Becoming a parent is a pretty steep learning curve. One minute you have no experience and no earthly idea how to get through the next hour alone with your newborn, let alone the rest of your life and then suddenly it happens, you get in to the swing of it.
Once upon a time leaving the house for even the shortest of journeys had you panicking and coming out in cold sweats. Now, years on, you take it all in your stride. But a quick “nip” to the shops, or trip in to town is not quite the same as travelling on holiday with your children. If you’ve not ventured abroad, or that far afield with your brood yet, you’re probably already rocking back and forth at the mere thought of it.
You’ll have heard your friends and relatives own nightmare tales, and you may find yourself wishing that little Johnny would develop chickenpox so you can cancel the whole thing and avoid the terror of the airport.
The good news is we’ve been there, we know what it’s like, and we’re here to give you some of our top tips for surviving. Amazingly none of them involve alcohol (though, you know, we won’t judge you if you reach for that chilled glass of Pinot).
The art to getting even a second of peace lies in distraction (regardless of the child’s age). How much you can pack with you will of course depend on how you are travelling. If you are in your own car then you may have bags of space, but this will be significantly limited if you are travelling on a plane for any period of time.
Tried and tested favourites include:
- Sticker books
- Colouring books
- Comic books
- Small toys
- Pad and paper (ideal for noughts and crosses and hangman)
- Travel game classics (such as snakes and ladders, connect 4 and even Jenga)
- Puppet characters
One tip we were given was to have a bag of “goodies”, with a new item being “released” every hour to avoid boredom. Of course, the downside of this is they might stop asking “are we there yet” and replace it with “can I have a new toy yet?”.
#2 Allow plenty of time
Anyone who has spent any time with a small child will know their idea of time and punctuality is very different to yours. Rushing out the door to catch a flight or train is a sure fire way to get them dragging their heels. Equally, airports and train stations are amazingly wonderful places when you’ve never been to one before. They are full of lots of new sights, sounds, people and places to run about it and any child would be mad to not want to explore in intimate detail.
Of course, exploring takes time, and rushing them is likely to cause tantrums – so allow plenty of time to reach your destination. Yes, it may take your 30 minutes to walk from one side of the terminal to the other, but if you have that time, then what’s the rush? Your child will be happy, and while you may be bored to tears, you at least won’t be stressed out and panicked about being late. With my children they both love their Trunkies, they have endless fun zipping aroundthe airports. It keeps them entertained for hours (and they cart around their own stuff rather then me carrying it – win).
Why not even actively encourage their exploring by giving them a camera (or your phone if you’re particularly daring) to take photos of what they see? It’s a great way to see things from their perspective as well. Who knew that pile of fluff under the table was so utterly fascinating?
#3 Avoid sweets
No judgment, you feed your child what you want to feed them, but do think about the potential implications of a sugar fuelled toddler running around an airport while your plane is delayed for five hours.
One alternative is to pack lots of finger snacks, breadsticks, crisps, fruit and cheese to keep their energy levels up, and to keep them occupied if needs be.
#4 Don’t forget the medicine
We don’t want to be over cautious, but there’s a certain rule that states if something can go wrong, it will. Childhood illness whilst travelling or on holiday is one of them. Save yourself the hassle of trying to locate the local pharmacy (and potentially pay huge prices) and pack staples such as Piriton and Calpol to keep your little one going.
#5 Embrace your inner child
Don’t forget that this is your holiday too, and you’ve earnt it (or at least credit carded it until you can earn it). Travelling with children doesn’t have to be uber stressful, and one way to ensure it isn’t is to remember to unwind and relax a little yourself. Try and see the joy that your little ones see all around them (even in the most mundane of activities or excursions) and live for the moment.