Regular travelling is part of expatriate life. For the Christmas and New Year celebrations, families across the world are putting travel plans in place to head home for the holidays. Yet travelling on aeroplanes, boats and in cars with children still throw up a host of challenges to try the most patient of parents and experienced of globetrotters. Amanda van Mulligen talks to mum on the move to get their tips for stress free travel this Christmas time.
The Fly Drive Issue
Christine, an American mother of three, prefers to go long distances by car. She claims a twenty-hour drive is less stressful than a three-hour flight. Here’s why,
- No constraints on luggage
- Everything is on hand – favourite toys, comfort items and blankets
- Stop offs are under your control
- Children are strapped in with no place to go
- No worrying that your little ones are disrupting other passengers
- If you have forgotten to pack something having your car with you means you can easily go buy replacement items from the local area
If you have no choice, and you need to hop aboard a plane then here are some suggestions to ease the pain of flying with little ones in tow.
- Take a car seat onto the plane to strap the little ones in. They are sitting in something familiar which can be comforting for them
- Head, where possible, for child friendly destinations and choose daytime flights. You increase the chance that you are not the only passengers battling with bored or grumpy toddlers and less likely to spend the flight fending off glares from childless travellers
- Ask for help from the airline staff or even better notify them in advance of any assistance required with luggage and seating. Do not expect automatically to get help because you look hassled and board a plane laden with bags and children
- Get a window seat so you can point out the sights to your inquisitive offspring
- Change nappies just before you get on the plane
- Take a change of clothes for your child
Amy, an American mother living in the Netherlands, makes regular long haul trips. She reiterates that taking your child’s car seat onto the plane makes the journey easier and adds,
“I bought a small folding luggage cart to strap the car seat to; I can wheel my daughter around the airport in this instead of bringing a stroller”.
Let Me Entertain You
Whether your transport is a plane, car or boat entertainment is essential if you want to avoid tantrums and melt downs. Here are some top tips on what to pack from mothers who are experienced travellers:
- Invest in a DVD player for the car. This is a sure fire way to keep the kids quiet and happy in the back
- Crayons, paper and colouring books. You can print off colouring pages from the internet.
- Leapster or other gaming system
- Small photo album or scrapbook filled with pictures of family and friends or characters from favourite TV programs or books to go through page by page. Children love things that are familiar
- Gift wrap several toys (think small, inexpensive and one for every hour or so) to open when boredom sets in. A double layer of wrapping paper keeps them busy and the thrill of unwrapping is often of more entertainment value than the item inside
- Snacks and treats for times when a meltdown seems inevitable (healthy and not so nutritious work wonders)
- Favourite toys (avoid small pieces which are destined to get lost in the plane aisles or ferry dining areas)
- CD’s with kids actions songs
- Stickers (be prepared to peel them off plane windows, seats and floors before you leave)
Helen, British mother of two currently living in Belgium, gives great advice for those travelling at night,
“If we're driving through their bedtime we make sure they're in their pyjamas, they have their cups of milk and all their usual bedtime comforters so the transition to bed at the other end is as quick and painless as possible”. She also advises investing in a Potette, a travel potty that makes those calls of nature a little less distressing and easier to handle whilst on the move.
Finally yet importantly, pack plastic bags and use them to get rid of wet or dirty clothes, rubbish or spills and messes.
Here’s wishing you safe and stress free travelling with your family over the festive period.