A family trip is an exciting adventure but it can often be overshadowed by the trepidation of how, or if your children will cope with the journey. If you get it right, travelling can be fun and memorable. If you get it wrong, travelling can be stressful and exhausting. What will determine the type of experience you have will come down to how much preparation you are willing to do ahead of your journey.
Here are a few ideas of how to make your journey stress free, ensuring both you and your children arrive at your destination happy and ready for the next step of your adventure.
Things to do before travelling
There’s always a lot to do before you go away. Some things can be left until the week before you travel, but other things such as travel documentation, passports, visas, international driver’s license, airport parking etc should be organised in advance. As a general guide it typically takes three weeks to arrange a passport, so double check all your family’s passports are in date and valid for your journey.
The week before you travel focus on tying up any loose ends at work, getting your house in order (so it’s a pleasure to walk back into your house when you return), check your luggage allowance (if applicable) and pack your bags. Involve your children as much as possible. Allow them to choose some of the clothes or toys they want to take and let them pack them into their own suitcase.
The day of travel
Keep the day of travel as relaxed as possible. Make sure everyone knows what time you are leaving and what they are responsible for. Keep some time free to talk to your children about what the day involves and what things they might do and see during their journey. Pack a separate bag with a few of your children’s favourite toys in, so they are easily accessible should they be needed. Pack snacks that are easy to eat whilst sitting down and aren’t going to leave your child in a sticky mess. Add in a few new comics, sticker books or colouring pens to help keep your children occupied should there be any waiting around.
Give your child a list of things they are responsible for on the day. This might include carrying their own bag or teddy, keeping an eye out for the aeroplanes, looking out for the flight number or trying to spot the biggest suitcase.
Travelling to the airport
Ensure you book your airport parking in advance. Bookings can often be made up to 12 months in advance but it is sometimes possible to book on the day. The more in advance you book, the better deal you’re likely to secure.
Make sure you have plenty of things organised for the children to do in the car on the way to the airport. This may be fun family games which allow everyone to join in such as I spy or the alphabet game, or it could be individual activities such as a games console or reading a comic. Pack some drinks and snacks that are just for the car journey, opt for bottles instead of cartons which can be easily spilt and choose snacks which are easy to eat in the car.
Book an airport hotel
If finances allow, then consider the option of booking an airport hotel the night before your departure. This option removes any worry over traffic jams and missed flights. It also makes it fun for the children by starting their trip one day early and gives you all the opportunity to have a relaxed start to the day. Try to pack everything you’ll need for your overnight stay in one bag so you don’t have to repack your suitcase in the morning.
Arriving at the airport
Many airports have special facilities for those passengers travelling with children. Facilities include things such as family friendly restaurants, kids zones (play areas and TV’s), porters to help with your luggage, family assistance lanes (extra wide security lanes to allow for pushchairs) and baby changing facilities.
On the plane
Once you have boarded the plane make sure you have everything that your children will need during the journey in easy reach. This includes toys, games, snacks, wet wipes, sticker books, spare nappies etc.
Children can be sensitive to the air pressure during takeoff. Sucking on a dummy or lolly pop will often help relieve any inner ear pain, and can act as a good distraction if they seem restless.
If you’re flying during the day and you have access to a window, try to point out interesting things that your children can see. Many flights have in-flight entertainment films that are suitable for young children, so if you need your child to sit still for a while then investing in a pair of headphones may be a good idea.
The important thing to remember is that travelling can be fun; the key is to keep your children involved at each stage of the journey. This helps them feel important and helps keep them entertained. If everyone is calm and relaxed whilst travelling then it’s a good start to your holiday.