Travelling with kids isn’t a break for Mums or Dads, right – it can be so stressful, intense and overwhelming, with a bit of fun along the way (sometimes!!) One way of looking at it is a “family adventure!” My friend once said this too me. Don’t think of it as a holiday as you get disappointed…..what was once a “holiday” before kids is not the same with kids! Shift our mindsets and it can be a bit more enjoyable. It’s still doing all of the same chores and duties but in a foreign place and in front of strangers – who needs the stress, right?
Travelling with kids doesn’t have to be painful, and with a few tips from us, you might actually have a fun and relaxing holiday with your family.
Top Tips for Travelling with Kids
I recently took my four kids (ages 8, twin 6 year olds and almost 3 year old) away for a “holiday” with my Mum interstate. We flew to Sydney then did a road trip! We were away for 12 days. So since coming home I have complied some of my top tips for travelling with kids to share with you.
Always have snacks, wipes and a spare change of clothes (per child!)
There is nothing worse than hangry kids. Pack an emergency bag of kid necessities with snacks, a small game to distract them, a bottle of water, wipes, roll-on sunscreen and either nappies or spare undies, and carry this with you at all times. I made sure we had a spare change of clothes for each child in our carry on luggage for the plane. Last thing I wanted was a child needing a change and not having one available.
Buy a couple of small, new activities for killing time on planes or in restaurants. One great buy is Spot It which packs up super small and is suitable for kids of all ages to play. Sticker books, colouring books or compact games all work a treat. Uno is a latest fav of my kids too.
Top Tips for Travelling with Kids and flying
Long flights and small children can be a recipe for disaster, but you will probably find that your worst fears won’t eventuate, and everything will be fine.
Book seats near the toilet or near a space where they can walk around a little and not bother other passengers.
Take their drink bottles, some small snacks like muesli bars, and lollies that they can suck for when the plane is descending and the air pressure may affect their ears. If you are breastfeeding, it is a very good idea to time a feed for take-off and landing as this soothes your baby through air pressure changes.
Have some small games, colouring, a book or activities as well as their favourite teddy or snuggly blanket for soothing. I allowed each child to also pack a few of their fav toys for their hand luggage that kept them entertained. Also if you have a shawl or small blankets these can come in handy when it gets cooler on the plane. Also ensure each child is wearing comfy clothes for the plane trip and has a jumper.
Work with their schedule
If you can, do the bulk of your travelling when your children are calm, or happy to be still and have downtime. You might like to aim to get some distance done when your kids are sleeping, and have breaks when they need feeding or need to expel energy. We did a car trip from Sydney to Goulburn and we made sure we headed off in the morning and timed it so we could stop in a playground and park for lunch and let the kids have a play. It made the car trip a little longer but it was worth it to have the kids happy and in sync with their usual sort of routine.
Make sure that you leave plenty of extra time to have stops, go to the toilet twice as often as you think is reasonable and get to where you are going. One place we visited I swear I visited the toilets about 6 or 7 times (with all different children!) lucky we had lots of time and were not in a hurry!
If you have a long drive planned, it may make sense to do part of this during the night, or get up extremely early and just pop the kids in the car in their pyjamas. Allow for toilet breaks every 1-2 hours once your kids are toilet trained. Stop somewhere that the kids can get some energy out at the same time, so near a park or at a café or fast food place with a playground attached.
Choose child-friendly places
This may sound like a no-brainer for our top tips for travelling with kids, but choose child-friendly places on your family holiday, including resorts, restaurants and parks.
This may not be the time to try to teach your children to be quiet in an art gallery or dine at a fine restaurant. If they are well-behaved all the time, that’s awesome (but if they were truly well-behaved all the time, would you really be reading this article?), but if you are planning a family holiday this is the time to let kids be kids.
Pick places and activities that they can enjoy and that will let them cut loose and be themselves. This is where fun family holidays and awesome childhood memories come from. Choose places where you won’t feel stressed that they might be bothering other holidaymakers and where messy, loud and chaotic behaviour is the norm. My kids were running and screaming after seagulls in Sydney CBD at one point…..was quite interesting to watch the look of people walking by lol it was like they had not seen kids be kids before!
Don’t try to do too much
Always allow extra time no matter what you have scheduled for the day, and just don’t schedule in too much.
It could be a good idea to schedule one activity, such as a trip to an adventure park or the zoo a day, and get there as soon as the place opens. Children will run out of steam by early afternoon, so this could be a good time to head back to your hotel for a nap or a lazy lie by the pool. We opted to always head out for a big thing in the mornings and be heading home around lunch so the toddler could still get her nap in the car or at our place we were staying. Then if we had time or we felt like venturing out again we would go out for a smaller activity in the afternoon.
As well as not over scheduling your kids, make sure that you do book in some time just for you, as well as night for you and your partner.
Look into babysitting services offered through the hotel, or perhaps go somewhere with a kids club to give you some downtime. Book in a massage, facial, sleep-in, market or shopping trip, or whatever you need to make sure you get some fun on this holiday too.
This “family adventure” we looked into Airbnb’s for our whole trip in the various places we were staying. I highly recommend them now when travelling with a family! My Mum booked places that were “family friendly” had a couple of bedrooms, a yard so the kids could play and were generally better set up for us than a say a motel. We also could make breakfasts and lunches saving on some of the costs. We also could do washing frequently and didn’t have to spend an arm and a leg like in some hotels to get washing done. It also had a more home away from home feel. I definitely recommend looking into utilising Airbnb’s for your next trip!
Lower your standards
They will not need to shower every day, or eat super healthy. It doesn’t actually matter if they live in their bathers or can’t run a brush through their hair. You do not need to keep the hotel room spotless – there are people paid specifically to worry about this.
You are on holiday as well as your kids. Make sure that you take a little break from the constant mumming and stop worrying about all the little things.
Set screen-time rules before you go
Screens like tablets and smartphones can be a gift from heaven for parents on long drives and flights, but they can also turn your kids into small monsters. Too much screen time isn’t good for them, and often getting them to switch the screen off and hand it over can be like battling with a baby dragon.
Set screen-time rules before you go on holiday, and confirm these each time you hand over a screen for use. Give them a two-minute warning before they need to turn off.
Some rules might be:
- No use between 10 am and 4 pm, so you can get out and about, and none after 7 pm
- Not more than half an hour at a time
- Not in their bedrooms
Load your screens with age-appropriate games that the kids haven’t seen before to keep them entertained. You may want to restrict video streaming sites like YouTube, but you could download some of their favourite shows or movies in advance. Check out this blog for our top 14 educational apps for kids for some great ideas on some new apps for your kids.
Realise its never as bad as you think it is
One thing we as mums (we especially do, but some Dads do it too 😉 on holiday tend to do is over stress that our kids are being super badly behaved and putting everyone else off their lovely relaxing break. No matter how ratty or noisy your kids are being, no one else notices the noise or behaviour quite as much as you.
Stop apologising, overthinking or stressing about the small details, breathe deeply and just have fun. And if you look across the pool and see another exhausted, stressed out, wild-eyed mother, raise a glass to her (or better yet, buy her a drink!), and let her know you understand.
We hope this blog has given you some great tips for travelling with kids! The memories and moments created on your family adventures can surpass some of the stress and give you a break from ground hog day at home. Kids will remember the best little random moments that they will cherish forever. Please comment if you have any other great tips for parents out there!