Travelling with children requires a lot of preparation, no matter whether it is a picnic in in the park (if only!) or flying off to some exotic destination. Be prepared, take it slow and restock the necessities along the way.
Wouldn’t it be great to just jump in the car and away we go but if you have ever tried it before you will definitely know it just does not work. Check the weather, pack some extras, and make sure that a lot of tolerance has been put in reserve. Here are a few tips, that I should actually follow myself to make it all so much less stressful!
Timing is everything. A breakfast or early lunch is better for the younger ones as a few extra ‘vinos’ and long lazy lunches can creep into naptimes ensuring a grizzly little monster when you are just starting to relax. If you have a long car journey consider driving when they might drop off into a nap.
Have bag, will travel. Packing everything into a sensible bag will help tremendously. For younger children a nappy bag is essential for all their bits and bobs. Older children can have their own small backpack, but be prepared…..you generally end up carrying these as well! For long haul travel, invest in a ‘Trunki’ suitcase, it not only serves as a case but also a ride-on and a much needed seat for little ones in queues.
Tried and tested. When all else fails, the familiar softness of a cuddly toy or a favourite blanket seems to save the day. Sleeping in a new bed can be daunting but a soft toy or a pillow that smells of home can provide tremendous comfort. My son’s little stuffed monkey has seen just about the whole continent and is still the favourite companion when we travel anywhere.
Spares & something warm. I always forget to pack an extra set of clothes for accidents and incidents and generally end up with a naked child on the way home! You just never know when a milkshake might go flying or whether a mountain stream might just be too big a temptation. South African weather can give us 4 seasons in one day, so always be prepared for the extreme.
Lost property. In a split second children can missapear (my 3 ½ year old’s new word, a combination of missing and disappear). Unfortunately they do not come with a tracker system, so make sure that they always carry some info in case of an emergency. I generally take a waterproof marker and write my cell phone number on their hands or invest in some id bracelets from Kindersafe. This is just in case their adventure takes them that little too far and they notice you are not within eyesight.
Distractions. Getting there should be half the fun. Banish boredom by keeping them amused with a combination of sight seeing, playtime and snack breaks.
- Goodies: having some new toys to pull out along the way, is a great way of shortening a journey or meal out…..a goodie box™ made by Goodie Two Shoes does the trick – particularly when parents need it the most! It is jammed packed with educational and fun toys as well as art activities and stickers and it is inexpensive as a bonus too. You can buy different themed boxes for both of the two age groups, each containing age-appropriate toys ensuring a bubbly busy bee and a relaxed parent too. Think playtime in a box.
- Books: just the other day I was caught reading ‘The 3 little pigs’ with such enthusiasm that a couple from across the aisle on the plane gave me a huge grin when I started huffing and puffing.
- Electronics: nowadays near enough everyone can lay their hands on a laptop. These are great to play favourite DVD’s or music. A MP3 player or a personal CD player makes for great entertainment, especially if it contains a recording of you reading their favourite book. Just don’t forget the headphones!
- Travel games: remember I spy? Well introduce new variants, such as colour coded clues for tots or more complicated hints for older children. The journey is never over till the fat lady sings, so all join in and do a rendition of your favourite song.
Snack attack. Sugar and confinement is not a good combination with children. Stock up on nibbles such as fresh and dried fruit, nuts, bite-size cheese, crackers, popcorn, baby carrots and cucumber sticks and small boxes of juice to keep the hunger and thirst at bay. There is nothing worse than the tantrum of an over-tired, hungry child.
Toiletries. It is normally halfway across the Karoo that you end up with tiny sticky hands and nothing to clean the mess. Wet wipes is a definite must for any outing. While you are at it, pack a few plasters, sunscreen, a plastic bag for rubbish and some trusted medicine. I ended up asking every parent with a child whether they had Calpol onboard a flight at a stop-over as my child had severe ear ache and I knew we were going through the same experience in an hour’s time again!
Location, location, location. If you are taking your children into a very formal environment you will end up being extra cautious about everything your child does. Rather plan more child-friendly outings than putting enormous pressure, not only on yourself but also on your darling little one. You will be surprised at how many great restaurants there are that not only you will enjoy but also have a child-friendly atmosphere. Some restaurants even offer a piece of pizza dough; provide kiddies entertainment or best of all sell Goodie Two Shoes boxes.
Just keep on smiling. When you have run out of all ideas (and patience) take a leaf out of Barney’s book and go on an adventure. You never know where it might take you!
Go make a memory.
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