I wrote recently about my experience flying with kids. But flights are not the only thing that stresses parents about family holidays! I am a member of a Facebook group related to Family Travel and every day, without fail, someone asks the community for tips for travelling with kids once they are at their destination. From sleeping at night to naps during the day, different weather, entertainment and eating – making kids comfortable in another country while you are trying to see and do things on your holiday can be a minefield.
But we think we have learned a thing or two over the years here at PWG so here are some of our top tips for travelling with kids to try and make things as smooth as possible – all in the name of making parents feel more prepared and empowered to travel!
Very Busy Bag
The Very Busy Bag is a toy activity bag, full of entertainment for all age groups, and is not just useful on the plane. With a curated selection of toys, books, activities and easy craft, this calico bag will travel with your kids from airport to restaurant, hotel to train (and more), and keep them ‘busy’ when you need it most!
My 5-year old daughter actually still plays with hers back home, but on a recent trip to Spain and Morocco, wouldn’t take it off her back when we were on the move. It was especially useful when her dad and I wanted to enjoy a bit of a long, leisurely lunch in the sun in Spain (not everything has to revolve around the kids, right?!).
It definitely saves a frantic trip to multiple shops to try and put something similar together yourself, and the surprise it gives your kids when you present them with it (I do it on the plane) is priceless. Easy, useful and entertaining – tick, tick, tick!
Again, another product that is super useful for babies on a plane as a bassinet cover, but just as essential when you are on the go at your destination (maybe even more so!).
The Cozigo is a breathable, clip on ‘cocoon’ shade for your stroller, blocking out light, sun and distractions while allowing air to circulate and keep your child cool and safe. Simply pop it on the stroller when your child needs to nap (or needs protection from the sun) and nothing is stopping you from continuing your explorations!
I go on a bit about this stroller but I seriously think the Babyzen Yoyo is one of the best products you can buy if you travel with kids. Lightweight, foldable with one hand, able to be stowed as carry-on baggage in planes, and so easy to steer on all kinds of terrain, including cobblestone streets!
We have carried it easily up and down subway stairs (with our child in it!), navigated it through countless cities and airports around the world for five years now and it has never failed us. Our second bub is now using it and will so for a few more years yet!
If your child is still small enough for a carrier or sling, it is one of the best ways to carry them on holiday. Take them where strollers can’t go (beaches etc) and easily carry them through airports leaving your hands free for luggage.
They can sleep while they are strapped to you meaning you can continue with your holiday activities easily! Ours came in super handy recently in the souks of Marrakech where strollers were a little bit of a hazard!
For kids still in a high chair, it can be tricky to find a substitute when you are travelling. From Airbnbs to restaurants that don’t have them, the totseat is your saviour as a high chair substitute, taking up virtually no room and weight in your luggage.
A cloth harness that simply clips to a regular chair, you can easily turn any seat into a high chair for your little one and feed them as normal. Brilliant!
Favourite Toy and book
Always pack their favourite toy and book on holiday so kids have something familiar. Whilst it is fun exploring new places and possibly even buying some new toys there, kids still like familiarity and this will provide them comfort when they need it.
If your child is still in a cot, I couldn’t recommend the BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light any more. It is lightweight, easy to fold up and down and carry, and you can get them used to it at home so they have a familiar bed while away.
If they are a little bigger, and you need to find them a place to sleep (save on rollaway bed fees with hotels or the Airbnb doesn’t have all the beds you need) then I really love The Shrunks Toddler Travel Bed.
It is inflatable in 30 seconds with the included electric pump, has rails on the side for kids transitioning from a cot, and takes standard size cot sheets that tuck in nicely.
The Shrunks also make inflatable bed rails if your toddler will be in a big bed on holidays and many more great travel products.
We recently took our Cocoonababy baby mattress overseas when our bub was 8 weeks old. It weighed only 1kg in our luggage, and we could put it anywhere in our accommodation for an instant, space-saving infant bed!
If your destination has questionable tap water or you won’t have access to a place to sterilise bottles, dummies etc, Milton tablets are a great option. Easy to pack, they replace the need to boil equipment for sterilisation so you can ensure your baby is safe on holiday.
Involve your kids in the planning
One of the best ways to ensure a successful holiday is to involve your kids in the planning. Give them choices for activities at the destination so they feel part of the decision-making and empowered about their personal experience.
Show them photos and maps of the destination and discuss what it will be like, learn some of the local words and get them familiar with some of the local foods and flavours they will be experiencing in advance.
Journal or activity book as you travel
A great way to keep kids busy on holiday and also maximise the experience for them is to buy them a journal or holiday activity book that they can complete while they are away.
It’s a great record to keep of their holiday and can be taken to kinder or school to show their class when they return.
Always a bit of a conundrum! Cities around the world all vary in their regulations about car seats and is forever a factor when organising local transport. Find out in advance what the local regulations are, including in taxis. You can either bring your own (make sure you have a good protective bag for it on the plane and also make sure it is legal to use yours in the destination country due to regulations) or hire a car seat at the destination, especially if you are getting a rental car. Some people are comfortable on short trips with kids in their lap in cities like New York. Others are not.
Some cities have services like Uber Family, part of the Uber group, which come with one child seat. There are usually many other car services that also offer car seats for additional costs.
In some cases, it might be cheaper to buy a car seat at the destination and donate it when you leave (US car seats are much cheaper than here in Australia and can be ordered easily on Amazon. Cost can often be cheaper than hiring).
Find out in advance about formula and nappies
Do some digging on Google or travel forums about the nappies and formula available at your destination. Some children react to a change in these products so you might be best to bring a supply of your own. In some countries it can be hard to find these products all together, so check in advance.
Kids and jetlag
It’s hard enough dealing with jetlag as an adult but coping with kids who are operating on a different time zone can be a nightmare. We wish we could divulge the magic answer but really all we have is advice to try and help adjust as quickly as possible. Exposing your kids to as much sunlight at the destination during the day definitely helps. Breaking the journey to your destination with layovers can also help, especially if you are travelling more than 3 time zones away. And ‘going with the flow’ when you are there, and perhaps sleeping in the morning and staying out later at night, might be the answer to keeping things manageable.
Finally, not doing ‘quick’ trips to destinations that are far away will make it easier. Build in enough time so that the whole family can recover, keeping in mind it can sometimes take one day for each hour difference to recover!
Do you have any tips to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!