Tips for Travelling with Kids Part 3 – General Tips & Tricks
Welcome to part 3 of our series on travel tips for families. If you need help deciding on what to bring on board an aircraft to keep your little ones entertained for a flight, then our post about tips for carry-on luggage might be helpful. We have also put together our packing list for family sun holidays or vacations.
Today’s post is a list of tips and tricks we have found useful over the years.
Before you go:
- Check that passports are in date.
- Check-in online – saves queuing.
- Keep carry-on luggage to a minimum but well stocked with activities and snacks for the kids (and a change of clothes!). Our carry-on luggage checklist has lots of ideas.
- Check weight of all bags and suitcases – nothing worse than having to pay overweight charges or having to remove belongings from your luggage to get it to correct weight in front of a long queue of other passengers waiting to check in!
- Recharge all devices and phones and don’t forget to pack the chargers!
- Ask someone to keep an eye on your home, feed pets, water plants etc.
- Pre-book airport parking if you are taking your own car to the airport – often you will get great deals and discounts online – we recently got a week’s parking in the short-term car park (at Departures) for the price of a week in the long-term (10 minutes away by shuttle bus from Departures).
- Ensure you have all of your travel documents – we keep all of ours in a plastic folder within easy reach in our carry-on luggage – passports, tickets, boarding passes, travel insurance, itinerary, accommodation confirmation, driver’s license, car hire voucher, European Health Insurance cards, directions, visas if required and vaccines record book if required.
- Place all liquids in a clear ziplock bag. Baby food, formula and medications are all allowed in addition to your liquids allowance but be prepared to taste you baby’s food, formula etc, I have been asked several times to do this!
- Check all flight details – dates and times, plus the terminal your flight is departing from.
At the Airport:
- Get there in plenty of time – usually 2 hours before for European flights, 1 hour before for domestic flights and sometimes 3 hours prior for International flights. You often need more time than you think to walk from security to your departure gate especially with children in tow.
- Get a trolley for all your luggage.
- Keep your children close – airports are extremely busy places, we put ours in the stroller and on the buggy board.
- Find your check-in area if you haven’t already checked-in online or locate your bag drop area.
- Don’t forget to get a check-in label for your car seats (if you are taking them) and for stroller, if it folds up into 2 pieces like ours, then you will need a label for each piece
- Place all loose change, watches, belts, hats, scarves , coats etc into a bag if possible before you get to security. We bring an empty fold up tote for this reason. This keeps all of your belongings together and speeds up security.
- Have all of your electronic devices out of their bag – iPads, DVD players and laptops must be scanned on their own.
- If possible wear slip on shoes in case you are asked to remove them at security – not every airport requires you to remove your shoes, but a lot do. Avoid boots – you will be asked to take them off.
- Keep your liquids bag at the top of your carry-on bag so that you can easily pop it into the tray at security, likewise for baby liquids.
- If you have a large buggy/stroller/pushchair be prepared to remove the wheels so that it will fit through scanner. Some airports have extra wide scanners for this purpose but not all. We used to bring a large all-terrain twin buggy and this had to be manually searched and scanned as it was too big for the machines, was worth the inconvenience as it was so comfortable for when my two were very young. We now usually bring our Quinny Buzz – large pneumatic wheels which we have had to remove for it it to be scanned. A lot of people swear by using a fold up/umbrella type stroller for travel, I personally don’t use one as our Quinny is so comfortable and smoother for long walks, exploring etc.
- Time and funds permitting try and have a meal in the airport before boarding – airline food is not great and even with lots of snacks you know only too well that our little people will complain of being hungry at some stage!
- Use the toilet as close as possible to boarding as you won’t be able to use the toilets on the aircraft during take-off and if your kids are anything like mine they always want to go at this stage of a flight. Invariably we are first out of our seats to the onboard toilets as soon as the “fasten your seatbelts” sign is turned off.
- Fold up and leave your stroller at the assigned area usually at the gate or at the foot of the steps up to the aircraft, it will be added to the hold and returned to you usually as you exit the plane though sometimes you may not get it until the luggage claim area.
- If you have assigned seats don’t be in any hurry to board the plane especially if you are worried about your child having to sit still for a long period, this is a very busy time and can be stressful for children and sometimes there can be a bit of a wait until all passengers have boarded. Most airlines invite families with children to board first which is great if there is no assigned seating.
- If you are not handed an infant seat belt for children under 2 who do not have their own seat, be sure to ask for it – it easily attaches to your own seat belt and all infants under 2 must wear this for take off and landing.
