It’s #TravelTuesday which means I will be posting a travel-related piece today as part of an ongoing Travelogue every week. Today, we focus on the littlest people who often run our homes. Travelling with young kids may seem daunting, but trust me, whether on a flight or in the car, travel can be done without losing your sanity! By Tamsyn Cornelius
Over the years, we’ve successfully lugged two toddlers halfway across the globe (with stop-overs in foreign airports) and we recently packed the family into a car for a seven-hour road trip… and we are all still alive to tell the tale! Here I share some of my top tips for travelling with your little ones!
Plan, plan and then plan some more.
Yes, spontaneous vacations may sound delightful. I recall an evening (long before having kids) when we decided on the spur of the moment that we would fly to Johannesburg for the weekend. It was already Friday evening… so we simply booked an online flight and in a couple of hours, we were well on our way to the City of Gold.
With kids, travel looks a little different from those spontaneous adventures you may have been accustomed to. It takes some careful thought and lots of planning to ensure a pleasurable trip for everyone. But this shouldn’t stop you. Travel broadens the horizons and gives you a new perspective and appreciation for human life.
Plan ahead and you won’t be disappointed!
When my husband was afforded the opportunity to attend a conference in Turkey, I knew that with some clever planning, we could turn this into a family adventure. My youngest was merely 7 months old when we packed our things and headed to Istanbul for 10 days… two strollers, two suitcases and two toddlers in tow! I don’t think we would have survived without some forethought and a few nifty tricks that made the trip so much more bearable for all involved.
I’ve chatted with some peeps I like to call pro-flyers as well as a dear friend who is not only a mom regularly flying with toddlers but also an airline pilot who lives and works in different cities.
I’ve collected some key advice from these individuals which I am sharing here. So, before you venture on a flight with your little ones, be sure to follow these guidelines for a smoother trip!
Paperwork, passports and laws for travelling with kids…
Before you get excited about an overseas trip, please do yourself a favour and ensure that all your kid’s paperwork is in order. Your child will need an updated passport and unabridged birth certificate, as well as a visa (if necessary) for an international trip. You can apply for a passport at your nearest Home Affairs, but be warned that this takes anywhere from 10 days to eight weeks to arrive. So don’t delay – go apply today!
Also note that if one parent is not travelling with your children, then he/she must provide an affidavit confirming parental consent to such travel.
Book the baby-friendly seats!
With all documents sorted, it’s time to book your flight. If you’re travelling with an infant, know that children under the age of 2 travel free! Whoop whoop! Kids 2 and older pay full price as they require their own seat.
Your infant, however, will have to be seated on your lap. You can also book a seat in the front row that comes with access to the in-flight bassinet. Be sure to ask your airline upon booking your tickets. Your baby will be able to sleep peacefully and you’ll be free to get some rest yourself. This was a real life-saver for travelling with a 7-month old at night!
Thanks to the digital age you can book and check-in online for a smoother process. For easy flight bookings, I love Travelstart where you can search and compare flight prices across all airlines.
Let them sleep!
If you’re in for a lengthy flight, opt for a night flight and hopefully, your little ones can sleep most of the way to your destination. This will mean less irritability for your kid and yourself! And hopefully, you can both get some much-needed rest.
It may be slightly more expensive but if you can afford it, book a direct flight with no layovers for a smoother journey and less travel time.
Brief those toddlers and pray for the best.
Don’t think that your toddler will just automatically fall in with your plans and read your body language while you are trying to discipline them on a flight. No. brief them beforehand about in-flight etiquette.
Tell them that they need to use their inside voices and explain to them what the seatbelt sign means so they know when they need to be seated!
Go to the loo before boarding.
Do a nappy change or toilet stop prior to boarding. You know… to avoid having to cram yourself, a nappy bag and a screaming toddler into a small aeroplane toilet at the onset of your flight!
Comfortable layers for the win!
Comfy clothes are essential for any flight. A travel pillow may also be a lifesaver if you’re hoping that your toddler will actually sleep through the trip. You may even want to pack their PJs and let them change and settle for the night, in keeping with their regular routine at home.
If you’re flying into different time zones or simply upcountry, there is a big possibility that the weather could be very different from your departure city. Pack a light jacket and layered clothing for your kids that could work in any season. They will be a lot less irritable if they need to quickly cool down or warm up in a new place.
Keep hunger at bay!
If you’re flying out of the country you may have the privilege of ordering your kids’ meals from the in-flight menu. Be sure to pick the kiddie meals you know they will enjoy. This may not be the best time to fight with your little one about eating his greens!
Keep snacks and water on hand at all times. Check with your airline regarding which food items are not allowed but if possible, keep some chewy treats in your hand luggage that you can whip out as needed.
Motion Sickness sucks!
Yes, I’ve been spat on, spilt on and more during flights with my kids. Motion sickness often affects little people worse than adults so it would be best to prepare for the worst! Ensure that you have access to paper bags during the flight in case of vomiting. If you can’t find them in the compartment in front of your seat, be sure to ask an air hostess.
You may also want to pack an extra set of clothes or two for each kid (and yourself!) in case they urgently need to change… you know, in case of vomiting, a toilet accident, spilt food or any other unforeseen situation!
If your flight offers onboard entertainment, then whoop whoop, you already have access to some cool movies, music and more to entertain the kids.
If you’re flying locally you may want to ensure that your tablet or Ipad is fully charged and loaded with toddler-friendly games and activities that do not require connectivity! Don’t forget to pack head-phones – one set for each kid!
Be prepared for the dreaded mention of ‘I’m bored’…
Kids can quickly become fidgety on long flights. They watched movies, gone for a walk down the aisle and now what? Find out if you can take your kids on a tour of the cockpit which may keep them occupied and interested for a few moments. Once the excitement fades, I like to keep a few hidden surprises in my bag (or in my pockets) for when boredom sets in.
Cheap toys, crafts and small kid-friendly activities are the ideal things to whip out every hour to keep the little ones happy. If you’ve booked a kiddie seat on an international flight you may also receive a goodie bag per kid – these too are life-savers to occupy busy toddlers!
Ask for help
Lastly, if you’re in need, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most people understand the stress that goes into flying with toddlers, and you may be surprised that your fellow passengers will be more than accommodating. Some may even offer to cuddle your baby so you can quickly go to the loo. Chat to those around you and if you are in need, call an air hostess for assistance.
Embrace the endless possibilities that travel brings and plan ahead for a smoother journey with your little people!