*This blog is written by mid-30s mum with 3 kiddos, now age 9, 7 and 5 whose longest trip was out to Australia and back from the UK when the kids were 5, 3 and 1.5 year old (a whole 24 hours door to door each way).*
When it comes to parenting so often it’s easy to slip into survival mode, and there are some seasons when this is the only way to get through. Travelling with kids does not need to be one of those seasons. Getting to show our children a world outside of their own, be it an hour down the road or half way around the world, is a gift. It opens up their perspectives in new ways and helps them see new places beyond their imaginations (and screens!). It is one of the ways we help shape them into being adults one day, and it instills a sense of adventure. It is easy to forget this whilst in the midst of cleaning up vomit from a green child with car sickness, or trying to change a particularly brutal soft-serve nappy in a tight airplane toilet, the key is to keep it in perspective.
When we look back at our time in Australia we remember the epic adventures we had exploring new beaches, seeing new animals and eating fairy floss. We remember the funny bits of the flights, and the games we played whilst waiting in the airports, but none of the hard stuff has stuck, our overall feeling was how awesome the trip was, and not how hard the travel may have been.
TikTok and Instagram are full of amazing travel hacks from useful car caddies to special snack boxes for flights and long distances — there are so many great ideas and helpful purchases just a google away. Most of our travelling with little people happened before all of this, and here are some notes that helped us:
- Prepare — whether that is figuring out which service stations have the best toilets on the way or what food options the boat/plane/train has. What movies will be available, will there be flat surfaces for your child to use as a play/colouring table?
- Talk your child through every aspect, what the waiting lines might be like, how far they will have to walk, rough estimates of time (try doing this in movie/paw patrol episode lengths as hours and minutes don’t mean much to little minds). Use pictures if they are easy to source.
- Play the family card, use it to jump any queue that you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you might not always get it but it’s a major bonus when you do.
- Allow an extra time, give the buffer an extra buffer
Here are some hacks:
For shorter journeys (less than 3 hours):
- Download some stories to listen to together
- Have a back up screen/tablet with something downloaded just in case you need it
- Have baby wipes to hand
- Have lunchboxes with some none messy snacks for the kids, carrot sticks, rice cakes, apple slices etc
- Don’t fill drink bottles up too full, just enough to keep them hydrated, not enough to mean extra toilet stops!
For journeys that take longer than 3 hours and/or involve airplanes where movement is limited:
- Create a little treasure box with some small gifts to distribute every hour or so. A small fidget toy, or favourite tv character toy, car. Ideally something that can’t roll too far out of reach and doesn’t have lots of pieces. This can be new toys, or some favourites that are sneakily put out of reach for a week or two before the trip.
- Pack dried fruit in small pots or bags; this isn’t messy and the sugar content won’t send the kiddos sky high. Sadly you can’t stop well meaning fellow passengers from
- Try limiting screen time for kids before you go, that why when they get some on the flight it will feel like an extra special treat.
- Have easy to access change of clothes for everyone, just in case!
Top tip, so that you don’t fall out of love with travelling yourself, (or with your partner for that matter) try to book at least one overnight/weekend away a year. You’ll be amazed at the ease with which you can pack essentials into a backpack in mere minutes. Not everyone has family around to help out with childcare, if this is the case why not ask some like minded parent friends to set something up where you can help each other out.
One final note from a self-confessed busy mum who works part time;
Often in daily life it can be hard to carve out time to spend really talking to your child, there is always laundry, dishes, homework and general chores to done. There is something about travelling that opens up new space to chat idly about what is going on your child’s life at that time. A little snapshot into what they are thinking, and how they experiencing this new place that they are going to. Sit in those moments and really listen, there are golden opportunities to see they person your child is becoming.