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Travelling With Kids: Smart Strategies for Parents

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Travelling With Kids: Smart Strategies for Parents

Written by
Sarah O'Neill
March 2017

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Getting your children from A to B often requires savvy parents with a strategy. We offer you some helpful hints for four stages of childhood, from babies to teens, to help simplify travelling with kids.

Family time together at last! After months of juggling jobs, schools and nappies, it’s time to kick back, relax, and spend meaningful time with your kids on a revitalising holiday.

But manoeuvring your little darlings from A to B often requires savvy parents with a smart strategy. You need a game plan to make sure that everyone gets where they need to go with all of the bits and pieces they require.

Here, we offer you some smart strategies and helpful hints for four ages and stages of childhood, from babies to teens, to help simplify travelling with kids.

Baby on Board

Bringing baby on board a plane can be the most stressful part of any journey. Your hand luggage has just more than tripled, with nappies, dummies, playthings and paraphernalia. There’s the constant worry of being stuck in a cabin with a crying baby for hours on end… together with a hundred other severely disgruntled passengers.

Pack a Grab Bag

We suggest you pack all the essentials in an easy-to-access carry on that you can stow beneath the seat in front of you and quickly grab when you need it. This will save you rummaging in the overhead locker if your baby needs milk or a chew toy. Bringing something for your little one to suck or chew during the flight will keep them occupied and should help their ears to equalise during take-off and landing.

Plan B

Accidents happen, and if they do in the cabin, it’s helpful to have a spare change of clothes for you and baby in your hand luggage. Douglas Adams has taught us that a traveller always needs his towel – bring yours to lay over your shoulder and protect your clothes from mishaps. Plan B is the extra shirt or top in your carry on, in case you need to change.

Changing Nappies

Changing diapers or nappies in a cramped aeroplane toilet can be a nightmare. Some airlines may have changing tables on board, so check in advance, or ask your air steward if they can provide one. Bringing your own changing pad for the trip can make things more comfortable and hygienic. Bring plenty of sanitary wipes for sterilising surfaces, as well as your baby wipes, and some extra plastic bags for disposing of soiled nappies.

Special Allowances for Infants

The good news is that liquids for infants are exempt from the usual liquid rules at security, which means you can take baby milk, food, sterilised water and wipes with you in your hand luggage. You may just be asked to taste the milk or water.

Ready-made formula cartons are an easy and hygienic way to pack feeds for the flight - you just need a sterile empty bottle to pour them in to. Alternatively, you can prepare some sterilised water in advance and pre-measure your formula powder into ziplock bags. You will find it easier to pass through security with the sterilised water if you keep it in the baby bottles, so that its purpose is clear.

Most cabin crews will warm bottles for you, and some may be able to sterilise them in-flight, but check before you fly. Some airlines even carry baby food, so ask if this service is available and you could save yourself some luggage weight. If breastfeeding, a beach sarong can double as a privacy screen for mum and baby.

Don’t be afraid to ask!

Take time to think about all the equipment you may need for baby during your trip: a cot, a pram, a baby bath, a high chair, a car seat, a microwave, a washing machine… the list goes on. Don’t be afraid to ask your airline, car rental company and accommodation about what services or assistance they can provide for you and your baby. Your accommodation should also be able to provide information about what products are available to purchase locally, such as baby food, wipes and nappies, so that you can make an informed decision on how many supplies you will need to travel with.

Terrible Twos

Name and Number

Your baby is now a toddler. They can walk and talk, and will want to do both, often, during your travels. In busy public places it may give you more peace of mind to have your toddler in a pram or a safety harness, so that they can’t wander off. Some parents feel happier having their child wear an identity card with a parent’s name and mobile number. This could be in the form of a necklace or bracelet, or written on the label of their jacket.

Go for a Walk

During the flight, your toddler might find it difficult to sit still, but you needn’t be embarrassed about taking them for little walks up and down the aisle every so often. Booking yourself an aisle seat will make it easier for you both to get in and out. Going for a walk with your toddler rarely bothers anyone, as long as the seatbelt signs are off and the air stewards don’t need the aisles kept clear for service. Frequent bathroom breaks help to interrupt the monotony of sitting. Your toddler is likely still in nappies, but if they can stand up unassisted, you will find pull-up nappies are much easier to change in a confined space.

Keep them Entertained

Bring paper, crayons and stickers, and let your little one get creative. In-flight entertainment only rarely has programmes aimed at this age group, so you may want to download some episodes of an age-appropriate programme in advance. Make sure they have headphones if they’re listening to something on your own device, out of consideration for other passengers.

Drinks and Snacks

Cups on aeroplanes can be difficult to drink from at the best of times, especially if you hit turbulence, but simply bringing along a sippy cup helps you prevent spills. Juice cartons are also a great idea.

