to limit the amount of sugar and processed foods your child is snacking on in transit to avoid negative effects on their mood, sometimes that chocolate bar can be the only thing standing between you and the mother of all tantrums. Remember that there are special allowances within the flight restrictions for formula milk and toddler pouches of food, so take full advantage.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a collapsible water bottle which you can fill once you’re past security at the airport. If you’re driving somewhere, pack the boot with bottles of water, easy to grab snacks like oat bars and dried fruit and a simple first aid kit. Use Netflix or the CBeebies app which allow you to download shows to your tablet – these can be a lifesaver. Make a travel activity bag for each child with small colouring books and crayons and little toys – keep these a surprise and pull them out as needed.
With a little forward planning you can have a smooth journey with your family – Bon voyage!