Travel is so important for so many reasons. For me it always means an opportunity to see how other people live their lives, taste yummy food and soak in a foreign culture. All these things are even more important for the little people in our lives. But how do you do it without losing your marbles. Especially when travelling from New Zealand, where going anywhere usually means a lengthy endeavour.
I have travelled over the years with my kids at varying ages, 18 months, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 years old and most recently with our 4 month old! Invariably the older they get the easier it is to travel with them. But don’t despair! I have put together a list of my top 10 tips to help you out 🙂 I have split this into two posts to make it easier to read….
Top 10 tips to survive and actually enjoy travel with children
Set expectations: Expectations for yourself and your partner and if they are old enough, expectations for the kids too. Door to door, you will most likely be on your journey for over a 24 hour period. This will not be the kind of flight of days gone past where you catch up on movies and indulge in a pinot or two! Be prepared to be wide awake for most of that time period. It’s one day of your life, you WILL survive without sleep. For some of the flights with my husband we both managed to watch at least one movie and enjoy an uninterrupted meal, so its not all doom and gloom, but having low expectations on this front is best!
Now that 2 of our kids are old enough, we have two main expectations of them: no running and listening first time, For both the airport and the airplane. This works so well for us. They know that going on a flight is a big treat and there will most certainly be other treats along the way if they follow these instructions.
Prepare in advance: Now I am typically the kind of person who packs a week before I travel anyhow, but with kids this becomes especially important. I pack one big suitcase for the both the boys, one small suitcase for Little Miss and one for me. For carry on, Little Miss and I share a biggish backpack and the boys have a small suitcase each that they pack and they then are responsible for carrying around the airport etc. Packing this far in advance means that as the appropriate clothes, wipes, bibs, socks, etc etc are washed they go straight into the suitcase. This saves me from doing last minute emergency washes. It also gives me an opportunity to assess how many days we are on the move for in one go and where we will have a stopover with a washing machine/dryer. I tend to organise the kids’ clothes into outfits all rolled up into one so that they/we aren’t hunting around for pants that match tops for example.
Pack for the flight: As mentioned before the boys each take their own suitcases for carry on and I have a biggish backpack for Little Miss and I.
The boys packed a spare set of clothes, a book and an activity they wanted to do on the airport etc. But they packed very lightly because we all knew that the biggest entertainment would be the onboard entertainment systems. These are amazing for ages 4+. 18 months to 4 years…not so much. They are entertained by the system for a little while but then want to go for walks and jump around…sigh. For these ages I found having a gigantic bag of games, puzzles, books to read and activity books were best. Most of them that were brand new to them. On this note, I raided the $2 shop a week before the flight for little inexpensive toys to pull out when required. To be honest Little Miss was most entertained by an empty chip packet on the whole descent into Auckland….so really don’t overthink the whole what to pack for the flight bizzo.
For Little Miss I had 3 sets of spare clothes for her and 1 set of spare clothes for me. I took 8 nappies for one way (ie Auckland to Doha, Doha to Munich). We didn’t get through even half of them but you just never know! Plus most airlines will give you an infant pack with nappies in them in case you need a spare in a pinch. I also took saline drops for blocked noses, pamol and rescue remedy.. for well..everyone! 😂😂 finally, I packed spare dummies, wipes, wraps, spare iPhone with white noise on it and also her favourite cuddly.
Stopovers: I had read on so many blogs that having a stopover was a good idea to break up the journey. But in my experience this has not been a good idea at all!! I have done this twice, once when travelling with the boys from Dubai to Auckland and we stopped in Sydney and again when travelling with all 3 kids and we stopped over in Doha on the way to Munich. Both times the stopover delayed the inevitable. On the way to Munich we booked a stopover in Doha thinking it would be a good chance for everyone to nap properly. Ummm no, the boys were so excited and probably over tired that they refused naps, Little Miss couldn’t figure out what time it was and therefore didn’t sleep either. Hubby and I just danced around trying to keep all 3 kids happy and ourselves awake and somewhat sane with copious amounts of caffeinated substances. All in all we arrived in Munich in a big tangled over tired mess. So no I would not recommend a stopover. Just get to where you are going as fast as possible and start the acclimatizing process ASAP.
Have fun!: Flying is so much fun! Especially when you look at it from a child’s perspective. The airports are so well designed to accommodate families in terms of playgrounds, changing facilities etc etc…. Good ole plane watching is also just as fun. Onboard most stewards and stewardesses are delighted to have kids on board and will happily hold babies for you if needed and provide numerous onboard activity kits for kids. They also assign you a specific member of the crew who is responsible for kids in your section, I found this invaluable for help with the bassinet, spare nappies, warm water for formula etc etc.
So these were my top 5 tips….the next 5 follow in the next blog post.
Comment below if you found these useful or make suggestions for what else you found useful!