Travel with kids can take many forms and they aren’t all the 2 adults, 2 kids type despite what the holiday companies will have you believe. Are you a single mum travelling with a toddler? Perhaps your other half just can’t get the time off work but you’d love to take a break with the kids anyway? Is that something that sounds possible? Probable? Even appealing? Or maybe you think it will be a living nightmare? Well, the answer to that will depend on many factors, not least your state of mind when embarking on your journey.
My experience of it has been amazing. Two years ago, at six weeks pregnant with my rather unexpected baby banshee, I hopped on a plane half way across the world to Vancouver with my son, who was just nine years old at the time. Like you do hey.
Shaun hadn’t been able to come with us and so actually, yep, that’s exactly the kind of thing I do. Impulsive is a character trait over here.
Despite the rising levels of hormones and hyperemesis (it didn’t actually kick in properly until the plane journey home…) we did manage to have an unexpected and unforgettable adventure.
Whale watching in Tofino, taking a tiny 6-seater sea plane across the Strait of Georgia, sitting and watching a mama bear and her cubs playing in their natural habitat, hugging the unbelievably tall, rare and centuries old endangered Redwood trees at Cathedral Grove and
being upgraded to business class seats were just a few of the many highlights and memories that will be stored and treasured from that particular adventure. Of course, there were low moments – notably throwing up ten times a day and dealing with acute jet lag (who says its worse going out?!) but that sums up travel. It’s an experience in itself – always a mixture of both good and bad.
Many parents have no option other than to travel solo with their kids these days and it makes me sad to think that so many of them just won’t bother to do it. I agree that it is daunting but the reality is usually far less daunting than the actual concept.
With that in mind, I’ve spoken to many lovely parents who have travelled solo with kids and together we have compiled some top tips to help you along the way.
Travel with kids – the baby age
“I flew alone with my daughter at 7 weeks old. Make sure you take spare clothes just incase of a poo explosion. We had a major one as soon as we landed. Also, something I wish I had done, take a baby sling/carrier if you can. It was an absolute nightmare trying to set up a pram whilst holding a baby at the same time (people weren’t that considerate in the baggage hall and watched me struggle) – being hands free would have made all the difference!” Then there were three.
Not only do you need a spare change of clothes for your baby but bring one for you too. Or at least a clean top. You will only need to be chucked up on once to remember that little pearl of wisdom.
“Try and get your baby to sleep in your arms before placing in bassinet, particularly if your baby is looking like they will only just fit in the bassinet. Miss A only just fitted into the Virgin sky cot, and because it had a harness, she couldn’t move and consequently was a bit of a grump. However both Virgin and Qantas allow a baby to stay in the bassinet during any light turbulence, which is obviously very beneficial if you are flying solo. If you don’t have a CoziGo, The blanket over the seat like a canopy worked a treat too. This would also help a toddler in their own seat avoid the brightness of any cabin lights” – Flying with a baby
Travel with kids – the toddler stage
“Plan ahead. Make sure you have plenty of snacks and things easily accessible to keep them entertained throughout the trip from check in and beyond. See if there’s a kids entertainment zone you can use in departures” – Over 40 and a mum to one.
Whether travelling long haul or on a road trip, think about keeping the little people busy by creating your very own toddler entertainment kit just like Wave to Mummy does.
Get a notarised letter from the other parent stating that you are authorised to travel with your child. I’m asked for this more and more when travelling across borders.
Do not travel without your stroller. No matter how much your toddler loves to walk / run (away), the day you have to make an interconnecting flight is the day they sit down in full toddler protest. Take the stroller.
It’s worth considering a nappy for take off and landing even if your little one is potty trained. There is nothing worse than a “Mummy I need a poo!” shriek as the seatbelt lights flash on. Ugh.
Kids freak out for numerous Peppa Pig induced reasons. Ignore the dirty looks if your toddler is the one to throw an unscheduled wobbler aboard a packed flight and just try to deal with the situation as calmly as possible. And by that I mean with bribery.
Travel with kids – the road trip
“Have an early start. Going on holiday, the kids always wake up early so I make the most of their early start. The day before I try to send them to holiday club or a day with Nana and I clean the house (my OCD rears its face when it comes to going away and leaving a clean house!), load the car and ensure that everything that is going into the car at the last-minute is lined up. There is no messing in the morning. We get up and go, fruit is available for snacking but breakfast is served at our first stop after at least 2 hours on the road” – Meandering wild.
Have an essential car kit containing wipes, kitchen towel, changes of clothes and bottles of water etc in case anyone gets travel sick and brings back their bags of Haribo. There’s nothing worse than a seat full of puke and only one dodgy old tissue to hand.
Plan your stops. Obviously you will sat nav or at least plan your route on a map but don’t forget to schedule in appropriate rest stops where you can eat, drink, use the bathroom and stretch your legs.
Travel with kids – Keeping everyone happy
This one is from my friend Sarah who recently ventured abroad with her two kids: “Just do activities that you know your kids will enjoy. Don’t try to force them to see and do all the things you feel you ought to do because you will just end up with tired, grumpy and bored children making life harder than it needs to be. Keep it easy going and simple and you’re onto a winner”.
Have an itinerary, have an idea of where and when you would like to go and see different places but if things don’t go your way then allow your plans to be fluid. Flexibility is the key for happy travel with kids.
Travel with kids – When things go wrong
Whether you’re sitting in the comfort of your home or are jetting off to far flung lands, things can go wrong sometimes. People have accidents, get sick or get eaten by sharks. Shit happens. My advice is to be fully prepared for such eventualities with a fully stocked first aid kit on you at all times.
Research the local medical facilities and contacts at your chosen destination(s) so that you know who to contact if needs be. Also make sure that you have really good family, travel insurance and that you know how to use it.
Things do sometimes go wrong but if you have these back ups in place then there is really no need to worry unduly. After all, things can go wrong at home just as easily.
Don’t just sit there watching seemingly happy families jet off on their travels for fear of what may or may not happen. Pluck up the courage, pack up your bags, take a deep breath and jump into solo travel with your kids. You’re braver than you think, it’s less scary than you imagine and both you and the kids have the potential to have an amazing time.
Make memories, learn, grow and see the world together.
Until next time – Bon Voyage