There's a saying about travel: getting there is half the fun. But while it's unlikely that the speaker was throwing down the gauntlet to motivate parents wavering at the thought of taking their crew on the road, we consider it a concept worth embracing. Here’s how to make the journey more enjoyable.
Before you head to the airport, our tips for travelling with babies, toddlers and young kids will help you have a holiday where everyone comes back feeling relaxed.
New parents flying with a young baby mostly worry about two things: first, how the baby will go, and second, how other passengers will react. Good news: the latter is mostly a non-issue (people are nicer than you think) and the former is supported by a few basics.
Regardless of the flight length, take a baby carrier for sleeps, long walks through the airport and settling in-flight. Remember, the baby has to come out of the carrier at customs, security and on take-off and landing, so try to time sleeps around this. For in-flight luggage, a rolling backpack is more convenient than a wheelie bag at this stage – speaking of packing, don’t forget spare clothes, and not just for the baby: you don’t want to spend a long flight in wet jeans if there’s a nappy leak.
TODDLERS AND OLDER KIDS
Little ones are typically excited about getting on a plane, but when they’re on board you may need to have a few strategies up your sleeve to keep that same excitement in check. Pack quiet toys such as mini cars, drawing materials or a Magna Doodle. For older kids, audio books can offer a welcome break from the screens, if the kids oblige.
Experienced travellers stock up on toddler-friendly snacks to ensure there is always something to eat if the kid’s meal doesn’t turn up (remember, you aren’t eligible for a child’s meal until you pay for their seat, usually at age two). Crackers, yoghurt and fruit are good options.
On the road
Road trips with kids may be slow, but they don’t need to be unpleasant. The key to success is planning.
Try to time your departure, and as much driving as possible, with bub’s regular sleeps. Pack a thermos for tea and coffee, as well as some snacks for the adults – that way if the baby stays asleep you can just keep driving.
TODDLERS AND OLDER KIDS
Leaving an hour or two before a toddler’s day sleep can work well – they get into the rhythm of travel and then they sleep. For older kids beyond day naps, have audio books ready, the iPad stocked, and consider a ‘stable table’ for craft, toy cars, and generally ensuring you don’t have to stop too often to pick things up off the floor.
This age group will also do well with car-friendly snacks, and remember, stopping for a picnic lunch at a playground is mandatory.
Where to stay
Do you need to cook? Do you have a baby who goes to sleep early or is a light sleeper? If so, staying in an apartment, Airbnb rental or even a hotel suite will be a better choice than a cheap hotel room.
While regular travellers with babies and toddlers are used to lugging around plenty of gear between accommodation stops,
a decent travel cot is one item worth investing in if you travel a lot. If your toddler is out of a cot but still falls out of bed, consider putting a mattress on the floor or getting a travel bed rail. Bon voyage!