Travelling With Kids
With school holidays on the horizon and following 2 years of hard travel restrictions, many people I am speaking to are travelling for the first time in a long time. Some of these are going with children who have never travelled before and others are concerned about the plane journey or long drive and how to manage the mixture of demands from children of different ages. Having recently done a long haul journey with a toddler I can truly relate! Here are some things to bear in mind when planning your trip to hopefully navigate some of the pitfalls:
Even the most local of trips generally involves some disruption to familiarity and the schedule that your child may be used to. For children who still sleep during the day, it is very helpful if you are able to facilitate a rest of some kind to stop them becoming overtired. This may be them watching something quietly on a screen without siblings interference, going for a walk in their pram around the airport or local area you are driving through or reading some stories with you.
Don’t worry too much if they aren’t able to sleep - when travelling, routines always go out the window and they will make up for it later! If you have the time available, I would also think about keeping the first day or 2 more relaxed in terms of activities which will hopefully give children of all ages a chance to rest and regulate after the long journey.
Any kind of travel involves leaving the comfort of your regular surroundings and this is a wonderful opportunity as human beings to be able to explore new horizons. For children, this wonder can be sparked simply by looking out of the window of a plane or car, looking at different shape, size and colour suitcases on a luggage carousel, counting the rows on the plane, playing i-spy and really thinking about what different stimuli surrounds them. This can be particularly helpful in airport queues where you can invent stationary treasure hunts as a competition eg: can you see a blue bag? Can you see a pram? How many security people can you see? Another way to do this is to simply narrate the surroundings to increase your child’s awareness of their environment.
Depending on the age and interests of your children this can take various forms. For younger children it may be much more literal eg: this is a luggage carousel and it brings the bags from the plane or we are going to drive past lots of farms before our next stop whilst we listen to music. For older kids it can be more involved and include distances and place names and be an introduction to navigating. If you can spark questions and curiosity as to where you are in the moment, the whole trip can become an adventure and not only the destination.
The reality is that for everyone a long journey involving sitting for significant periods of time can get tedious no matter what games are played! Therefore it is about thinking of activities which will entertain your child/ children for as long as possible in one go rather than in short bursts. Of course different children have different attention spans but most by the time they are 3 or 4 will have something that can focus them. Watching a movie is great if they will but also think about sticker books, craft kits without little pieces, travel board games eg connect 4 that will last longer as there is also human interaction involved to help with the boredom.
Many children will also eat when they are bored ( and out of routine). No matter how old your child is, it can be very helpful to have a variety of food options and give them the autonomy to choose what they want any time they feel hungry. With younger kids, offering food as an option as soon as they are beginning to get restless can help.
PICK YOUR BATTLES
Once in the car or in the air, remember that you are also on holiday! That means that it is also your chance to go easy on yourself and do what works. Additional screen time for bored and tired children doesn’t make you lazy or a bad parent! Allowing your child to have their comforter more often or sleep at different times to usual also doesn’t. If they eat a few more lollies than you would usually permit – it’s their holiday too – let them enjoy it!
The very essence of travel means that everyone is in transition and those are usually the times where we need to be the kindest to ourselves and those around us including our children!