Jul 18, 2016

Posted by in Our Opinion, Trip Advice | 5 Comments

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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…

Family at the airport

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. 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. Find out how to stay one step ahead in the renewal process in our article ‘Your essential guide to getting a new passport‘.

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.

Pack smart

Travel checklist

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.

We have two useful packing lists to help with this task – one for you and an interactive one to involve the kids – so use them to make sure you don’t forget something vital.

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

Arive 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

Lost child at airportPlanning 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, have special policies for families to try and help you sit together – for example, if you’re travelling with an infant (a child under the age of two), you can reserve a seat for you and all of the people in your booking free of charge from the time you book. Airlines such as Ryanair, however, charge from £8 a person to specify a seat, plus from £4 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

Boy on plane

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.

  1. Sarah says:

    So really great ideas here – especially the tag around the wrist to make sure young children can be found easier if lost. One of the key points I would suggest is make sure any electronics or game consoles (for older children) are also fully charged the night before. Often these are the last things to be packed.

    If you need to call from abroad, I would also recommend making sure you have sorted out the roaming charges or be aware of any additional charges you might incur making and receiving texts and calls and that any mobile device settings have been changed to work abroad.

  2. A Mishra says:

    Email scanned copies of your passport/visas driving licence etc to yourself so you can find the details if you lose them

  3. Great tips. Came across the post whilst looking online for some info. Very useful. :-) Another one I sound that may be handy is about activities and games for when travelling – http://www.theflyingkids.com/node/1827 – might also help with planning. 😀

  4. Susan says:

    What awesome tips! We also pack a travel bag for Hazel and it works a treat! One of the other travel tips we use if possible is to try and travel around kids nap times or even at night. That way the bulk of your travel your kids will most likely sleep :)

  5. Karen says:

    These are all good tips for less stressful travel. Beyond being prepared though, is having a good attitude. Getting lost, missing connections, dealing with security and foreign languages are all part of the experience of traveling.

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