Tips for travelling with small children
Travelling with small children can be amazingly rewarding, but does take a bit more prep than travelling with adults. Here are some tips to make your trip enjoyable for the whole family:
Don’t neglect their naps
This is my absolute, no. 1 tip for travelling with kids. Children have a much lower tolerance than we do for dealing with physical stresses such as hunger or tiredness. When you’re travelling do whatever you can to help your children sleep – honestly, it’ll be better for everyone!
Be creative in getting them to sleep
They may have a good sleep routine at home, but that doesn’t always translate to being able to sleep whilst out and about.
You may need to go back to methods of getting your child to sleep when they were younger such as bouncing, carrying in wraps or sleeping on you. Don’t worry about messing up their routines at home – once they’re back in their own space it may take a few days but they will be able to transition back to their normal routine. Just do whatever you can to get them to sleep!
For tips on helping your child to sleep whilst travelling click here.
Foresee when they will need to eat and bring snacks
When we’re out and about we have a tendency to ignore our own hunger signs because we have more to interest us. It’s important for kids that you don’t do this. If they get hungry, things will go downhill very quickly.
Make sure you take breaks for meals and bring snacks to tide them through in the meantime.
When problems arise, deal with the underlying cause
Starting to see a trend here? My point is that children misbehave or meltdown because they haven’t yet learned to deal with physical or emotional issues that adults have had years to learn to cope with.
One of the reasons I started this blog is to dispel myths surrounding life with children. A big one is ‘children misbehave or have tantrums because of silly little things’. No. No no no no no.
I once saw a facebook post showing 10 or so images of children crying with captions like ‘Alice is crying because I cut her toast into triangles’. Urgh. What sort of parent, I ask you, takes a photo of their crying child rather than, oh say, comforting them? Not only that, but completely fails to realise (or doesn’t want to accept) that they’re probably not crying because of the shape of the toast, they’re crying because they’re hungry/tired/stressed/in need of affection – the toast is just the trigger.
When I made my feelings known on this awful post I got all sorts of patronising responses like ‘you’ll understand once you have kids’ (this was pre-children for me). Well, I can tell you now that I do have children that I still completely stand by my previous comments.
Children have tantrums or misbehave because their (quite real) emotional or physical needs have not been met. That doesn’t mean it’s your fault – children are notoriously difficult to get to sleep and sometimes you’re distracted and don’t notice that they’re becoming hungry. The important thing here is to realise why the tantrum, meltdown or misbehaviour is happening and treat the underlying cause. You can talk to them about it and help them learn from it afterwards – when your child needs something it’s not the time to be teaching them that whatever they’re doing is wrong.
Take care of yourself
Children may have a lower tolerance for hunger and tiredness than we do, by it still affects us and can massively lower our tolerance for stressful situations. There are more unknowns during travel. This makes it exciting, but also challenging.
Make an effort to keep yourself as well slept as possible (I know this may be difficult with young children), fed and hydrated. You’ll be more able to deal with your children and any challenges that arise if your physical needs have been met.
Worried about your child having a tantrum or screaming fit when you’re out and about? Click here for how to remain calm when your child is having a meltdown
Be aware of timings
I’ve been in the situation where I’ve just got my baby to sleep in his carrier, only to be told that we’re landing soon. I’ve then had to take him out of his carrier (waking him up in the process) and strap him into the airline lap belt. The airline lapbelt that would clearly be less safe in an emergency than my carrier. But it’s protocol you know. Grumble, grumble, grumble.
Since then I’ve tried to be aware of when I’ll need to move my kids out of carriers or pushchairs (when going through security, boarding the plane, take off and landing etc). I try to work their sleep around those times as much as possible.
Similarly for food and snacks, I try to foresee when there’ll be periods where it’s not convenient to feed my kids (e.g. On a short London Underground ride). For these times I try and offer snacks just before. It all helps to prevent meltdowns.
Bring sensible toys
The trick is to bring toys that are small enough to not be annoying, interesting enough to not get launched from the pushchair/across the plane and disposable enough that if you lose them it won’t result in tears.
What toys should you bring on planes and trains?
Have a packing list on Trello
Have a trello board with 2 columns. As you pack move items to a ‘done’ column. Next time you travel you can just move the relevant ‘done’ items back to the first column.
Put them (not your phone) first
Children are amazingly well behaved when you pay them lots of attention. Adults are much less cranky when they’re not constantly being interrupted from their favourite movie/book.
Don’t be the parent who is irritated with being interrupted by their bored toddler. Play with them instead. They’re gorgeous – I promise you’ll enjoy it. 🙂
Take help when offered
People are nice, kind and helpful when you’re out with children – enjoy it!
If you’re considering travelling with a baby read our article on travelling with babies is easier than you think