How To Plan A Trip With Little Ones
Travel is so different now that you have little people to consider. Little people who rely on you to be fed and rested. Rely on you to keep them safe and comfort them. Travelling with your family can be both hard but also rewarding. Isn’t that what parenthood is? Hard but rewarding? The gains of travel are plenty but most of all it’s allowing you the opportunity to create memories not only for your little ones but for yourself. Memories without the distraction of our busy lives.
Things can go wrong and with little ones you want to avoid that as much as you can to ensure their safety and comfort. Follow my tips to help you plan a trip with your little one. Remember, you plan everyday. Everyday you leave the house with kids you have to be prepared with snacks, change in weather gear, toys and comforts. You do it all the time. It’s not overwhelming. It’s just on a bigger scale.
Where do you start?
The first rule of travel with little ones is. Take it slow. You can no longer do day long touring and the like, walking 17-20 kilometres in a day. Sure you can push a pram but that is all dependent upon your little one sleeping in the pram. I have one son who did not. Full stop. No pram sleeps. Ever. I have another son who would. For cat naps only but regardless they were naps.
Islands and cruises therefore become very popular for families because the pace is slow and you can enjoy pool time. Quite honestly the pools you see in psycho movies with the leave in and all drained. My kids would find hours of entertainment in that. Water + kids = happiness. Ramp that up a level and have bridges over the pool and spurting fountains and water slides that is all they will want, day after day.
When planning a trip with little ones my other golden rule other than slowdown is no transfers. What? I’ll explain. We are flying to the US in September but rather than fly via Hawaii on the way there, we are flying direct. Yes, it is a bigger flight and yes we will have a very active little toddler on board for a looooong time, but the thought of ANOTHER pack up and another hotel was going to send me to the crazy farm. We are staying at no fewer than 5 hotels in 2 weeks. I am the one that packs EVERY bag. I am the one that will need to keep on top of all the stuff out of the bag in each and every location. I am the one to put it all back in with added purchases at each and every hotel. So, the answer is, fewer transfers and more nights in fewer locations.
If you have a long drive – you have two choices. Get up and drive in the early hours of the morning or break up the trip with some extended stops. Find an open space and enjoy it. Leaving a beach bag accessible is great for a dip and a cool off en route. This certainly changes the mood when you are back in the car.
My rule of thumb
0-5 years – keep it slow and simple. Plan all excursions for the morning and then stay local to hotel (where you can in the afternoons)
5-9 years old – you can start doing some day trips but maybe do a daytrip and then a half day or low-key day. If you have a few jam packed days I recommend breaking it up with a day at the beach or pool.
Over 9 – 16 years – add as much activity as you can fit in. Teenagers like thrills and excitement. Adding a big jump to a beach holiday or a bike trip will keep them engaged.
What do you need?
For babies sleeping is very important. Worry less about jet lag and more about your sleeping environment. Do you need black out curtains? Does your room have enough room for a portacot? Do you have a travel bed you can pack with you? Are you able to do one sleep in a pram?
For toddlers they will not fit in a cot but potentially a bed that won’t allow them to roll and fall out of bed. Hotels are great at providing for babies but what about that next step. I have bought a guard rail and donated to hotel after one stay as travelling home with it was not going to happen.
For pre-schoolers and under 10 they do need some entertainment. I have taken a tub of Duplo on our annual summer holiday. This has then morphed into 1-2 new boxes of Lego. I know you will lose a piece. Does it really matter for 10 days of entertainment? You can remake it once you are home. Pack zip lock bags to contain the pieces for travel.
Tweens and teenagers. I try to avoid screen time as much as I can but it is their interest so limit it but also have a book or drawing/ other interest. These guys can sleep on couches and pillows on floor but for longer than a few nights I would try to ensure they have a bed. They are moody enough right without added sleep deprivation.
Consider other things in the accommodation. A pond might not be a good idea with a toddler. An unfenced pool may not be a good idea for small children. A club floor room will give you access to a lounge area outside of your room which might be all you need to keep the peace.
Selecting a destination?
- What is your budget?
- How far do you want to travel?
- How do you want to get there?
- Are you happy with transfers and stop overs?
- What type of accommodation suits you? Hotel or serviced apartment/ house? What accommodation is available?
- What activities do you want to do?
- Do you want a mixture of activity and relax?
- Do you want the entire holiday to be down time?
- Do you want to shop?
- Do you want to sightsee?
- Do you want access to babysitting services or kids club?
- Are there restaurants and dining options for children?
- Will you have to cook? All meals? Some meals?
- Will there be access to good coffee?
Upon answering these questions you should be able to work out where you can go. If you ever studied the purchase decision making and what is involved you can use this methodology for purchasing or booking a holiday. Obviously complex purchasing like a car has a lot of factors to consider. A holiday is just as complex when considering a family trip. There are multiple people to consider with multiple requirements or interests. Rarely does one destinations suit everyone in a group and you may need to consider activities focused on individual to keep the peace. In simplistic terms I write down the top 5 of each place we are considering and the cons for each (if any) and then work out what suits us best. These changes from season to season and year on year as the kids grow.
