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Take the stress out of travelling with children
If you’re gearing up for your big family summer getaway, you may be dreading the prospect of packing, endless waits at airports and flights with kids in tow.
But don’t let worries about your children misbehaving on a flight, or stresses about keeping kids entertained in an airport, ruin the excitement of your trip. With a little forward planning, travelling with children can be stress free.
Follow our top tips below to make your next trip a breeze…
Avoid any last-minute panics
As parents will know, children can’t be rushed easily and will pick up on your stress quickly. So avoid any last-minute panics ruining the start of your trip by sorting out all of your holiday essentials well in advance.
Passports should be top of your holiday to-do list and it’s essential to make sure every member of your family’s passport is up-to-date and valid for travel to your particular location (remember, some countries require your passport to remain valid for at least six months from your arrival date).
During the peak summer season, demand for passports soar – and we saw huge delays during 2014. So, if you can, get your application in at least three to four weeks before your trip to avoid fighting with other travellers for the limited number of last-minute appointments and paying as much as £55.50 more for the service.
Other items to organise ahead of your trip include an EHIC card for every member of your family if you are travelling within Europe (it entitles you to state healthcare on the same terms as a local resident), a family travel insurance policy and any visas you will need to visit your destination.
And, even if you know they’re sorted, remember to dig all of your important documents out ready to pack in your hand luggage at least the night before you leave.
You could probably live without your favourite pair of shoes if you forgot to pack them, but a forgotten soft toy or security blanket might seem like the end of the world to your child, so make sure you’re organised with your family’s packing.
And, before you even dust off your suitcases and gather your belongings together, check what your luggage allowance is (as well as that of your children) to prevent any charges for going over your limits.
Make travelling part of the adventure
As an adult, it can be all too easy to see your journey to a destination as a necessary evil but, for children, getting on a plane for the first time or visiting a new airport can be an exciting experience – so embrace this enthusiasm.
Involve your children in your plans, explaining what will happen in the airport, and teach them more about air travel so they know what’s happening around them.
And why not give budding writers a travel journal as a present the night before your trip so they can document their adventures, from the airport to while you’re away? Or, for smaller children, a Trunki can be an exciting new possession.
Do your homework on your airport
Do a little online research on your airport so you know where a kids’ play area or a family-friendly restaurant is in case you have an hour to kill due to an unexpected delay or need to find somewhere for a quick bite to eat before you fly.
While you’re on your airport’s site, look out for other useful resources such as activity packs for children to guide them through the airport (you could make your own if the airport doesn’t have one), money-off vouchers for restaurants and cafes, and tips on getting through security easily as a family.
If you want to treat the family to a spot of luxury and calm before you fly, you could also look out for child-friendly airport lounges.
Arrive in style
Your arrival at the airport can make or break your journey as a stressful start to your adventure can quickly lead to bad moods and arguments. So, if you’re driving, pre-book your parking spot to save time looking for a space – plus you’ll save as much as 60% off drive-up prices.
And, if you know you’ll have too many bags and children to manage lugging them from a space that’s a walk away from your terminal, consider using your airport’s meet-and-greet service so you can drive up to the airport terminal and be met by a member of staff who will park your car for you. On your way home, you’ll need to present your meet-and-greet ticket to the same desk to have your car brought back to you.
Don’t get caught out at the airport
Planning is essential to making travelling with kids a breeze, so make sure you’re prepared for most eventualities. For example, losing a child in a crowded environment such as an airport terminal is something that all parents dread, but having a contingency plan in place may help you stay calm should the worse happen.
Place your mobile number on a piece of paper in the pocket of younger children, or on a band around their wrist, and talk to older children about what to do should you become separated, arranging an obvious place to meet should they get lost.
Also, prevent any unnecessary hassle at the security desk by knowing exactly what you can or can’t take through security – the 100ml liquid rule will still apply to toiletries but if you are travelling with a baby you will be able to take enough milk though security for the journey (you may be asked to try some).
If you don’t want to carry milk, food and nappies through the airport, look into whether you can pre-order them for collection in a shop such as Boots once you’ve passed through security.
Make boarding a breeze
When travelling with children, sitting together as a group on your flight will be more important than ever, so before you travel, check what your airline’s policy is on family boarding.
Some airlines, such as British Airways, will allow you to select seating 24 hours before you travel to ensure your family is together. Airlines such as Ryanair, however, charge from £5.99 a person to specify a seat, plus from £2.99 each for priority boarding.
If you know that not sitting together will worry you, it may be worth pre-booking seats and purchasing priority boarding passes for peace of mind – but be sure to order them in advance.
Have a trick up your sleeve
Even the most prepared parent can’t predict a toddler’s sudden grumpy spell or an unexpected delay – but they can have a secret weapon ready in case of an emergency. So, pack a treat in your bag – such as a new toy or book – to distract your kids in the face of disaster. But try to resist the temptation to pull it out before you need to!
Time drinks and snacks
A good idea when travelling with a baby is to bottle- or breastfeed them on take-off and landing to prevent the cabin pressure causing their ears to pop. Similarly, give children a boiled or chewy sweet for the same reason.
And keep a stash of snacks and drinks in your bag to prevent dehydration or hunger leading to tantrums and arguments.
Please note: All prices and facts were correct at the time of writing.
Do you have any great tips for travelling with children that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below to let us know.