After being in lockdown and staying close to home, many of us are relishing a change of scenery. Perhaps you’ve booked a cottage or maybe a flight abroad and are suddenly thinking ‘how are we going to manage it with the kids?!’ No one wants to be put off travelling, but sometimes the stress of managing our little people in new places can be quite overwhelming.
Rosie Stockley of MAMAWELL shares her top tips for making a holiday with a young family a little more stress-free.
Talk about the journey
Little ones love to know what’s happening in advance and having it all planned. They don’t really respond well to sudden changes, so make sure they know what is going to happen and when. Journeys are all about transport, and kids love planes, trains and everything in between, so talk them through the journey in detail — how you’re going to get to the airport, what happens on the plane and so on. You could role play some of the key moments like the check-in desk so they can be involved when you’re there but also aren’t surprised by so many of the different stages.
OK, so you may not want your little one throwing whatever they want in your suitcase (especially with the airline's limited baggage weights!), but you can definitely give them a bit of ownership over a small bag for themselves. A few familiar toys and books will make them feel confident on their journey and you can take the more useful things in your own bag. Be aware that what you think is helpful to pack doesn’t necessarily correlate with what your toddler may deem important, so you may need to diplomatically say no to some items (my daughter wanted to take her stone collection on a long-haul flight!).
Snacks and entertainment
Need I say more! Make sure you’re well stocked for the journey. I’d recommend lots of small pots and bags to keep everything separate. Also remember if you’re flying that kids’ drinks like smoothies are too large to get through security — you’re only allowed formula or breastmilk. To be mindful of others' allergies, don’t bring nuts on flights.
Regarding entertainment, if you’re on a flight and your child is old enough to enjoy it, the screen is often your best friend. We have a rule that screen time doesn’t count on planes, so we can all get some quiet and relaxation. Audiobooks are great, or podcasts on BBC Sounds for example — and they work well on a long car journey where the whole family can listen.
Non-messy activities such as stickers and colouring are great (maybe not felt-tip pens) and also wipe clean activity books. A good win for younger ones is water art books where they can’t get too messy, just wet! On a long-haul flight with my daughter when she was two, I wrapped up some of her favourite books and toys and let her unwrap them through the flight. This took up a few minutes each time and she loved the surprise of them.
Keep the routine
If possible, I’d recommend sticking to your usual nap routine and rituals. Keep a track of time and energy levels — maybe you need to stop the car to give everyone a run around, or pace around the airport before getting on the flight. Ensure your little one has their favourite comforter, cosy sleep suit and is well fed and warm if you want them to sleep well on the journey. Avoid too many sugary snacks, as often everyone is stuck indoors for longer when travelling with less space to burn off the sugar — and less opportunity to have a meltdown away from other travellers.
Top tip for planes and toddlers:
Don’t let your toddling baby know that it’s possible for them to walk up and down the plane until a last resort! Keep them in their seat with you, on your lap, on the floor near you maybe. Once they start seeing they have a catwalk to run up and down, they’ll never want to stop! It’s great to have up your sleeve for several hours into the flight. In addition, utilise the flight attendants where you can — they often love a bit of chat with a little one. I’ve been known to send my little girl to get me snacks many times on a flight as she loves a chat with the people working on the plane!
Enjoy the journey, and even more, the destination! I can’t wait to travel again and show my little ones some new places both near and far.