Car travel tips
Travelling with little ones in the car is not easy. Practise does make perfect and the more you do it the more you will find they cope. If you have very active kids you need to schedule time out of the car to release some energy. To really be able to do that you need to look at the route and pre-select some possible stops. When you have a baby in the car you want to drive when they are asleep and stop when they are not. They are always asleep when there is a possible stop and awake when there is nothing but highway.
- I have left as early as 3.00am because baby woke up and wasn’t going back to bed any time soon. I always pack the car the night before so we are good to go with last items. As soon as we were in the car they went back to sleep. Perfect! Always leave early. Dithering around just allows children’s excitement to build and potential situations to escalate.
- I have a list of parks and stops every two hours along my route and ensure any interesting stops are accounted for and included. It may seem like a massive over spend to stop at a wildlife park for an hour at a cost of $80 but the kids will release energy through being engaged and forgetting they are getting back in the car. Having said that you don’t need to pay if there is a great Botanic Garden or an interesting walk.
- Try to schedule your first stop as long as you can push it. I know Revive Survive but I travel well on long distances as I grew up doing them. Now that the kids are older we can aim for the 5 hour mark if we have left early. We change the kids from their pyjamas at this point. (we put them in the car in their pj’s)
- Pack a beach bag with swimmers and towels and find a beach, pool on the way. An hour at a waterslide park will give you potential afternoon sleeps for your drive.
- Look for stops that are not too far from the highway. A 15 minute into a pit-stop already makes for a ½ hour delay before you get something to eat or stretch your legs.
- Car games. Last week I travelled through South Australia with my kids and my girlfriend and her kids. 5 boys under 10 in the car. The two littlest where greatly oblivious as long as there was a screen to occupy them. For the bigger boys I set up a scavenger hunt. I divided the hunt into places of interest we knew we were going to see and emotional questions. Their behaviour for the day was engaged and cooperative. They were interested in places we stopped at and they had to write down the names. I rewarded them with lollies at the end of the day for all their answers. Make some of the questions slightly cryptic to give them some challenge. 20 questions throughout the day is possibly enough.
Air travel tips
Everyone seems to get very excited about the air part of the travel and I can assure you actually getting to the gate is the difficult part. Checking in baggage (and yes as a family you will always have something to check in) and getting through security before walking the mile or two to your gate for boarding is nothing short of a marathon.
- Invest in one of these. Can’t tell you how easy they make life. Click here for details. Of course if your children don’t come back when you ask you may need one of those retractable dog leads! Ha
- Consider for smaller children putting the car seat on the plane for any flight over an hour. I know children under two are free if they fly on your lap. That’s great but that also means they wriggle and squirm and you will not be rested. How much is some peace worth to you? The general theory is because they are used to their car seat and not being able to get out that they are far more comfortable and less restless to move. In Australia you need an Australian Standards sticker on the seat. You need to be at airport early. Some planes you need to be against back wall, some you don’t. Mostly they will be in centre or window as they can’t be aisle.
- For cheaper flights ensure you have entertainment packed. Remember they have all these airlines now by removing all those services. My kids are generally pretty happy with a show or two on an iPad but activity books and pens are also good. Remember delayed planes do happen and you may not have all the battery power in the world. Games generally drain batteries and movies/ shows less draining. Consider packing a power pack. I will note too many activity books make for a heavy bag.
- For little ones. Always pack an extra outfit. Always pack an extra nappy. Always pack an extra bottle. Last week I checked in my bag with nappies. I had just changed him. I check in everything. If you’re checking in one bag you may as well check in all of them right. We walked away from baggage check-in and into security to smell that off smell. Off I marched to the chemist to purchase a nappy and change the smell before being in a confined space with that. Baby food – airports DO NOT sell it.
- Pack a travel blanket. I know airlines will give you one for longer flights but the kids will be easier to get to rest with their own smell and comfort.
- A teddy or a comforter.
- Children’s eye mask. For smaller children who won’t put one on. Wait until they are asleep and then slip over their eyes. They will not know.
- Water bottles. When are airlines going to wake up to kids having cups? Pack a Sippy cup if you need it. Dependent upon the volume of liquid rules, you may need to carry on empty and ask for water on the plane.
Tips for boat trips
All I can say is motion sickness is horrible. I would try to test your kids out with water prior if you can. At the very least try the motion sickness medication at home and confirm it doesn’t have some weird effect on them.
- Ensure the boat you are travelling on has lifejackets for children. An adult lifejacket on a small child will be as good to them as throwing them in without one.
- Ensure the boat has adequate seating and you are not jammed in.
- Take some motion sickness alternatives with you. Mine respond well to the pressure point band on their wrist but not all kids do.
How to plan a trip with little one’s? There is so much to consider that you never thought of before. So, in my humble opinion, do what mothers do, go with your gut instinct. Consider all there is and do it. Focus on the end gain. Precious time together away from distraction. Cherish. Cherish the journey as well as the destination.
Guest post published by Virginia from – kidsandluggage.com.au