When travelling with young children and babies remember what you learnt as a cub scout … be prepared! Travelling en famille does not need to be stressful if you make it a logistical exercise and plan everything well in advance. Kids and babies sense stress and will act up accordingly, just remember, no one is judging you, so don’t worry about being the least popular person on the plane, chances are you will never see them again…the passengers that is, not the kids!
If you are still determined to travel, and not tempted to drop the kids off at your parents on the way to the airport, here are a few things to remember!
Make sure you have copies of all yours and your children’s legal documents with you, including birth, marriage and or adoption certificates. Don’t forget children and babies also require visas!
Visit your doctor beforehand and make sure you are up to date with immunization, medication and any particular concerns regarding the country you are travelling to i.e. insect repellant, bed nets, antibiotic cover. Get together a substantial medical kit as kids will be kids and accidents do happen!
Pre-book family friendly accommodation, as well as bassinets on your airline carrier, take along or organize to hire once you arrive, a car seat, stroller and cot.
Arm yourself for security with an organized set of carry-on luggage for you and the children. Remember restrictions regarding liquids. Make sure you have your babies’ formula in dry form and marked accordingly.
Pack plenty of diversion tactics, toys, books, games, snacks, but leave the noise makers at home, toys that is… not the baby, the other passengers will thank you.
Plan non-stop overnight flights and wear out the kids prior to boarding, choose your preference for seating; window… only one escape route for an antsy toddler, or aisle so you can get out with the baby for a break up and down the plane.
Turbulence can have a calming effect on babies, rocking them to sleep. Keep your sense of humor intact, I once flew all the way to London wet through to my underwear, the Diet Coke I was drinking was knocked over by my three year old, while my 10 month old vomited in spectacular fashion in my hair and down my back. Travelling in-flight is like childbirth…you soon forget all about it!
There are hidden advantages, travelling with a young family; people give up seats on trains and buses, and allow you to the front of the queue in museums. Europeans and Asians love children, complete strangers will stop to admire and talk to your kids. A baby in arms is an instant ticket for lots of local admiration, kids and babies make people smile! Heads up, enjoy travelling with your kids when they are young, when they are teenagers they will plug themselves into their i Pod, deliberately lose you in the street, on the beach, in the mountains, ski fields or where ever you happen to be travelling.
Once you arrive at your destination, be kind to yourself, it’s your holiday too, and you have coped well, break out the wine and have a very large glass! Don’t overschedule, accept each day as it comes and live in the moment. Allow a couple of days for everyone to overcome their jetlag.
Like your child, be curious. As small children, my son and daughter were prolific readers, so we planned the holiday around their vivid imagination. Most of the itineraries worked well, the trips to the zoos, museums, King Arthur’s mythical birthplace, castles and iconic landmarks. However, don’t expect everything to go according to plan, the trip to the Bloody Tower of London and the catacombs in Rome and Paris ended in tears, and that was just the adults. Another unremarkable trip was a long car journey to find Nottingham Forest, only to find it no longer existed. All there was to see was a rather tawdry museum and a sad little statue of Robin Hood.
I will never forget the Christmas we enjoyed as a family in Yosemite National Park, picture postcard perfect, carol singers during dinner, and deer frolicking in the snow, so breathtakingly beautiful. The funny side was the car we rented was so small that we were packed in like sardines and had to be extracted one by one on arrival at each destination.
With children you see the world through new eyes, so smile, breath and make memories to remember for a lifetime!