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Tips for Travelling with Kids: Packing
A bit of planning can reduce your luggage and avoid punitive charges for exceeding your allowance. Stick to packing one outfit for each day, so you don’t overpack, buy miniature and dual-purpose toiletries (eg, body wash and shampoo for children), and use all the available space in your case: eg, stuff shoes with socks, wear your jeans on the plane, roll up items to avoid creases and fill the outside pockets on your suitcase.
Books can weigh a lot so consider an e-reader or tablet for reading material. Some children’s books are available as e-books now. If you’re heading for a beach destination, such as family friendly villas in Ibiza, don’t attempt to pack buckets and spades as it’s always easy to buy or borrow them there.
Check what family essentials will be provided in your accommodation, as you may not need to pack as much as you think. Most family-friendly places will provide a cot, and many will also have a highchair or sterilizer. Remember that most things can be purchased wherever you are. Some companies can hire out baby equipment for you as well.
If you’re traveling with a baby, think about items that fulfill several purposes – a light cloth that can be used as a bib, cover-up for feeding, blanket, and comforter. Always make sure that you have enough space for some spare clothes, both for the baby and yourself!
Fill snack pots with your child’s favorites, eg, raisins, grapes, dried fruit, jelly sweets, chocolate buttons, crackers, cereal, etc. These can keep younger children entertained for some time on a long journey. It’s best to take more than you think you’ll need in case of delays. Take lots of water!
If you’re flying, don’t forget you can’t take liquids through security with you. Some staff will let you take your child’s drink-through if you sip it in front of them. Otherwise, it’s best to buy water, juice, and cartons of formula milk (if you use them) in the departures lounge. You can usually top up water bottles on board the plane. You might want to pack your child a lunch for the flight if they don’t like their in-flight meal (sometimes children don’t even receive one).
Entertainment for the journey
Consider filling a unique bag with everything your child will need. Include some favorite toys and maybe a new toy, especially for the trip – you could even consider wrapping up the new toy to add extra entertainment value! A small coloring book, a pack of crayons, and plenty of stickers can entertain small children for a few precious minutes.
A doodle pad or crayons and paper are good choices, as are tubs of play-doh and magazines with stickers. Books are also a great addition – consider including classic books like ‘Where’s Wally?’ which can keep them entertained for a long time. If you have a younger child, you might want to take a blanket and favorite stuffed toy as they may wish to nap. Consider loading your phone or tablet with child-friendly apps and videos or bringing along the DS or other handheld video game.
To encourage good behavior on the trip, you might want to offer a reward for when you reach your destination!
- Many airlines let you book your seats online in advance. Take advantage of this to ensure your family can sit together. You might also want to ensure you’re near the toilets if you have young children or a baby. With some airlines, it’s possible to request seats with extra leg room and book an extra seat for a small charge, giving you more space to spread out. If you’re unsure what your airline offers to help families, then it’s always worth contacting them beforehand to see what you can arrange. Otherwise, a word with check-in staff might mean you can have an extra seat if the flight isn’t complete.
- Valet car parking is a helpful service when traveling with children and a lot of luggage. It means you can drive up to the drop-off point outside the terminal where the valet will meet you, take your car and park it off-site. This service saves you from struggling to get on a bus to the airport or walk a long distance from the car park.
- Find out what family-friendly facilities the airport has: this can make your wait easier and is invaluable if your flight is delayed. Most airports have a children’s area and sometimes a soft play area and craft activities too. If there’s a paid lounge, then consider booking it in advance: these can have facilities such as complimentary food and drink, free wi-fi, sleep areas, quiet areas, children’s TV, magazines, showers, cinema, and games room.
- Some larger airports have a porter service where you can pay a small charge for a porter to assist you from kerbside to check-in – fantastic if you’re traveling as a single parent with a few kids or need a helping hand. Also, look for family assistance lanes at the larger airports where families with buggies can be assisted through security.
- Make sure your child visits the toilet before you get on the plane. It’s not uncommon for them to suddenly want to go just as the captain turns the seatbelt safety lights on!
- All airlines should carry your pushchair for free, and you can take it to the gate. It will probably be returned to you with the rest of your hold luggage, so be prepared to carry your baby through the airport at the other end. Ride-on suitcases are great for toddlers that can’t walk long distances.
- On the flight, make sure that you have everything that you could need close at hand and packed sensibly so that you can retrieve it easily. Place spare nappies, wipes, drinks, snacks, and activities into the seat pockets.
- Even if your children are older, a pack of baby wipes is still convenient for mopping up spillages and freshening up. And if there’s room in their hand luggage, pack a change of clothes as air sickness can suddenly descend on children without warning!
- Accept that young children will find it difficult to last an entire long-haul flight without complaining. Aircraft are noisy anyway, and it is unlikely that anyone else is bothered by the sound from your child.
And finally, if it all goes wrong and the children do have a meltdown, then hopefully, all will be forgotten once you’re enjoying your holiday. Travelling can be hard at times, but the destination makes it worthwhile.
Have you got any travel tips to add?