Family holidays are a blast, but lets face it - when you're travelling with young kids there can be a bit of stress in the mix, too! Whether you're hitting the road or taking to the skies, here are some quick tips to make the trip to your destination and the time you spend there as fun and fuss-free as possible.
If you're taking a plane, planning ahead can make your flight more enjoyable and most airlines will let you pre-book seating, meals and bassinettes. Bassinettes are useful for babies under the age of 12 months, otherwise you might find them quite small, says Qantas spokeswoman Amanda Bolger. The next best option is a seat where the armrest can be lifted, she says.
Are we there yet? Bust boredom by letting kids choose new colouring books and pencils to bring along, and ensuring gadgets such as tablets are charged and loaded with new games and movies (don't forget the headphones!). Another good idea is to have a couple of surprises up your sleeve, such as a small new toy or special snacks.
A baby carrier is fantastic for travelling. Wear one to free up your hands so they can hold onto another child, find travel documents, and sign or pay for things while you're in transit. They're also an easy way to get bub around when you're at your destination.
If you're headed overseas, visit your GP well in advance to sort out any vaccines or medications that might be needed.
In planes, the change in cabin pressure during takeoff and landing can hurt young ears, but swallowing can ease this. For little babies, give the breast or a bottle at the top of descent, when the aircraft leaves its cruising altitude, says Amanda, and encourage toddlers to sip water.
Travelling, new foods and different routines can disrupt your littlies eating habits, but try to relax and trust that tots will eat when they're hungry. If you can, take plenty of snacks such as cheese, fruit and crackers when travelling around, and when eating out in countries with poor standards of sanitation, choose well-cooked food from busy eateries where the food turnover is high.
Have a few books and easy- to-pack games such as memory cards or mini finger puppets on hand for rest times or rainy days. For the journey, games including I Spy and Count The... (cows, red cars, telephone poles) are great fun on road trips.
Hiring baby gear at your destination will save you having to lug your own to and from home. Some resorts and hotels offer their own equipment for hire, but baby-equipment hire companies can also organise short-term use for items including cots, strollers, car seats, highchairs and even bottle sterilisers. Do your research, as some will deliver and collect from your accommodation.
It pays to shop around for travel insurance to find the best policy to suit your needs. You can save up front by selecting your excess level and consider a policy that allows an unlimited number of children. Check your credit card as some offer free travel insurance if you use them to pay for your trip.
The best thing to do about jetlag is not to stress about it, says Amanda. I think children adapt better than adults to a change of time zone, she says. Be flexible and if they have a nap when they don't normally nap, that's okay. Help everyone's bodies adjust by spending time outside those first few days exposure to sunlight during waking hours can definitely help.
Deals where kids eat, fly, stay, play or ski free will give you a lot more bang for your holiday buck, says Wendy Buckley, from family travel specialists Travel With Kidz. And if you plan to use a kids club at your destination, check they have a child protection policy and qualified staff, she adds. Standards vary around the world.
For international flights, restrictions apply to liquids, aerosols and gels. Containers with less than 100ml can be taken through airport security, however those containers need to fit into one, 20 x 20cm, sealable plastic bag. Check the TravelSECURE website for more information. So what if you want to carry infant formula? I pre-measure my formula powder into a container for international flights, Amanda says. Then you can either ask the flight attendant to fill the bottle with water on the flight, or if you prefer to use bottled water, you can buy it at the airport once you pass through security screening.
Don't forget to pack these! An emergency kit of basic medicines, such as pain relievers, and first-aid gear like bandaids, is an essential wherever you're headed. If you're flying overseas, make sure you have a letter from your doctor for any prescription medicines you'll be taking with you.
Motion sickness can happen with any mode of transport, but is more common with cars and boats. If you're hitting the road, have frequent rest stops and make sure those family members affected look out the window, rather than at stationary objects inside the car. Ginger can help relieve upset tummies, so try ginger beer or ginger lollies, and don't forgot to pack a bucket, just in case! Anti-nausea medications are available, but check with your GP first.
Busy tourist spots and other holiday-centric places, such as the airport, can be chaotic. It can be easier to keep a close eye on your kids by dressing them in easy-to-identify clothes and hats, and its a good idea to have them carry a copy of your phone number with them, in case they get lost (you can even put your name and number onto a luggage tag and slip it around a belt loop on your littlies pants).
Plan and pre-book as much as you can before you go, such as transport, meals, theme park tickets and day trips. If this is your first trip as a family, plan for a slower pace, Wendy advises. The less you feel like you have to pack in, the more enjoyable and stress-free your holiday will be.
Ask lots of them, including what services and facilities can be made available to your family at your accommodation so you know what to bring and what you can leave at home. Also give your kids a chance to ask lots of questions of you knowing what to expect from the trip and allowing every family member to have input on the things you do will make sure you all have the best time on your fun family trip away.
Most kids thrive on a routine, but going on holidays can throw a spanner in the works! To help avoid meltdowns, try to follow your littlies normal patterns as closely as you can, such as keeping meal and sleep times at the same time each day, so they feel comfortable in their new environment.
Booking your car in for a service before a road trip will ensure all is running safely and efficiently. Let the staff know you're planning a long journey so they can check brakes, tyres, cooling systems, headlights and windscreen wipers.
You can help tame tantrums by letting your little ones know what to expect from the holiday and try to break up the trip to your destination with lots of rest stops. Offer lots of healthy snacks to keep tummies full and energy levels sustained, go with the flow and have few or no expectations.
Knowing where the closest medical centres and hospitals are while holidaying will reduce stress and confusion if anyone in the family falls ill or has an accident. Be sure to scope this out well in advance.
All family members will need a valid passport for international travel plus the correct visas for countries you are travelling to and transiting in. In some cases you may need to carry extra documentation. If you're travelling without a partner and your kids have a different surname, you may be required to carry a copy of their birth certificates or, if your children are adopted, you may need their adoption papers.
Hydration is important, so make sure you keep water with you when your family is out having fun. If tap water isn't safe to drink at your destination, stick with bottled water, avoid ice in drinks and make sure the kids don't drink from taps, bubblers or the shower. Use bottled water for brushing teeth, too.
Lining up for airport security checks can be chaotic when you've got kids and carry-on luggage to wrangle, but many airports have dedicated queues for families at screening points. You'll need to remove kids from carriers and strollers (which need to be collapsed to go through the X-ray machine), and children who are old enough to walk without assistance will need to go through the metal detectors on their own. Send one adult through first, then the kids, then the last adult, so there's always a grown-up close by.
Holidaying with the kids is great fun, but a little me time never goes astray! Make the most of your trip by booking a pamper session, lazing by the pool or reading a book while your other half or the lovely kids club staff look after the littlies.
Be aware that children get tired quickly while travelling thanks to all the excitement and change-up of routines, so they may need an extra nap or some scheduled quiet time throughout the day.