I was asked recently about advice for travelling with young children.
My family including our now 4.5 and 2 year olds, left home almost a year ago and I have this advice: after about 37 accomodations and eight countries.
- Travel light. Lighter than you think. Bring as little stuff as possible.
- Lots of snacks. More than you think you need.
- Make iPad/TV shows a special treat. Fish out the special treat when necessary for sanity or social goodwill like in a line, stuck in a train or plane cabin, or a restaurant.
- Discipline your kids lovingly, positively, and well in private so they are awesome humans when in public.
- Teach your kids to be bored and look out the window.
- Figure out what kind of daily sleep/wake/activity routine or schedule works best for your kids and run with it so that all of you have a good day and you’re not dragging your kids through a hike they were never going to enjoy.
- Expect to see and do far less things than you imagined. If we do one travel or touristy thing a day that’s a win. Two is a big day. Three is a mistake.
- When in lines at immigration or other important things, and they’re really unhappy, just grin and bare it. It’s a few minutes of everyone’s life, we’ll all be fine, and all the other assholes around you have been expecting the tantrum anyway. If people look at us or comment on a tantrum, I just joke about it like “sorry, she just learned about taxes” or “sorry, this is my first abduction and it’s not really going well.”
- Teach your kids their names, ages, and your names so that when police come for you after you make a joke about abductions you can prove they’re yours. Make sure they know not to joke about who their parents are and what their names are.
- Bring extra dummies/soothers.
- We swear by the Phil & Ted’s Travel Cot version 5. Not sponsored. We’ve tried the rest, the Bugaboo is awesome, Phil & Ted’s is better.
- We also swear by the BabyZen YoYo and/or the Baby Jogger City Tour travel prams. The rest are not as good. Not sponsored. But come on guys, send us money.
- When boarding flights ask the staff where to “put the kids” as if you’re expecting them to not sit with you. Say it with a straight face, and kind of hold the child out toward the staff, gesturing that they can take them now.
- Book accomodation that is walkable to public transport and parks. Nothing else in your life matters more than a good playground. Also look for accomodation with cooking facilities, you’re going to want to cook at home.
- Whatever you order for them at a restaurant will not be good enough so share meals. Encourage them to try new foods. Our mantra is that you can’t say you don’t like something if you haven’t tried it yet.
- Almost all long queues can be skipped if you are a family, or if you accidentally go down the not-foreign-passport line, or if your kids has a tantrum. Turn that lemon into line-skipping lemonade.
- I’ve got VLC installed on my phone with a series of old school TV shows offline like Franklin the Turtle. Old school slow TV shows are better than the visual cocaine that modern kids shows are. Damn you, Paw Patrol.
- Take a million photos. Sync them with iCloud Photo Library so when you drop your phone in the Mediterranean Sea you’re not devastated. Buy disposable film cameras for the kids to make them feel involved.
- Each of our girls has a plush snuggle toy that has come with them the whole journey. When you’re changing accomodation every few days a common smell and feel is a godsend.
- I’m lucky to have travelled so much with Qantas that I have a Qantas Platinum status which gets us more luggage and airport lounges with OneWorld airlines worldwide, this is so good with kids. Everyone in the Oneworld First Class Lounge thinks they’re having a fancy aviation with champagne moment but then in runs my two year old ready to bring hell. It’s my favourite part of every flight.
- Snacks. Water. Lots of snacks.
- My kids like to play with tape so we have random coloured kid’s sticky tape for them to play with on flights. The water-painting kits for kids are awesome, they come with a water “brush” and it reacts with the board, so they think they’re painting but it’s zero mess apart from some water. So many books as well, we’ll buy, read, and donate books regularly.
- Sleep. So much sleep.
- There’s no greater experience than allowing your kids to sulk in different cultural settings.
- I use the Anker 4-port chargers and buy the figure 8 lead for the appropriate country, then make sure everything we own is USB chargeable.
These experiences and memories will be priceless. Be in the moment for them all.