It can take a long time for the flight service to come down the aisle, so make sure you have some favourite snacks handy. Sweets or lollipops to suck are also useful for take-off and landing, when changing air pressure could give your child ear ache. Bring a treat your child really loves in case you need a bargaining tool when they get over-tired or bored. The power of persuasion is a parent’s best friend!

Cheerful Childhood

Send them Packing!

Your child is older now, so it’s time to let them start packing their own hand luggage. This reduces the amount you have to carry, and children usually take great pride in wheeling around a suitcase they’ve packed by themselves. A small travel case with wheels is friendlier to your child’s back, but for some destinations backpacks are more practical. You may prefer a backpack if your child needs their hand luggage to double as a daypack during the trip, and it could be important that they have their hands free (to hold yours, for example)!

Children will find it easier to pack for themselves if you give them a short list to follow. Even if they can’t read yet, you could draw pictures of what they need to pack. Remember to set clear rules about how many and which toys they are allowed to bring - anything that can resemble a weapon may be confiscated at security. We have lost plastic disc shooters and water pistols at airports before!

Aches and Pains

Have a small general first aid kit with you to deal with everyday complaints. Sanitizing wipes will become your new best friend. They are much more practical than disinfectant gels when you need to wipe down surfaces, toys and sticky fingers! It’s useful to have a child-friendly cough or cold medication, especially a decongestant to prevent painful blocked ears when you’re flying, and you may want to bring medicine to reduce a fever.

If any of your children have an allergy, be sure you have easy access to the appropriate medication. Items such as inhalers and epipens are permitted in your hand luggage, but you may wish to bring a doctor’s note to show at security. Your child may be mature enough to use emergency medication, such as an inhaler, themselves, but it is still recommended that you also have a back-up in your hand luggage, just in case they need your assistance.

Trying Teens

When I was somewhere between the age of 13 and 14, my long-suffering father bought me a sign saying, “Ask a teenager while she still knows everything.” I hung it with pride on my bedroom door. Like many teenagers, your teen might be full of ideas, opinions and convictions, and eager to make their voice heard.

Pick Their Brains

Your family holiday is a great opportunity to engage your teenager’s thirst for knowledge and honour their desire to make their own decisions. Involve them in the planning process of your vacation and give them a say in your decision making.

You will make life easier for yourself if you clearly set your boundaries and expectations before you hand the decisions over to them. Given free reign, your teen might decide that a hike to Everest Base Camp or an Amazonian cruise is their kind of holiday. Set clear limits, so that you don’t have to turn around and say “no” to their idea.

Limitations might be: “We want to go to the seaside this summer, someplace warm, and we don’t want to fly more than 2 hours to get there,” or “We’re going to stay in Georgioupolis in Crete for two weeks. What activities do you guys want to get up to while we’re there? You can plan a couple of day trips. This is your budget.” Then let your teen go off and do their research. Your teenager will feel empowered to be part of the decision making, and will learn a great deal about organisation and planning.

Lend them a Hand

Of course, your teen should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own packing and in-flight entertainment, but do double-check that they haven’t forgotten the essentials, such as travel documents, medications and any must-bring equipment. You don’t want to leave them behind!

Giving your teenager a holiday allowance enables them to buy some souvenirs for themselves or their friends, and choose their own mementos of their holiday experience. Your teenager will also appreciate being able to take their own photographs, whether on a camera or another electronic device, although you may want to agree on rules for social network use while on holiday. Gently remind them that you’re going on holiday because you want to spend quality time with them, and that they’ll see plenty of their friends when they get home.

Agree on times when you want to meet and do things together as a family, such as meal times or daytrips, but also allow your teenager space to go off and do their own thing. Many hotels offer adjoining or split-level rooms for families, or holiday apartments, which means your older child can have their own space.

General Advice

Airport security regulations can change, so check the restrictions that apply before flying to avoid surprises. You will find guidelines for airports in the UK here.

If you are travelling abroad with children, but are not their legal parent or guardian, you may be required to carry written permission from the person with parental authority. In some countries, if only one parent travels alone with their child, they may require the written consent of the parent who is absent. This is known as child travel consent, and it is recommended that you check the legal requirements in both your country of departure and your destination before travelling.

We hope we’ve given you some smart strategies and inspiration for the next time you go travelling with your kids!

Written by Sarah O'Neill

A passionate traveller, linguist and writer, Sarah has visited over 20 countries around the globe. She loves immersing herself in new cultures, learning the language, and getting to know the local people.

Would you like to be an author at Moments of Inspiration?
Do you have an original idea for a guest blog post or interest to write regularly as an author for us? Send us your article or simply contact us at:

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