As parents of young children, sometimes worrying seems like an occupational hazard. We worry about whether they’re eating enough/the right food, getting enough sleep, having enough of the right intellectual stimuli: are they growing into happy, healthy, well-rounded little individuals? Add travel into the mix and it would be easy to let the worrying spiral to unscaleable heights.
A little forward planning and creative thinking will ensure that you and your small people get to enjoy experiencing the world a long way from their front door.
Your personal travel manager is the obvious person to start with, with the knowledge and expertise to advise you on everything from family-friendly accommodation to the most child-friendly flight schedules. But there are plenty of other experts whose wisdom you can tap: whether it’s your pharmacist for the best mozzie repellent or your favourite librarian for fun new books for when you need a quiet distraction, people are happy to help.
Talk to other parents who’ve travelled with their young children – they’re usually a wealth of “dos and don’ts”.
When you arrive at your destination, ask the reception staff, concierge or porters for the best playgrounds and child-friendly restaurants in the vicinity.
It’s easy to get swept up in the planning and logistics, without taking the children along for the ride. You can tailor your approach to the age of the child, so whereas an older child might be shown maps and photos, a toddler might be given a toy or a picture book that reflects their destination.
Look for options that specifically target families – many hotels now offer brightly-coloured family rooms with kid-friendly bedding and facilities, as well as kids’ pools, kids’ meal deals and of course… kids’ clubs and babysitting services.
In some destinations, an apartment with kitchen facilities may be a great alternative to a hotel, as it gives you the ability to self-cater. Sometimes a tin of spaghetti or a bowl of favourite cereal is a welcome alternative for the whole family!
Look for airlines that offer kid-friendly inflight entertainment or kids’ packs – even if it costs a little more, you may find it’s a wise investment in your sanity and your children’s enjoyment.
Your carry-on luggage might include colouring books and pens, simple toys and snacks. You could even gift wrap each item, to be opened at regular intervals or when a little extra “motivation” is required.
Pack clothing that is easy to wash, quick to dry and comfortable to wear. If your kids love a particular food that’s hard to find overseas (e.g. vegemite), pack a jar to take with you – you won’t regret it.
Get your little ones their own small carry-on bag to carry a few small treats and toys – backpacks work really well. You may even want to consider a backpack with a lead (think novelty animal backpack where the lead is cunningly disguised as the animal’s tail), or a strap that fits around the child’s wrist. You may recoil in horror at first, but they’re great for peace of mind in busy airports terminals.
Most young children respond well to a daily routine that, whilst allowing some flexibility, makes them feel safe. On the plane that might mean putting them into their pyjamas and following their normal bedtime routine if it’s a night flight; on the ground it may be as simple as regular meal, bath and bed times.
Be sure to pace yourselves. Every parent knows that an overly tired toddler is a ticking time bomb, so schedule an hour or two of proper downtime each day. If your children are old enough to watch TV, pack an iPad or other digital device for those moments when nothing else will do.
For more suggestions on making the most of your family holiday adventures including inspiration on where to go, contact your local personal travel manager here.