Travel with Young Children: Tips and Tricks

Navigating Long Haul Travel with Young Children: Tips and Tricks

Following my recent trip to the Seychelles with my 3 & 6 year olds, I have been inundated with questions on how it went, and what on earth I did to keep sane!

Travelling with young children can be both exciting and daunting, especially when facing the prospect of a long-haul journey. But, with careful planning and a positive mindset, it’s possible to turn those potentially stressful hours into memorable family adventures. I thought I’d put together some of my top tips and tricks to help you navigate long-haul travel with young children smoothly.

Firstly, Plan Ahead:

Start by researching your destination and flight options well in advance, talk to your travel agent about potential stop over’s to break up the journey. We flew with Etihad Airways and did a 12 hour transit on both journeys, meaning we could leave the airport, check into the airport hotel and get some rest in-between journeys, this was the best decision ever for us as we tackled each flight fresh and with some sleep topped up!

Choose flight times that align with your child’s sleep schedule to minimise disruptions, however, take into account when parents can get rest too, we struggle to sleep on the flights so opted for daytime flights with longer stop overs as this suited us!

Pack essential items like wipes, snacks, and entertainment for the journey. And do not forget spare clothes… for everyone! My kids love to spill drinks all over me!

Keep Them Entertained:

Bring a variety of activities such as colouring books, small toys, and travel-friendly games. My one major tip is take mini pots of playdough, and a few cutters/shapes etc. This kept both mine happy for hours!!!

I also took their iPad’s, pre-loaded with kid-friendly apps or movies, and their favourite TV shows on Netflix or BBC iPlayer downloaded ready to use!  However, for some insane reason, both my kids decided this was the week they didn’t like screentime!!! Can’t even make it up! So had to then be much more creative for our 25 hours of flight time!

Engaging them in interactive games like “I Spy” or storytelling to keep their minds occupied, games like this never last too long in our household without an argument or bickering, so we kept this to a minimum! I made sure to pack a variety of colouring books  and a pencil case (each to save any hassle) with pens, crayons and pencils. I was getting them to colour a picture for near enough every family member back home, and even started doing them for hotel staff and air hostess’ just to give them a purpose!

I also took surprise toys or activities to unveil throughout the journey, adding an element of excitement. I literally bought the cheapest junk that kids love, from pound land etc and wrapped them in birthday paper (this was all I had in the house!) and if I found they were getting bored or restless I’d whip out a quick surprise which would then keep them occupied for a good while. The best part of this, was they had no idea I even had these, or how many I had – so it was a literal surprise each time! This is key!!!!

Snack Smartly:

Pack a mix of snacks and treats to keep hunger at bay, if your kids are anything like mine, they need a snack every 30 seconds! So I wanted to make sure I had enough fun snacks to keep them from moaning!

Opt for mess-free snacks like, granola bars, or crackers to minimise clean up. Although I did not follow my own rules here, I tried to be fun mum and pack a bag of ‘Chocolate Mice’ to again add an element of fun, but cue melted chocolate all over the place!!

Keep hydrated by carrying refillable water bottles and I always pack a mini squeeze bottle of squash concentrate to save any meltdowns over water if it doesn’t taste the same as home (kids hey!).

Dress Comfortably:

Dress the kids in layers for varying cabin temperatures, again mine will be hot/cold/hot/cold every 10 seconds so having layers with us was key!

Choose comfortable clothing and shoes that allow them to move freely, I dressed mine in leggings and hoodies for comfort, so if they wanted to cosy up and sleep for a bit they could, a girl can dream right!!! 😃

Again, do not forget to pack a spare set of clothes in your carry-on in case of spills or accidents (FOR EVERYONE LOL).

Home comforts:

Bring along familiar comfort items like blankets, stuffed animals, or favourite bedtime stories to help ease them into sleep. We made a huge school boy error of leaving 3 of my daughters favourite toys behind in Abu Dhabi hotel on the way out, thankfully we were able to pick them up on the return journey, but this didn’t go down well at the time!! Always double check for their toys!!!

Use noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs to block out cabin noise during rest periods. We took their headphones for their iPad to save the other passengers from listening to Bluey for hours on end!

Maintain a bedtime routine as closely as possible, even in-flight, to signal to your child that it’s time to wind down – this didn’t go to plan at all for us, but God loves a trier!

Be Flexible:

Understand that unexpected delays or disruptions may occur, and try to remain calm and adaptable.

Don’t hesitate to ask flight attendants for assistance if needed; they are often happy to help families traveling with young children. Most airlines will provide entertainment for children on long haul flights, alongside the TV’s, games etc they also give children a pack of entertainment normally. Etihad were fab for this, as they’ve recently partnered with Warner Bro’s, so they gave the kids Scoobie Doo rucksacks on flight 1, filled with colourings, games etc. Flight 2 they had Tweetie Pie colouring books given, and then on our return were given Warner Bro’s drawer string bags filled with various bits and bobs!

Request children’s meals where you can too (normally have to be pre booked), again Etihad gave out Warner Bro’s lunch boxes which were great! We used mealtimes on the flights as a chunk of distraction time!

Stay Positive:

Approach the journey with a positive attitude, and try to embrace the adventure. I can’t lie, I was super nervous leading upto this journey, myself and my husband are very frequent travellers and no stranger to a long haul flight, but this was our first one with 2 children in tow! In the weeks leading up, everyone jokes saying “You’re brave” or “You must be mad” which naturally makes you 2nd guess your decision but focus on creating fond memories with your children rather than dwelling on the challenges of travel.

Remember that children are resilient, and with love and support, they can thrive even during long-haul journeys. I was amazed at how easy it all was to be honest, my kids adapted so easily and even with extreme turbulence and trouble landing back in Heathrow, neither of my kids batted an eyelid!!

Travelling long haul with young children may seem daunting, but with careful planning, patience, and a sense of adventure, it can be a rewarding experience for the whole family. By following these tips and tricks, you can minimise stress and maximise enjoyment, creating lasting memories that will be cherished for years to come. So, pack your bags, buckle up, and get ready for an unforgettable journey with your little ones! If anyone ever has any questions, or would like help planning their trip with little ones, feel free to contact me directly….

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