Less stress, more adventure! It’s all about preparing for the journey ahead. These 10 travel tips are sure to set the pace for a fun-filled family holiday, especially when travelling with young children.
17 hours. 13,000 kms. Two stopovers. Three kids. One very LOOOONG day of travel. These are the numbers of our recent trip from Australia to Canada and, let me tell you, it was an epic day of travel with kids indeed.
We, like countless families out there, love to adventure with our kids. But, let’s be honest, leaving the comfort of home can be a little daunting and the long haul flight is only the beginning. Once at your destination you’ll find plenty more speed bumps to conquer – the logistics of transportation, a new time zone, a lack of routine, strange new foods and possibly a foreign language.
It’s all part of the fun, but it can be hard for tiny travellers (and for us as well). That’s why it’s so important to be properly prepared.
Before you book your next holiday, have a quick read of these 10 travel tips that’ll make your holiday with kids 100 times easier.
1. Always allow extra time (and downtime)
There’s so much to see and do on holidays. But if you’re constantly rushing here, there and everywhere, it’s going to cause a lot of added stress. Give yourself an extra half hour to allow for heavy traffic, unexpected poonamis and “I can’t find my shoes” moments.
Make sure you have plenty of hotel downtime so the kids can nap, watch TV, read books, play quietly and just chill before heading back out again. It may mean you and an extra day or two onto your stay – but it will be worth it.
2. Do your holiday homework
When you travel with kids you need the right accommodation. You want to find something that offers you a little home away from home – especially since you will be spending loads of your downtime there.
Research hotels to ensure they fit your needs and have plenty of space for sleep and room for downtime. Check for extras such as a kitchenette or at least a microwave for heating up snacks, quick meals and bottles. My kids ALWAYS want a pool and I always want a breakfast buffet. Trust me, you’ll be so grateful you did when you arrive at your hotel and it’s exactly what you’re after.
We always use Hotels.com when booking our family hotels – overseas, in Australia, weekends away – and have never ever been let down. It consistently comes up with the good rates and suitable family hotels and apartments. The booking process is super easy too and they’ve got an ace filtering and selection system so you can narrow down your choices based on exactly what you need.
They also have a cool rewards program where you get secret prices and if you book 10 nights, you’ll get a reward night whenever and wherever you want.
If you haven’t used it before, give it a go the next time you’re planning a holiday and see what you think.
3. Get the kids involved in the planning
When we’re planning to travel with kids, we each write down three things we want to do and we plan to tick off at least one thing from everyone’s list. That way we end up with a good mixture of activities everyone will enjoy.
We also get them to join us when we search hotels online so they know where they will be staying and can have a say in the hotel we choose. Just make sure you set a budget – otherwise, they will be begging for five stars.
For older kids, buy them a cheap camera (or hand over your iPhone) or travel journal so they can document the trip. My older daughter LOVED snapping pics of our snowy adventures and adding the pictures to her scrapbook every night. Plus, it gives them something creative to do during downtime and it makes a perfect memento of their holiday.
4. Pack like a pro
Two words: packing cells. These things are a lifesaver. They are small, zippable bags that come in different sizes and colours and can fit pretty much everything – undies, toiletries, toys, medications.
Personally, I like to group my clothes by function, but I know friends that will group outfits together so you open day 1 and you have everything you need.
We use different coloured packing cells for each family member. It helps the kids keep track of their own stuff and also makes for a quick and easy packing process.
5. Pack ALL the snacks
Speaking of packing, whatever you do, don’t forget to pack snacks, not just on long flights or car rides, but ALL the time.
Although it’s important to introduce them to different foods (and that’s part of the fun) also have a backup of their favourite snacks just in case they refuse to eat or you can’t find food. After all, we all know how fussy our kids can be when it comes to trying new foods, especially new foreign foods with weird names and funny green bits in them.
6. Keep calm and carry on
There are so many amazing travel prams and accessories for young kids. But the one thing I use the most when travelling with a toddler? A baby carrier. They are easy to pack anywhere, perfect for naps on the go and great for when trying to get a baby to chill out on a crowded plane.
7. Explain the daily plan
A regular routine is off the table, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some sort of daily plan. Before you head out, give the kids a run-down of what’s on the agenda. That way they know what is expected and there will be less chance of a tantrum when it’s time to leave a place and move on to the next activity. We do this over breakfast and it makes a nice little routine.
8. Pack medications
The chances of someone getting a headache, having trouble sleeping or feeling sick after a long car trip are pretty high. So pack a stash of medications just in case. We packed allergy medications, pain relief, car sick tablets and sleep aids to help with jet lag and used every single type at least twice. I also pack Band-Aids, antiseptic creams, earplugs and conjunctivitis treatment in a packing cell just in case.
But be careful what medications are banned overseas so check your destination. Japan, for instance, has strict rules on ADHD medication. You may need to switch your brand or have a letter from your doctor.
9. Bring a comfort item
Hotel rooms are unfamiliar to young children and it can be scary to fall asleep without something familiar. Bring a blanket, toy or teddy from home to help young kids if they do have a case of homesickness.
10. Go with the flow. Seriously.
This is something I cannot stress enough – travelling with young kids is such a memorable and amazing experience, but it’s also hectic. Things can (and most likely) will go wrong. Someone is bound to get a tummy ache, or fall asleep as soon as you arrive at your destination. You may not pack enough nappies or your child may be so mixed up from the time zone change that they start each day at 3am or fall asleep in their dinner every night.
All of these things happened to us. And sooo much more! But, it’s all part of the fun of holidays with young kids and let me tell you, the snowy mountains, the laughter as we attempted to learn how to ice skate and the warm cuddles by the fireplace certainly made up for it.
So, to the mums and dads about to travel with kids, just go with it. Plan what you can – hotels, tours, medications, and snacks – and let the rest fall into place.
And, whatever you do, don’t forget to pause, reflect and enjoy creating magical memories with your kids away from the stresses of home.
This is what travelling with kids is all about, after all.
This article was written in collaboration with Hotels.com