Family Travel Expert and National Geographic’ 2012 Traveller of the year Heather Davis stops by offering parents advice on travelling with kids .
If the cost of the tickets wasn’t enough to make you think twice about taking that family vacation, the price to check bags could do it. With airlines getting tougher and tougher about how many bags you can carry and what it will cost you, the idea of keeping it to a carry-on is enticing. Heather Greenwood Davis from globetrottingmama.com offers these tips on making travel tantalizing.
Key Takeaway: Don’t expect to enjoy the flight. Those early trips with the baby are more about the destination than the journey. Keep your eye on the prize – the beach or ski chalet - and be ready to work your way towards it.
1. Keep it Separate: You’re going to need to feed, entertain and change the baby in a confined space (back seat on the road; tiny airplane washroom) – bring a bag on that allows you to separate things. Individual home-made ziplocked packs that include just the diaper and disposable mat you need for one change will make it easy to grab and go. Keep one of those along with a small makeup bag with wipes, ointment, and a distraction toy in the seat pocket in front of you. Colour-code mini-sacs or well labeled zip-locks so that in a pinch a stewardess or your traveling companion can find you what you need.
2. Bring extras: It is a guarantee that the day you only pack 2 diapers for the flight will be the day your child proves to you that they can do better. Bring an extra of the things you won’t be able to get easily on the road or in the air (ziplock of baby biscuits, pacifier, bottle, rattle etc.).
Remember: This is a tricky age but the travel training you put into kids once they are able to walk and talk can set you up for a pretty sweet lifetime of traveling happiness. There will be bumps but remember it will be worth the effort in the long run.
1. New and Shiny: Think “Christmas morning.” There is nothing that brings light to a kid’s eyes more than something wrapped in festive paper and just for them. Think ahead and wrap a book or small toy for the trip. The smaller the child the more layers of wrapping you can put on it. The wrapping alone can buy you a good half hour. Remember you want things that either have no volume or good volume control or you’ll risk annoying everyone around you and minimize your chances of relaxing yourself. And remember, this is your ace so don’t bring out the big guns unless you really need it
2. Keep them entertained: The day you assume you’re getting on the plane with in-seat entertainment is the day they switch your plane. Be ready by bringing along your own.
3. Bring your own headphones. Even if they do hand out buds on the plane they are often the wrong fit for little ears. And you do need to keep an eye on what they’re watching: Often there’s adult content you may not want them to see in the airplane movie. Bringing your own devices along with a DVD you can slip into your laptop or pre-downloaded movies you can pull up on your iPad can keep their eyes where they should be.
4. Bathroom Breaks: Whether it’s on the plane or on a road trip, you’ll want to be prepared for bathroom stops that aren’t as clean and sanitary as your kids might be used to. We used to travel with our own portable potty seat for those situations. An airplane approved bottle of hand sanitizer is a great idea too You can also bring a small pack of antibacterial wipes for trays and armrests as well as a roll of toilet paper.
Remember: Just because they’re older doesn’t mean they’re any better at handling long flights or car rides.
1. Put them to work: Choosing the right luggage in terms of handle height, bag size and weight will make your life a lot easier. Kids like being responsible and with a little supervision kids as young as 4 can help you pack that bag too. They pack it, they carry it is a rule in my house and it worked as we traveled for a year. Let them walk you through what they’re packing and you can gently nudge them towards including a few less transformers and a few more pairs of underwear. I sometimes hand mine a checklist and they can simply pick what they like to fill that list.
2. Cater to short attention spans: Bring a few small items that they can go between to entertain themselves. Travelling with more than one child? Include games that allow siblings to work together and self-entertain (deck of cards); books they can read solo and have been waiting for (latest Wimpy Kid); travel versions of games they have at home (magnetic sorry; uno). Also, these toys are great ice breakers if there happens to be another kid across the aisle and then their parents will love you too.
3. Keep them comfortable: That goes for clothing and food. For the plane dress in layers for the cooler air and have them wear easy-off shoes for security. And don’t even think about not bringing snacks with you. My two boys are now 8 and 10 and they’ve hit that age that I’ve been hearing about for years when they just want to eat all the time. There’s nothing worse than a child continuously telling you how hungry they are when there isn’t food handy and the food cart is nowhere in sight. Remember you can’t bring bottles of liquid through security and I’ve even had fruit cups taken away for that reason. Stick to solids and pick up a bottle of water for each of you once you’re passed security.