Jul 26, 2013

Posted by in Our Opinion, Trip Advice | 2 Comments

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Our tips for travelling with children

History was made earlier in the week when the latest edition to the royal family, Prince George, was born. And there is no doubt that in the coming years, the Cambridge family will be jetting off to enjoy a few holidays around the globe.

But, whether you’re William and Kate, or a normal parent, how do you keep the kids entertained while on holiday to ensure your break is stress-free? The team at TravelSupermarket offer up their tips…

Cathy Toogood
Cathy on holiday in Corsica

Cathy enjoying her holiday in Corsica

Although I can’t give advice as a parent (I’m still pregnant with my first child), I’ve already started planning our first family holiday next Easter. For this, I’m taking a cheap second-hand pushchair rather than taking the one I’ll use at home. This will mean that I am less precious as it’s loaded on and taken off the aircraft, and won’t mind it getting sandy or covered in sun-cream.

This year and last I also went on a few holidays I knew wouldn’t be as practical with a child – such as exploring the mountains in Corsica and travelling around Australia.

Anna Barker
Anna Barker's sons

Two of Anna’s sons at the airport in Sydney

In February we travelled to New Zealand with our three sons and boarded the plane with a sense of trepidation about the 30-hour journey ahead. Amazingly, all three boys were incredible – largely due to the inflight entertainment and extras provided by Emirates.

An extensive library of cartoons, films and games really helped as well as the travel backpacks, blankets and cuddly toys they handed out for kids. So my tip for travelling with children is to keep them occupied and comfortable.

Remember their favourite cuddly toys to help them settle and sleep on long journeys. Regular snacks and drinks also break the monotony and help keep them content, so pack these for car or train journeys and take advantage of the drinks trolley on flights.

We put together a travel folder for each child with age-appropriate activities including crayons, colouring and puzzle books. For the older two, this included a journal to write about our travels. We also kept bits and bobs along the way such as boarding cards and in-flight menus for them to stick in their journals. This kept them interested in the journey and gave them something to show to their class when we finally made it back to the UK!

Bob Atkinson
New Bob on holiday in China

Bob on holiday in China

When travelling with infants on longer flights, you may be able to book a seat that has a ‘bassinet’ position – essentially an inflight baby cot that fixes to the bulkhead at the front of a cabin section. The earlier you book, the better the chance you have of getting one and they are limited in terms of numbers on any given aircraft. These are usually provided free of charge, although you won’t find them on low-cost flights or many charters. A bassinet allows you to lay your baby down to sleep and rest so that they are not on your lap the entire journey.

Another option is to book babies on as a child passenger and to pay the extra to get a seat for them. Most airlines will allow this, although any child under two must be sat on the lap of an adult using a baby extending seat belt for take-off and landing. However, you will pay the child price for this and not the infant price which is considerably higher in many cases. Note that Ryanair does not allow you to do this.

Additionally, you can go on board with your own car seat in the cabin to allow your baby to sit in that when you have purchased an extra seat. Check with your airline for its policy and what types of seat are allowed.

Les Roberts
Les' sons

Les’ sons James and Joe having fun on holiday

Basically, you need to be a walking entertainment centre, complete with any combination of books, DVDs, MP3s, hand-held consoles and anything else you think will keep the kids entertained. Buy sweets for take-off and landing (it’s cheaper to take these with you rather than buy them on the plane) and if you’re travelling with a baby, try to feed them at take-off and then cross your fingers, eyes and legs that they’ll sleep for the best part of the flight. Also, take a change of clothes in hand luggage and make sure you make time for a toilet break just before you board the plane.

Susan Donnan
Susan and son

Susan and her son George enjoying the sun

For the flight, I would advise having some new books or puzzles to keep the kids entertained (but nothing with tiny bits in that will fall on the floor). And if you’re travelling to a hot country, pack some shorts and t-shirts in your hand luggage for the kids to change in to when you land so they’ll be nice and cool.

UK supermarkets sell beach balls and other inflatable toys really cheaply and they weigh practically nothing. Buy them before you go to avoid paying high in-resort prices.

If you’re staying in a villa, take your own plastic cups/plates/cutlery for the children in case there’s nothing suitable – again, these don’t weigh much.

Even if your little one has outgrown or won’t go in their buggy in the UK, take one with you anyway. Little ones get more tired in the heat and we often tend to stay out later, so you might find they welcome being pushed around, especially in the evenings.

Lucy Mather
Lucy Mather and son

Lucy and her son having fun on the beach

If you have a smartphone, make sure it’s fully charged and loaded with free kids apps/videos (these kept my son occupied for a good two hours on our last flight). A pack of wet wipes is essential  too, whatever the age of your child, to cover everything from cleaning up sticky fingers, using them as tissues or just as a nice freshen up. Make sure you have a pile of treats you can pull out as a surprise when they’re fed up along with plenty of paper and pens.

Also get them as involved as possible in the trip, let them help to pack and find their way around the airport. A good thing to do is a little checklist of things to look out for on the way; such as spotting a pilot, fuel tanker, luggage being put on board the plane, a boat on the sea (depending on where you’re flying to) or another aircraft in the air. Also, I got a travel snakes and ladders which was brilliant!

Barry Loughran
Barry's daughter

Barry’s daughter tucking into an ice lolly on holiday

Download a set of interactive apps that don’t rely on an internet connection. Combined with a set of headphones, your children will quietly keep themselves entertained for as long as you want. There are a lot of education apps out there now, so your children can learn information about the destination they’re going to while on the journey.

For more information about travelling with children, click here.

Do you have any handy tips for travelling with kids? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

  1. if you’re traveling with another adult, give each other breaks. Give each other a specific time so you don’t miss your flight, for example, “Why don’t you take 15 minutes and flip through a magazine or something before we board the plane?

    • Ann Patterson says:

      If you have to take very young children on a long flight, make sure that they are tired & ready for sleep& that they have not slept for hours before the journey. From a Nanny

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