Travelling with children is always a hot topic, where to go, when to go or even should you go? So we’ve teamed up with Parenting Coach Lucy Shakespeare to bring you some advice and top tips for travelling with children to give you peace of mind, alleviate those fears and hopefully show you that travelling with kids doesn’t have to be as chaotic as you think it will.
Welcome to the first in a series of blogs from Lucy which we will be sharing over the coming months. Read on to find out Lucy’s top tips for travelling with children……
As a Nanny I have been lucky enough to travel worldwide with the family I nannied for. I accompanied the family I worked for both summer and winter holidays, driven and flown! At one time there were three under three year olds so I like to consider myself an old hand at traveling with little one’s! As well as nannying I have also worked abroad in the kids clubs so have seen it from all perspectives. Holidays are a magical time however, they can come with an element of stress when it comes to little one’s. From wondering what to pack to navigating their routine it can seem overwhelming. I’ve put together some of my top tips for traveling with little one’s!
I found this key. I used to make a list of everything that needed packing and would tick it off as I went. This includes every single item from the hand luggage to the main luggage. Write down on one side the items you need to take and then check it off once you have it packed or laid out ready to pack. I used to nanny for three boys so the packing was somewhat overwhelming but once I had a system in place it was easy! I would get everything ready and leave the list next to each pile ready to be packed. Packing cubes can be really useful so all underwear in one, tops in another, night wear in another. This makes it easier when you get to the other end and need to unpack or if you need to locate something quickly! Getting older children involved in the packing can help them engage in the holiday and avoid potential disappointment when you get to your destination over certain items of clothing etc! If they want to take specific clothes ask them to choose them. I used to pack a small backpack full of activities, change of clothes and snacks so that I knew exactly where everything was when I needed it.
Preparing to your little one.
I like to call this setting up for success. Little one’s feel safe and secure when they know what to expect so preparing them for change is key. I would do this a couple of weeks in advance of departure. Talk to them about the journey up to the airport and what it’s going to be like when they get there, busy, loud etc. You can get some lovely books about going on holiday which can really help as can role play if this is your little one’s first holiday. Show them pictures of where it is you are going, look on the website together, get them excited! Talk to them about the kids clubs. If possible find out the name of your key worker, talk to them about how the day will look, what kinds of things they will be doing. Introducing them to new items of clothing/ kit before the holiday can really help avoid those battles in the morning when you are on holiday. If they have never worn ski gear for example have some practice runs getting dressed, going to the loo and walking around with it all on!
The airport can be the most stressful part. The key here I used to find was doing something active before the journey up to the airport, lots of fresh air ideally. Once at the airport it was case of getting through security as soon as possible so you could “relax”! If possible using ride on hand luggage is great for those little ones that may get tired of the walking. For younger ones you can use a sling. I advise checking about the situation with a buggy. Having all the liquids and electricals in one bag is helpful so that you don’t miss anything. All the other bits can go in a separate bag. I used to pack pyjamas in the flight bag if it was long haul or we arrived at the other end close to bedtime so that we weren’t searching for things when you arrive.
Once through security have a look for the kids area or somewhere where you can set up camp! You can get some activities out, play games, have a walk around the airport etc. It may be too much asking for your little one to sit nicely to eat somewhere so we used to avoid the stress and
get a take out and have a picnic!
Sleep routine on holiday.
This is something that so many parents worry about when going on holiday. There are some simple things you can do to make it as stress free as possible! I suggest moving to local time as soon as you arrive and planning your routine around that. Exposure to daylight really helps set their body clock so make sure they get plenty of fresh air on arrival if the timings allow. Try and stick to your usual daily routine as closely as possible but don’t worry if it goes off slightly. Little one’s can’t tell the time so if you’re late one night don’t worry! Following their usual bedtime routine will help them recognise that it is time to sleep so this is key. You can always offer an earlier bedtime or longer nap the following day to catch up. If you have a little one that will only nap in a cot then plan your day around this but remember, all naps count even if it’s in the buggy.
Take everything you need to make your little one’s sleep environment and bedtime routine as familiar and consistent as possible. If plan on using a travel cot then if possible, get your little one used to it before the holiday by having a few of their sleeps in it. Little one’s love familiarity so take familiar items that your little one associates with sleep with you. This can include items such as bubble bath, comforter, favourite bedtime story, sleep sack, unwashed bedding and white noise machine if used. I strongly suggest taking a blackout blind, one where you can stick it to the window or door. This can really help prevent those early morning wake ups. Failing that, ask the kitchen for some silver foil which acts as a great temporary option! This can easily be fixed to the window or door using a water spray bottle. If you have a toddler or older child and you use a wake up clock then bring this too. For naps on the go in the buggy or pram I recommend using a sun and sleep shade from Snoozshade. You can enjoy a 10% discount using the code LUCY10. If you are all sharing a room, speak to your little one and discuss any rules or boundaries you may want to put in place such as bedtime routine or noise levels. You can try and create a separate space in the room by using a divider or setting up a makeshift wall as such!
Emotions and behaviour.
Holidays can bring up some tricky behaviour especially with toddlers. There is a lot going on for them- new experiences, meeting new friends, change in routine, sensory overload and different food to name a few. I always like to remind parents that behaviour is communication. There is a direct link between how a child feels and how they behave. With that in mind, put yourself in their shoes and imagine how it would feel for you. You can try some simple emotion coaching to help:
1. Acknowledge your little one’s feelings.
2. Connect with them
3. Validate their feelings
4. Name the feelings
5. Problem solve when calm
Little one’s love attention, whether that is positive or negative and will do whatever it takes to get that if they need some. Sometimes this shows up as needing some more attention from us. Where possible, it’s really nice if you can make some 1:1 time with your little one to fill their little love bucket. It’s especially important to do this in the run up to bedtime. In addition to needing our attention, sometimes they’re behaviour can be telling us that they need a little more control over their day. Limited choices can help here. So for example, choice of what top they wear in the morning or what colour cup they have at breakfast.
Making sure you have realistic expectations for your little one is key too. Make sure that they are age and stage appropriate even when on holiday!
I touched on setting them up for success before holiday but it’s also important during the holiday too. Let them know what the day entails. Transitions are tricky so giving a running commentary can really help here so they know what to expect and you don’t see those battles. Time prompts are great to use when making transitions such as time to go to kids club, ski school or leaving
Lucy Shakespeare The Parenting Coach has over 30 years of experience working with children and families and has an honours degree in early years.