Our guide to successful long journeys with children
Family holidays often involve long plane or car journeys and in some instance both. The idea of travelling with young children can be daunting. What if they get bored and start whining? Or what if they start a fight with their sibling in the back seat? Worse even, what if they scream throughout the flight, and annoy the other passengers? It all sounds quite overwhelming – but it really doesn’t have to be; we’ve been there and got the t-shirt so we’ve compiled some tips from our Travel Experts who travel with children themselves to pave the way for successful journeys with your children.
Flying with children
Check airline fees and regulations if you’re flying with an infant
Different airlines have different rules when it comes to travelling with babies, so do factor that in when you’re budgeting for your trip. It’s useful to check what free hold luggage allowance the airline has for baby equipment and whether free priority boarding comes as standard. If you’re flying with a baby you can also book a bassinet for your little one to make the journey more comfortable. However, make sure you do this well in advance, as airlines will only have a limited number of bassinets available. Some airlines charge for bassinets so check the airline’s policy before booking. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some airlines charge extra for a bulk head seat (a seat with extra foot space to accommodate the bassinet), and that you need to reserve this in advance. Also do keep in mind that you can only get guaranteed seats together with your whole family if you book these in advance – this usually does incur an extra fee.
Involve them in the flying experience
If you have slightly older children, it’s good to talk to them about flying. Describe the experience from checking in, to boarding, to the on-board experience, to disembarking. Show them videos, a map or cartoons of flying if you can, and make it sound like a big adventure. This way they are prepared, comfortable and hopefully excited for their flight.
Pack a ‘Surprise Bag’
If you’re on a long flight with a toddler, it might be worth investing in a so-called ‘Surprise Bag’. Buy a few small gifts and include their favourite snacks or simply wrap some of their favourite toys from home and allow your child to unwrap and play with a gift every few hours. This is a great way to turn a boring flight into an adventurous treasure hunt.
Pack the necessities (and then some)
Besides taking the obvious necessities for your little ones, there are a few things which are easy to forget, but not less important. You for example may want to consider taking something your child can suck on during take-off and landing to pop their ears, such as a dummy or a bottle. For older children a chewable snack can do the trick.
With temperatures on board a plane varying from hot to chilly, letting your child wear layers is a good idea. Adding a fleece or cardigan to your child’s hand luggage for when the air con kicks in and makes the airplane feel like the inside of a fridge, is worth considering. Plus, your child can use the fleece to snuggle up in once it’s nap time.
Another indispensible item to have in your hand luggage is calpol in case your little one feels unwell during the flight. Bear in mind however that there’s a 100ml limit for liquids on board the plane. Speaking of the 100ml limit for liquids; if you wish to take fresh milk on the plane which exceeds this limit, security staff will most likely want to x-ray the bottle. As an alternative you might want to take powder milk instead, or ask a staff member once on board.
Arrive at the airport early
Travelling with kids is stressful, let’s face it, but you can minimise your stress by arriving at the airport with plenty of time for check-in and boarding. The airport is also the only place where children will have some space to run around before the flight, so you might want to take them to a playground or play area (if there is one) before boarding.
Keep them entertained
With a large variety of books, games and a tablet/Ipad ready to go, children can stay entertained for hours. Most airlines will also provide colouring books and crayons – always a winner. However, as this is not guaranteed, you may want to check this in advance of your flight.
Dogs bark, cats meow and children cry; at some point during the journey there’s going to be a mini meltdown so rather than endure the excruciating thought that your fellow passengers are judging you, embrace the walk of shame and take your little tot for a stroll down the aisle and who knows they may make a little buddy on the way.
Help them sleep
In an ideal world you’ll want to keep your child’s bedtime routine as close to normal as possible. When it’s time to go to bed, dress them into their pyjamas, wrap them in a blanket and lay them on your lap or on a pillow. If your child has a favourite book or cuddly toy, don’t forget to bring these too on the journey as it will help them sleep – not only on the plane, but during the rest of your holiday as well.
Car journeys with children
Pack enough activity and colouring books, stickers and crayons for hours of fun. Perhaps include some washable window markers or window stickers to encourage them to get creative.
For creative games on tablets/Ipads, you may want to consider bringing a headrest attachment with you to make it more comfortable for them to use it.
For older children it’s a great idea to give them a travel journal to document all their adventures in. Include a disposable camera and they can take their own pictures and add these later on to their personal travel journal. Let them collect brochures, flyers and maps from the places you’ve visited to complete their personalised travel journal.
Most board games now come in travel sizes – ideal to take with you on a longer trip. The classic ‘I spy’, the ‘I went to the market’ and ‘who/what/where am I’ games are usually a good bet as well. If you’ve time to prepare a few things, create a travel bingo or quiz to keep them happy. Or what about creating a map they can draw the route on and dot down all the sights they see along the way?
How to prevent car sickness
Some children (as well as adults) experience motion sickness. Make sure not to give your kids too much to eat and to drink before and during the trip. Instead, let them take little sips of water throughout the journey. Remind them to focus on things outside by looking through the front windshield when they feel dizzy or nauseous. Focusing on a distant point on the horizon tends to help. Distract them by playing car games, let them make up some stories or let them listen to music with their eyes closed. Opening a window to let some air in is another way to limit the car sickness.
However you travel, travelling with your children is an incredible experience; showing them the world around them and sharing many memories together.
Browse our wide selection of family holidays in Latin America here.