Explore, Parenthood

Tips for traveling with kids, from 3+ years old

Does traveling with kids fill you with fear? Here’s some easy-to-implement tips for your next trip.

It’s been 4 weeks since we got back from our month-long trip to the UK and to say I miss it is an understatement; Pre-COVID, we used to travel every year to the UK so we’re pretty adapt to traveling with kids and their ever-changing needs.

I’ve shared before on traveling with my girls, when they were younger, in this post – What to pack when flying with a toddler &/or baby – but here are my updated gentle, easy tips on how to travel relatively stress-free with your kids:

> Explain every journey to your children, in detail.
I ran through every trip (driving and flying) we did with the kids with particular emphasis on making sure that they knew the time of day we would be taking our flights. I explained that they could have one movie each and then it was sleepy time so they could build their energy for the holiday. Whenever we went on journeys in the car, we explained how long it was going to take and where we were heading and we even had a timer going on our phone so they could see something tangible. This helped them to feel fully involved with our adventures, and to not panic about all the new things we saw and did.

>Whilst kids are incredibly resilient to the occasional disruptions and routine changes, watch for signs that they’re feeling on edge. This might manifest in a particular closeness to a toy which they cannot let go of. Or the need to suddenly be on top of you all the time. Recognize these signs and be quick to make your kiddos feel safe and heard. Melt downs are not always instantaneous, they have warning signs.

> You can’t teach wild kids to un-wild themselves for the sake of a peaceful trip. Instead, collect toys/items that will allow their wildness to be focused for small increments of time.
I know that coloring books will keep Rosie focused for 30+minutes and for Cece, she will need a coloring book + a snack + stickers to reach that 30min goal. So, if I want a 4hour break on a flight, I need +/-5 books/snacks/stickers and a 90minute film each. It’s all about filling their time in ways you can manage.
PLUS, I highly recommend trolley backpacks for kids 3+. I bought one each for the girls (which each of them were responsible for) and filled it with items for each of their needs. Some I wrapped because who doesn’t like unwrapping gifts?!

> Don’t force sleep. Gently encourage it. On a night flight, have pjs/bottles/cuddly toys on hand so kids know that it’s sleepy time and start to settle. The same for car journeys at night, dress them in their pjs. But if they resist and you can feel the inevitable poo storm about to hit the fan, take a step back and settle for resting. This could mean you read them stories, you give them warm milk, or you tuck them under a blanket and just let them babble to themselves. 8/10 they’ll feel the inevitable lure of lullaby land.
Our reaction to kids not sleeping can often be worse than them not sleeping so don’t underestimate the power of resting.

> Pack more snacks than you think you’ll need for every trip. More is more! But be aware that the UK is incredibly strict on bringing snacks in your carry-on when flying. Best to buy at the airport and close your eyes to the cost.

> Don’t pack unnecessary and heavy clothing/items/toys on a flight that result in you becoming a packhorse. You need a free hand and you don’t want to be pulling back muscles at the beginning of your trip.

> Think about hiring versus check-in. Some airlines will allow you to take a stroller and car seat as separate items from your luggage allowance. Emirates counted our car seat as part of the girl’s luggage so for future trips, we would definitely look at hiring in the UK. Plus, with security control queues in Europe and the UK an absolute shambles, you don’t want to be worried about having to find the oversized baggage counter and getting stuck in more queues.

> Give yourself and your kids grace. There is no perfect way to travel (well, unless you’re a Kardashian and can charter your own jet complete with staff) and whilst the destination is important, the in-between can be just as fun if you let it.

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