7 January 2013
19 Tips for Travelling with Babies and Young Children
By: Laura Trotta
Travelling at the best of times can be exhausting. Travelling with babies and pre-schoolers in tow is even more so!
Living in Outback South Australia away from our family in Adelaide, Victoria and Queensland, we consider ourselves seasoned travellers. Whether it’s driving the 1200km round trip to Adelaide or flying the two plane legs to Melbourne or Brisbane, we have refined our travelling “procedure” over the past few years since the arrival of our two sons.
If you’re thinking of taking a holiday with your children or just looking for ideas to make your regular travel a little simpler, read on for my top tips to make travelling with babies and young children as easy as possible:
- Baby carriers are truly worth their weight in gold in general and in particular, in airport transfers and when travelling to regional areas where travel strollers and prams just can’t handle conditions such as beaches and gravel paths.
- Babies really are very portable, particularly if breastfeeding. Maximise free (or reduce fee for international) air travel for infants less than 2 years of age. After that age, air travel really does add up!
- Breastfeeding on the go is so much easier if you have your pillow with you. If your babies’ ears are susceptible to changing air pressures, feed on takeoff and landing.
- Don’t skimp on airfares. By that I mean fly different legs with different airlines. The few dollars you may save isn’t worth the hassle of collecting and re-checking in baggage mid journey. Not to mention the risk of missing your second flight if the first one is delayed. Book with the single carrier and check your baggage the entire way through.
- Have healthy snacks on hand for you and your children. Don’t rely on having time between flights to purchase something. Often a nappy change and feed can take up all available time.
- If you have more than one child, assign a parent to each child/ren as toddlers can quickly become lost in a busy airport.
- Be ready with a sick bag if your tot suffers from motion sickness. Pack an extra outfit for them and yourself in your carry-on luggage, particularly if you have a connecting flight.
- Travel as light as possible as extra baggage can cost a fortune. Best to do a load of washing or two during your trip rather than put your back (and wallet) out with extra baggage. Consider hiring or borrowing items such as car seat, portacot and stroller at your destination rather than travelling with them.
- Don’t be shy in asking people for help. Whether it’s putting a nappy bag into the overhead locker or taking a bag off the carousel, many other travellers are only too happy to help a struggling parent.
- If you require a hire car, book well in advance to ensure you get the required infant / child seats fitted.
- Try to schedule flights at times your child would normally be asleep.
- Plan adequate stops on your journey to stretch legs, have a break etc. Parks and playgrounds (including McDonalds) are the best option here, particularly if you have an active child.
- Pack plenty of healthy snacks in individual lunchboxes for all on board. If different children are sleeping at different times, it may be easier to eat in the car, swap drivers and keep driving rather than stop and risk waking children.
- Our three year old is quite content to listen to music and look out the window for hours in the car (reading or other activities give him motion sickness). While we don’t have a portable dvd player or tablet, many friends of ours rave about them for long road travel.
- If travelling in more remote areas, pack a potty as they come in handy for those quick pull ins into rest areas.
- Car games can provide hours of entertainment. Games such as Eye Spy, counting windmills and car cricket (eg. you get a run for every car you see, six for 4WD, out when you see a motorbike) are always in fashion!
- Accept that travel can be a time of both excitement and anxiety for young children. It’s common that a “good sleeping” child may wake up more often when away in a strange bed / location.
- Don’t over-schedule your days. Often one activity a day while away from home is exhausting enough.
- We prefer self catering accommodation so we can cook our own healthy meals and snacks. Even by preparing a simple breakfast and lunch each day you can save unnecessary dollars and calories. Cabins in caravan parks are usually reasonably priced and facilities such as laundry, playground and swimming pools are usually included.
Given that more and more families these days are living interstate and even overseas from extended family, travelling with young children has become a way of life for many. Hopefully the tips above can make your next family holiday or trip away that little bit easier.
About the Author: Laura Trotta is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She has lived interstate from her family since 1999 and has honed her procedure for travelling with her young children since her first son Matthew was born in 2009.