How To: Travel with Kids

By 2nd January 2017Tips

We’ve got really good friends.  Some of them have kids.  All of them travel.  We asked some of them what their top tips were when it comes to travelling with kids.  From long car journeys, multi-step trips with boats and trains to short and long haul flights.

I’ve distilled down the tips and tried to group them into general headings.  The most impressive insight for me though is that all of the reading that I’ve ever done on travelling with kids – blogs, newspapers, magazines and books have all amounted to the same key tips that I received from my friends.  So by all means, please read on.  It’s a concise collection of experience.

But….just ask your friends.  They’ll probably tell you all you need to know.

Get them involved

Obviously age plays a role in how you do this, but all parents agree that getting their kids involved in the planning, details and idea of the holiday helped.  It can be quite high level –

“we are going to a new holiday house, on an airplane.  It is near a lake” might be all you need.

For other kids “We are at the airport for 10:00am this means we will need to get up early and we need you to get your clothes out the night before….” and so on.

When your child can visualise what they are going to do, not only does it build some excitement up in them, but they are not surprised by what is to come.  Talk to them about it, show them photos, maps and itineraries.  Let them ask questions.

Can they pack their own bags?  Get them to do it.  What clothes do they want to take?  Our daughter prefers fashion over function, opting to wear a blouse and thin jacket when it’s freezing outside.  If we pack the wrong shade of blue shorts, the holiday is a disaster!  Get them to plan out their outfits and then just make your ‘last minute tweaks’ before you finally zip up the bag.

If you child is young enough (and you have money to burn) why not get them a little ‘Trunki’ ride along suitcase.  They are fun and can keep them entertained.


Never underestimate the power of a toy!  What can you take?  The possibilities are endless.  Here are a few –

  1. Tablets.  Make sure they are fully charged.  Consider getting an extra battery pack as well.  Load them with tons of free apps, movies and tv shows if you can.  Even if the apps are rubbish, they will kill some time and provide variety.  You can get Ipad / tablet holders that attach to the back of car headrests as well.
  2. Colouring books and pencils.  Great for lack of power moments and quite therapeutic too!  A little pencil-case with some pens/pencils in.  A few colouring books, or even just a little notebook.  You can draw things that you see, colour in pictures already there, play noughts and crosses, or just doodle.
  3. Kids magazines and books.  These are designed for kids so why not give them a go.  They might not want to read them in the house, but when they are sitting and bored they might just get engrossed.  Why not get them to pick one from the station or airport.
  4. Personalised Headphones.  How cool are they!  Kids love to be in their own little world.  Having their own set of headphones to plug into their tablet or entertainment system will keep them happy.  And there will be no fighting among siblings for the same set.
  5. Plasticine.  What a great idea.  Make models, squish them up and make them again.  When you are sick of it, throw it away.  It’s not going to last.  But if your ‘baby Michelangelo’ makes the most amazing 3d model ever you might have to look after it for the whole trip or face their wrath!

Travel times versus routine

One of the most common set of tips I received centred around travel times.  Now you might be restricted if you are flying, railing or boating.  But wherever possible, stick to your childs normal routine.  Think about –

  1. If you are driving, can you do the bulk of your travel overnight or early morning.  Kids will sleep in the car no problem.  Sleep means quiet.
  2. If you are driving through the day, can you work your timings so that after a few hours you are stopping for lunch, then another few hours stop for a coffee and so on.
  3. If on a train, plane or boat, try not to keep your kids waiting for their in flight meal etc.  If they are hungry while in the Gate, feed them.  Always always always keep them hydrated.  No matter how many times you need to take them to the toilet.

On the trip

Just bow to their needs.  If they get stressed out, eventually so will you.  Yes there are times when they need to do what you say, and be where and when you want them.  But the rest of the time, does it really matter if they swing on their seat, stand up, sit down, stand up sit down?

As long as they are not disturbing others, why not?

You’ve got tons of things on your mind.  You might be nervous and anxious.  But they most likely are not.  Let them live a little.

Bribes are always good.  “You can have chips at the service station” always works for us.  Charlotte is even allowed a grown up coffee if she wants – wowzers!  I can get another 50 miles out of her for that one…..!

Always prompt them for toilet breaks.  Every time we stop, our kids must go to the loo.  Whether they like it or not.

Make the journey fun.  Sing with them.  Play with them.  When you can invest even a few minutes, do it.  They will appreciate it.

Just get it done!

Ultimately, you know that when you get to your destination, all will be forgotten.  Keep that in mind.  5 minutes after getting out of the car, train or plane, their minds will be on the next big thing.

Millions of people travel successfully every day.  Some kids even travel by themselves.  It doesn’t have to be difficult.  It’s just different.

What do you think?  Were these tips correct?  Did our friends get it right?  What have we missed?

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