By Natalie Bascur
The Summer holidays can be met with anticipation and excitement, THEN followed by anxiety and impending dread for those peeps prepping to travel with their bambinos. As much fun as it is to take your kids to visit family, head interstate or overseas for a tropical vacay, the BIG Q is – how the f*ck do we get from point A to point B tantrum free?
The key to keeping your cool with the fam in tow is to contemplate what could go wrong before it does and try to be as organised and prepared as you can be. Sometimes the road trip on the way to the destination is often the most fun, but with kids that’s not the case unless you prepare for chaos before chaos ensues. We are here to keep you sane through the cries of “are we there yet?”, we got you mama.
// PACK, PREPARE, PRAY
The first step is to work out what the typical complaints will be. Travelling to a destination can be trying even for adults, but that is amplified as a child when you don’t have the same tolerance levels to reason that it’s part of the journey. Kids often complain when they are tired, hungry, thirsty, too hot, too cold, need the bathroom or are bored – so pack drinks and snacks that are easy to eat and chuck in some extra jumpers and t-shirts to change into to cover any shift in temperature.
Try and plan regular stops for bathroom breaks ahead of time so you know where one will be and work out how you want to entertain the littles. Always bring your own tissues, wet wipes, toilet paper, change of outfit in case of spills and emergency treats like chocolate if a last resort bribe is the only thing that will keep that show on the road. Your sanity is as important as theirs, mama.
// POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Don’t underestimate how important it is to continually tell kids they have done a good job when they have been well behaved, for example when going through an immigration line taking forever or being stuck on a tarmac with a delayed take off. Besides praising, sometimes give out surprise gifts. Even inexpensive items like a pack of cards, crayons or lollies wrapped up in colourful paper given out unexpectedly will encourage them to be on their best behaviour. Think of it less like a chore and make the travelling part as fun as it can be.
Allow yourself to check out from time to time and have ‘me time’, with your baby-daddy taking over, so you can nap, read a trashy mag, listen to some heavy metal tunes – whatever is your jam – to give you an escape for a moment.
// ROAD TRIP
The first question to work out is are you going to be better travelling on the road or travelling on a plane? There are of course several factors to consider here, not least of which is where the fam is based if you are visiting them, whether your kids have travelled anywhere before and what ages they are. If you decide to go by car, bring your handy bag of tricks (containing snacks and other aforementioned emergency items), find some great road trip music that your kids like – beats to keep them energised when they need it and some more relaxing tunes when they are looking tired AF.
Keep them excited about the journey by planning fun stops along the way. Even if it’s ‘The Big Lobster’, that you would happily drive on by, kids need things to look forward to regularly that aren’t too far away. By breaking the journey up into small novelties along the way, they will forget about a mammoth eight-hour trip in the car, which in kid language sounds like an eternity. In saying that, if they are happy or napping keep on driving, mama!
Try games like Eye Spy or the A-Z game (similar but working through each letter of the alphabet). If you’re happy to let them have gadgets, download their fav games or movies onto a device to keep them entertained… unless they’re prone to get carsick! For those who get carsick, have them sit in the front seat where they can look outside, have the window down (hence the need for the extra jumper if you’re heading to cooler climates) and get them a fizzy drink, like lemonade, to sip if things start going downhill. Factor in extra stops for those who get carsick, and try to time your drives with nap times so they’re sleeping through a chunk of the journey in the car, that really helps.
// PLANE TRIP
For those going on a plane trip, try to get kids as excited about everything before you reach the airport as you can. The more you can prepare them, the better – turn the mundane inevitabilities into things to look forward to. Let them know they will get to go through metal detectors that might beep, before getting on a big plane with an engine that makes noise, before floating in the sky. When dealing with long lines start counting games, “how many people can you see with red tops?” Let them pack their own carry-on bag (with supervision) so they feel they have control over the situation and they have some fav items with them. Download movies, shows and games in case they have seen the on-board ones already.
On the plane itself, let them walk up and down the aisles with you to look at anything going on and let them stretch their legs, especially for younger kids. If you can, pack extra snacks for fussy eaters, as you don’t want to have a situation where they hate what the airline has and refuse to eat. Also try and pack noise cancelling headphones for sleeping, sippy cups, books, play dough and colouring books.
TRAVELLING THROUGH THE AGES
Travelling with infants for the first time can turn even the calmest mama into a ball of anxiety. Everyone knows how annoying it is to have a screaming baby next to them and no one wants to be that mama getting death stares. Try and plan as best you can, but accept that no matter what you do, at some point in your life that’s going to be you with a screaming baby that can’t be comforted in public. At least if it happens on a plane instead of a supermarket they all have headphones.
Stick to your baby’s sleep schedule as best as you can, have dummies and comfortable layers in case they get hot or cold. If you’re breastfeeding, think of what you will need if you’re doing it in your seat, have some emergency stock pumped just in case you’re too tired and Dad is taking over. Pack enough diapers and a large mat for changing bub, as there are often no change tables when you need them… better to be pleasantly surprised if there is than frustrated when there isn’t.
Travelling with toddlers is not for the faint hearted, it’s the most challenging age to take on longer flights so maybe start with shorter interstate ones before trapping yourself on a flight to Europe with a toddler having a tantrum for 15 hours. If they are crawling or walking be prepared that they will definitely not be able to sit still the whole time, so take them on regular walks around the plane whenever you can have your seatbelts off. Have things in your bag for them to play with, jingly keys, fav toys and phones to scroll through. Don’t forget to pack pull ups, even potty trained toddlers might need them if they need to pee but there is a line or turbulence and they can’t go when they need to.
Get ready to put your patience hat on, kids of this age are curious and fascinated by the most boring parts of travelling you wouldn’t even notice. You will be asked WHY? a thousand times over (yes, more than usual) as everything is seen and discovered for the first time. Don’t underestimate that the journey at this age is as interesting as the final destination, sometimes even more so! If you can, read them books or make up stories about their upcoming destination and what they will see there. On overseas journeys, think if you want to bring their car seat to travel on and fav blanket, creature comforts from home make the unfamiliar long haul journey more bearable.
Work with them to make a list of things they want to see when they finally land, as this is the age to work collaboratively and let them have a bit of choice. They might surprise you in what they pick, bonus is all that list making and crossing out is going to keep them busy and pass the time. Letting them have little bits of freedom in the fam decision making will allow them to think of it as their holiday, not one they are being taken on as a little kid.
The age of moods is a challenging one, but most teens will be happy enough if they can watch what they want, eat what they want and feel they can make their own choices. Try and give them some adult control in choosing these things, even if they pick a food choice you wouldn’t normally have let them try and you think they won’t like.