- Place anything you will need regularly during the flight under the seat in front of you (snacks, some toys, wipes). Place everything else up out of the way in the overhead compartments.
- Electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones can now be used during take off and landing once they are set to aircraft mode – we hand over the iPads as soon as we board and they keep our two happy and entertained for take off.
- Now that my children are slightly older I give them a lolly pop to suck on for take off and landing as this seems to help with their ears. When they were babies I either breast fed them during take off or gave them a bottle or if the refused to drink a soother/pacifier did the trick perfectly.
- Stay calm. If your child gets upset don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, no doubt their child has had a meltdown on a flight at some stage. Get up and walk around if you are permitted to do so.
- I usually buy cheap toys or books and keep them hidden until we are on the flight. Every now and again I hand them a new toy/stickers/book/snack if they start to get a little restless. I also try and download a new movie onto my iPad as a treat to watch on the flight.
- Retrieve stroller as soon as possible.
- Have passports/ID ready for inspection. For International flights this process will take longer with visa checks and extra security checks such as the Homeland security checks and scans when entering the US and Visa and vaccine checks in Kenya to name a few. If you are an EU citizen travelling within the EU then the process is very straightforward, usually on a quick show of your passports.
- Be sure to have any customs forms filled before getting to customs and security, these are typically distributed during international flights ans must be presented to customs officials on arrival. Be very careful about what food items you take off the aircraft, some countries have very strict regulations especially Australia.
- Collect luggage, car seats, other equipment.
- If you have arranged a transfer from the airport then your travel rep or driver will be waiting in the arrivals area for you.
- If using public transport for your transfer then bus stops, taxi ranks and trains are usually very well sign posted.
- Car rental companies are generally located in the arrival hall or a short walk away.
- Check in, if possible, sometimes this may not be possible if you have arrived early in the day but generally you will have full use of all of the facilities -pool, food etc just not an actual room until later in the day. If we are going to arrive early we usually pack our swimwear in our carry on luggage so that we can head straight to the pool! Your hotel or accommodation will typically store the rest of your luggage in a secure place until you room is ready.
- If you have made any special requests when booking, check if these were possible at check in, i.e. is there a cot/crib, high chair etc.
- When travelling as a family we always unpack immediately or I do and my hubby entertains the kids or takes them exploring. My reason for this is to make our room, apartment, mobile home, tent or whatever as comfortable and as usable as possible. I try and set it up in as much a child friendly way as possible, move glass tables out of the way, push kid’s beds up against a wall, move balcony furniture away from the railings – basic childproofing!
- Freshen up, go for a swim to help everyone feel better after your journey then get something to eat and relax – you have arrived and survived!!!!!
- Personally, I like to keep my children in their routine. We try to stick to bedtime or within an hour of our usual bedtime and follow our routine of supper, bath, teeth, bed, story etc. Occasionally after dinner we will pop them into their pjs, snuggle them up in their stroller and go for a walk, often they will fall asleep and we will stop for a drink or coffee along the way. Now that they are getting older keeping to the bedtime routine is not as important but little miss Oodles (2 1/2 y.o.) still needs a pretty good routine in order to sleep well and she always always always sleeps badly on our first night anywhere and takes ages to settle and go to sleep on the first night too. Thankfully she tends to be ok after that once we keep relatively well to her routine.
- When travelling to a different time zone we try to switch our routine to that timezone, with the aid of a short nap if necessary.
- Locate nearby supermarkets and pharmacies so that you know where to get whatever you need.
- If you are staying in a busy and lively resort, request a room away from the hub of things.
- Most hotels and apartments in sunny locations have blackout blinds and curtains, we have a set of travel blackout blinds that we take everywhere in case they don’t.
- Keep it simple – if your children are very young, don’t try to do too much or you will all end up exhausted and cranky. Enjoy being together, play in the pool, walk along the beach, take it easy. If visiting somewhere like Disneyland, which we have on a number of occasions including when Doodles was only 3 and Oodles was only 12 months, be realistic in what you can do – you won’t enjoy it everyone is miserable because you are rushing around trying to fit everything in!
- Have a fantastic time, take lot’s of photos, make lot’s of memories!
Posts in the series:
- Tips for Travelling with Kids, Part 1 – Carry-on luggage that will keep children happy!
- Tips for Travelling with Kids, Part 2 – Packing Tips and List!
- Tips for Travelling with Kids, Part 3 – General Tips & Ticks