How to Travel With Kids and Keep Your Sanity
If you’ve ever braved an airplane with young children in tow, then you know how daunting it can be. Long-haul flights are hard enough to endure as adults, let alone as children, and there are several factors working against you, too. Firstly, your children have to be restrained, which they loathe. Secondly, they can often suffer ear pain from takeoff, landing, and the cabin air pressure, which results in screaming. And thirdly, they can’t go outside to play, so it means Mom and Dad take turns walking their toddlers up and down the aisles. But there is hope. According to Georgie Abay, editor and founder of The Grace Tales and mother of two, the key to traveling with kids is organization. Scroll down for a few tips to help your next trip.
Having a screaming toddler in any public place isn’t something mothers welcome with enthusiasm, let alone on a plane. But Georgie urges you not to let it bother you. “When we took our then 6-month-old Arabella to London to visit my husband’s family, I thought I’d be worried about everyone else’s reaction if she cried,” she said. “But when she did cry, I didn’t feel self-conscious at all. My focus was on her and making sure she was okay. Babies cry—it’s far worse for the parents than anyone else on the plane, so don’t let it worry you! Just remember, you’ll get there eventually, so try and take a deep breath.”
When it comes to travel, organization is key, but it’s especially crucial when traveling with kids. Georgie says you should separate everything in your carry-on luggage into easy-to-find ziplock bags. “There’s nothing worse than rummaging around your bag looking for something while your impatient child is screaming.”
Young children are eating machines—all that growing requires an abundance of food—and on a plane it’s also a vital distraction. Georgie says “you can never have enough,” so pack as much as you can; bananas, sultanas, rice crackers, mandarins, and cheese are all good options. Her number one tip is to keep them in different containers so it’s something new and exciting each time. “I love the Yumbox lunch boxes as there are lots of different compartments,” she notes. “Also, don’t pack messy foods. We had one disastrous trip to Fiji where Arabella and I had strawberry yogurt all over us before we even took off.” Which brings us to her next tip…
When young children are learning how to eat and drink from a sippy cup or straw, it’s absolutely one of the most adorable things to watch. But it also requires multiple clothing changes a day. Without the luxury of a laundry to wash them, you need to prepare in advance and pack at least a couple of outfit changes, because you just never know what they’ll throw, spill, or smear on themselves. “It’s better to have too much than be stuck with a child who’s covered in juice,” adds Georgie. “I layer a lot as well since the temperature on the plane can change from hot to cold very quickly.”
While you wouldn’t normally sit your active toddler in front of a screen at home for extended periods, when you’re on a plane, it’s a necessity. Flying can be pretty boring, especially for kids, so tablets will keep them busy and help to settle them if they’re feeling stressed or tired. “It used to be all about Peppa Pig in our house. Now we’re onto Mickey Mouse,” says Georgie. “Make sure your devices are fully charged and you’ve got your child’s favorite show ready to go.”
Nothing beats new toys when kids are concerned. It ramps up their excitement levels and keeps them entertained for hours. Which is exactly why you should always save a few new ones just for the plane ride. “I rotate all our toys as the girls get bored of the same ones,” Georgie says. “I’ll hide something for a month then bring it out again, and it’s like a new toy! Just make sure they’re not noisy toys. We like books and puzzles for flying.”
Children usually have a comforter of some sort that they seek out when they’re tired or in need of security. It can be anything from a plush toy to a blanket, but make sure you have these on hand for the long journey to keep them calm. “My first daughter was joined at the hip to her bottle, whereas my second daughter is lactose intolerant so isn’t really into bottles, but she needs her bunny rabbit comforter to calm her down,” says Georgie. “I guess it’s like her dummy [pacifier]. We take it in the car, and she has it when she goes to bed. We’d be lost without it! Each child is different, but just make sure you have a couple of bottles, pacifiers, and comforters.” Georgie recommends a soft baby blanket for comfort, for when they’re cold, and for sleep time on the plane. She loves Atelier Child’s cashmere-blend blankets.
When you have several suitcases to lug, carrying a baby on your hip or in your arms is pretty tricky—and probably not the safest. Georgie loves her hands-free baby carrier, which gives moms plenty of freedom to carry travel totes on their shoulder and a suitcase behind them. Plus your baby will love being so close to you. “It’s the best accessory for traveling; I’ve spent many flights bouncing my babies to sleep in an Ergo or BabyBjörn,” she says.
There is a lot of walking required when traveling long distances, especially when you arrive at your destination. Georgie says the best solution she’s found for strolling with kids is the Yoyo Pram. “A girlfriend of mine recently traveled to London alone with her 2-year-old son and swears by this compact pram,” she notes. “It folds up and can be put in overhead luggage—genius! We’re off to Fiji again later this month, so I will be buying one.”
Even if you have a thorough travel itinerary, you’re probably already aware that things often don’t go as planned when you have children. So just be realistic about how much you can achieve before you leave. “I’d love to explore the world with my girls, but right now it’s not possible as it’s too stressful,” says Georgie. “Every family is different, but that’s what we have decided. I can’t wait to get back into it when the girls are older.” Georgie prefers to keep trips closer to home, so their go-to family holidays are spent in Australia, Fiji, and Bali. She loves Smith and Family, a great resource for booking family-friendly stays.