Do you have a big trip coming up with young children in tow? Don’t know how you’re going to keep them amused and stay sane? There is no denying that traveling with children is a whole new test of your parental ingenuity.
Do the scout/girl guides thing and be prepared with backups and lots of distractions. Who knows maybe by following these tried and true tips you’ll arrive triumphant at the other end…OK, maybe not triumphant but perhaps you’ll manage to keep your cool the whole way and that is something!
Here are 11 things you need to carry with you and not in the boot or luggage hold:
1. A change of clothes for each child and socks (it can get cold on airplanes and the socks provided don’t come in any size other than big).
2. Extra clothes for you in case of spills – especially handy if you are going to have a child on your lap for part of the journey.
3. Tissues (can you ever have too many where young children are concerned?), a few empty plastic bags (to contain any smelly nappies and dirty clothes) and a face washer. Take a Ziploc bag for the face washer so that when it’s wet, not everything else in your bag gets damp.
4. Variety of snack food (cereal, sultanas, crackers, fruit etc) in Ziploc bags. If you’re on a plane, the food never comes quickly or often enough and if you’re in a car, you can guarantee a child will be hungry 15 minutes after you departed.
5. Drink bottles – disposables are handy but sometimes having the comfort of a familiar drink bottle makes it worth taking your child’s with you. It depends a bit on the child and how adept they are at drinking from a regular bottle. Don’t rely on shop supplied straws because they can get broken, bent and lost. If milk is still part of your child’s routine and they don’t get it from you, don’t forget to take some milk or powder with you and bottles (take sterilizing tablets if you need to sterilize bottles, much easier and thorough than hot water from an urn).
6. A new toy for each child – something they haven’t seen before and won’t see until you get going and they start to get restless. Make it something that isn’t noisy, doesn’t take batteries (or if it does, take some spares), that they can interact with, that doesn’t require your involvement to put it back together if it falls apart and that isn’t made up of a million pieces that can get lost down the back of the seat. A tall order I know but I can tell you from experience that it’s worth spending a bit of time choosing something that fits the bill.
7. A couple of children’s books, preferably one or two new ones. They can be a great distraction and usually have a calming effect.
8. Balloons – they don’t take up much space and are perfect for that transit stop that seems to take forever. There is nothing like a child chasing a balloon to make everyone feel that bit better and lighter about life. They can become a bit of a problem in a confined space so you may have to make a judgement call about when to use them. When you are just about to get back on a plane is probably not the best time to bring them out! The other thing to do with balloons is to blow them up and then let the air out slowly with the opening directed at the child. My children love this. They squint and turn their faces away and then double up with laughter and shout ‘more, more’. Again this may require a bit of discretion because the noise of an exhaling balloon can be loud and well, unbecoming.
9. Bubble mix – another space saver that works a charm. Best saved for outdoors.
10. A favorite toy or sleep buddy (preferably something small) can be an enormous comfort to an over-tired or stressed child. My sons both have toys that they take with them on long trips. Actually my oldest son will take ‘snakey’, a rather confused Lamaze caterpillar, with him anywhere and everywhere if we let him. Thankfully, we have 2 backups just in case we ever lose him.
11. And lastly don’t forget to take something to read for yourself. You never know they may sleep or watch a movie and you could be left wondering what to do with yourself. Nothing too ambitious or bulky. A magazine or short story should do the trick
What should you put it all in? If you have to do any walking, a daypack is best because it won’t slip off your shoulders, leaves both hands free and has lots of compartments so you can find things, like your wallet, in a hurry.
If this list sounds like a lot to you, believe me when I say that being prepared can make all the difference between a never-ending ordeal and an unusual, possibly pleasurable way to pass time.