Whether you’re planning to travel out of the city for the long weekend or you’re debating a summer holiday with the kids for the first time, planning a family vacation can be a daunting task.

From the threat of strangers on flights glowering at your screaming baby, to the thought of keeping the kids entertained, happy and safe in foreign lands, there’s lots to plan before you take the plunge. We spoke to three mums who have plenty of great recommendations for first-timers travelling with kids. Read on for some travel advice: 

Start them young

Although there isn’t any official rule, most airlines stipulate that a baby must be at least 14 days old to take on a flight. While we wouldn’t suggest flying that early on unless it’s an emergency, travelling with your children from an early age can help them get accustomed to it quicker, even if it seems stressful at first. When it comes to introducing your kids to travel, there’s no such thing as a magic age, but there are ages that might make it easier for parents. Tamara Corin, Beauty Editor at The Handbook and mother of five, says, “You either want them to be super young, like under six months so they’re not moving too much yet and need little more than a bottle of milk or four+ when they don’t necessarily need a buggy and can sit and be entertained on the plane with an iPad. Plus, no changing bag necessary.”

When it comes to introducing your kids to travel, there’s no such thing as a magic age.

Choose your mode of transport wisely

Whether it’s by plane, train or car, the quickest journey is the easiest journey for Elly Stancliffe, CEO of The Handbook and mother of five young kids. “I find that travelling in the day-time on the way there works best because mine are always too excited to sleep. On the way back, night-time works because the excitement has worn out and they’re tired.”

Travelling in the day-time on the way there works best because mine are always too excited to sleep.

When it comes to a preferred mode of transportation, Tamara goes with travelling by plane. “Car is too compact, siblings end up quarrelling with one another and it’s more restrictive in terms of movement, toilet stops, and you spend every five minutes trying to grab a toy, snack or water which is almost never in arm’s reach!”

On flights, there are also benefits worth knowing before you travel. Children under two years of age who sit on an adult’s lap on board can typically travel for free (on domestic flights) or at a discounted fare (for international routes), according to Skyscanner’s Baby on Board advice. On British Airways , you are allowed one pushchair, one car seat and 10kg of hold luggage when travelling with an infant.

Prep for the time difference

If you’re flying to a country with a big time difference, it’s worth prepping the kids beforehand so they’re not jet-lagged and cranky on holiday. Elly suggests changing sleep times for the kids gradually before the big trip. “When I flew to America, I started to put my children to bed later a week before so there was not such a difference in time,” she says. “I also brought some natural magnesium sleep pills for the children for the night time flight and it worked a treat.”

To combat time difference woes, Robyn Upton, Managing Director at The Handbook, suggests changing clocks to the destination time the minute you board the plane, to help speed up jet lag adjustment. She also recommends limiting in-flight movie time for the kids. “Turn off the seat screens. You want kids to sleep to help them adapt to new time zones.”

Snacks, snacks, snacks

Before getting on a flight, taking a train journey or even a road trip, planning meals ahead can also help make the journey smoother. There’s nothing worse than a tired, hungry child and making sure your kids have had a good meal before travelling is the one thing you can control before the journey. And it’s best not to just depend on the airline or train for food. Elly recommends, “Make sure they have had a good meal before getting on the plane, and bring snacks, as if you have a turbulent flight, in-flight food service can be delayed.”

Make sure the kids have had a good meal before getting on the plane, and bring snacks!

“Snacks, snacks, snacks! Fill your bag to the brim,” Tamara suggests. “You will never have enough. And to avoid you getting up and down umpteen times organise the snacks in transparent boxes with a variety of bits and bobs that they can always keep with them. Almost like a snack organiser.”

Pack more than you need

Not just snacks, but also clothes, wet wipes, nappies and medicines for travel sickness and allergies. Tamara suggests always packing a spare outfit for each child including underwear and socks. “You never know when they’ll be spillages, delays or lost luggage.” Elly suggests bringing something warm for the flight as it can get cold with the air-con on. It’s worth remembering to pack basic necessities and items you absolutely cannot do without in your hand baggage. The last thing you need is an airline losing your luggage and having to find essentials in a foreign country.

Always bring the entertainment

You have two choices when travelling with your kids: either be the entertainment or provide it. If you’re not keen on answering questions throughout a five-hour car journey or trying to keep the kids entertained while they’re wide awake on a flight, it’s convenient to pack their favourite toys, books and games. “I’ve always travelled with a packet of balloons so the kids can blow them up and use as a ball or something to catch when we’re in the departure lounge,” says Tamara. “Anything to use up some energy before the flight!” For small kids, Elly recommends sensory boards that can keep the kids entertained constructively. Plus, waterproof games are great to take the kids from a flight to the pool or beach without you worrying about water or food spillages.

Either be the entertainment or provide it.

Let your kids be kids

Crying babies on flights can be a rather prickly issue. Travellers aren’t always the most sympathetic to wailing toddlers and there have been calls for child-free zones on flights. But it’s worth remembering (for the childless adults on flights) that a parent travelling with a child is probably stressed out enough – they don’t need criticism about something they can do nothing about. Every child cries, and almost every child will find travelling stressful and throw tantrums. With changing air pressures and new sights and sounds, it’s natural for children to be uncomfortable for some parts of the journey. “Take absolutely no notice and don’t ever apologise for your child being a child,” Tamara says.

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