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Kirsty McCabe: "My top ten tips for surviving long-haul travel with toddlers"

In her parenting column this week, Kirsty McCabe gives us her ten of the best tips for how to travel with minimal fuss for when you find yourself on the move with children.

Posted: 4 April 2014
by Catherine Hudson

Travelling is tiring - the plan worked!
Ethan chills out in his travel carrycot - everyone is happy
An older Ethan sails along on his trusty Trunki
Logan loves travelling!

Now that we've changed our clocks to British Summer Time, you may well be dreaming of your next summer holiday. So, to make sure your dream doesn't turn into a nightmare, here are my top ten tips for what to pack and how to travel with toddlers...

  1. Be prepared. Get a decent size changing bag, ideally one that can be worn rucksack style to free up your hands and make sure you have the essentials covered.

  2. Take more nappies than you think you might need (and perhaps some pull-ups if you're toilet-training). Changes of clothes for your offspring and a spare top for yourself. They are bound to spill things on you while sat on your lap, after all. Oh, and don't forget the sachets of infant paracetamol for teething emergencies.

  3. Think about entertainment and distraction. That might mean a tablet loaded with games or cartoons, or even some paper and crayons. When we flew to South Africa last Christmas I wrapped up a few presents that were given out to reward good behaviour on the plane. So, not only did my son Ethan have something new and exciting to play with, he was more likely to be good in the hope of further gifts - don't underestimate the value of a little mild bribery when stuck on a plane with toddlers! 

  4. I also got Ethan to pack his favourite toys and books into his Trunki. That way he had some input into his on-board entertainment, plus I had a way of towing him round the airport.

  5. Load up that bag with food and drink and keep the snacks rolling. Hungry toddlers are much harder to control than well-fed ones - though it may mean you go through more of those nappies that you've wisely packed. Look at the airline rules and regulations about liquids before you pack your bag. The chances are that security will ask you to sample some of the food and drink you take with you. That can be a tad annoying if you want to keep milk bottles sterile or food pouches sealed so I usually fill up a child's beaker with water so I can sample that.

  6. Give yourself extra time to get to the airport and through security. If you can afford it, take a taxi so you get dropped off right at the door. The same goes for the journey home. Who wants the hassle of finding the right bus stop to travel to the long stay car park to then drive home all jet-lagged and cranky?

  7. Contact your airline as soon as you've booked your ticket to make sure you get a bulkhead seat. Not only is there a bit more legroom you will hopefully be able to pop your baby (up to the age of six months) into the carrycot to sleep. British Airways also has special reclining child seats that clip on to the bulkhead and fit little ones up to 18 months.

  8. Travel at night. Our long-haul flights tend to be overnighters so at some point the kids have nodded off. Before you get on the plane visit the airport lounge kids' play area to tire them out and pop them in their pyjamas before boarding, to get them in the right frame of mind! And think about when you want to board that plane as you're going to be there a long time. Families may be invited to board first but that means a longer wait before take-off. The risk is if you board too late there's no overhead storage space left for that big old changing bag.

  9. If you have a baby then a cushion or pillow is great to keep you both comfy, especially if you are still breastfeeding, and do bring a baby carrier or sling. Usually you can take your buggy all the way to the gate, but on the other side you often aren't reunited with it until you reach baggage reclaim. That will feel very far away if you are carrying a baby, bags and trying to control a toddler. I end up like a packhorse, carrying Logan in the BabyBjorn on my front, which balances out the weight of the changing bag rucksack on my back. And let's not forget towing Ethan along on his Trunki...

  10. Just remember, the next time you travel without your offspring it will feel like you are travelling first class, even in economy. As long as you aren't too close to someone else's children that is...

What are your top tips for travelling with children? Do you have any funny stories or pearls of wisdom? Let us know by commenting below...

Kirsty McCabe writes her weekly column here on www.juniormagazine.co.uk. Follow us on Twitter: @juniormagazine and watch out for the hashtag #somethingfortheweekend every Friday to join in with the conversation

Read Kirsty's columns: 

  • Kirsty McCabe: "I'm not just a mother. Going to work keeps a little bit of my old identity alive.Our new Friday columnist, Kirsty McCabe, introduces herself as a busy working mum to two young sons and asks, is there such a thing as a work-life balance and exactly how controversial is it to enjoy being back at work?
  • Kirsty McCabe: "My top tips for how to choose your childcare" Whatever your financial situation, the chances are that you will have to make use of childcare services at some point when you have children. Here Kirsty McCabe, Junior's weekly columnist, shares her views and top tips on the decision making...
  • Kirsty McCabe: "Mum's the word!" Our weekly columnist, Kirsty McCabe, is looking forward to another Mother's Day with her two sons and contemplates how becoming a mother herself made her appreciate her own...


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