Parent Survival Guide: 67 Travelling with Kids Tips from 20 top Mummy and Daddy Bloggers
67 Tips with 37 Quotes from 20 Mummy and Daddy Bloggers. We got in touch with some of our favourite mummy and daddy bloggers to find out their secrets and expert opinions on travelling with babies and toddlers.
The idea of travelling with young children can be daunting. The worry of keeping them entertained during long haul journeys, making sure they don’t irritate fellow passengers and the inevitable repetitive “Are we nearly there yet?” chorus is often enough to encourage parents to remain in the comfort of their own homes during the school holidays.
However, with the help of 20 of the most experienced mummy and daddy bloggers on the planet we’re here to tell you that it is possible it keep stress levels down to a minimum. With a little bit of preparation, and a few tricks up your sleeve, you and your family can enjoy some very happy holidays.
Travelling by CAR with Kids
Road trips are usually the go-to option for many young families. Car journeys take away the problem of disrupting other passengers, regular rest stops can be taken to burn of energy and parents can use the threat of turning the car around and going back home, if all else fails! In all seriousness though, car journeys make holidaying an easy ride when well thought out and there are plenty of beautiful domestic locations that are ideal for young children and their first getaways.
Pack a travel bag
Preparation is crucial for any parent who plans to travel with their children, especially for a long distance journey. Pack a small bag containing everything you may need for that day, and anything you may want once you reach your destination; a change of clothes, toothbrush, towel etc. This will make it easier than scrambling through a huge suitcase when you first arrive at your destination, or even on the side of the motorway!
Toria, a single mum from Manchester blogging about life, love and motherhood on her blog www.teacuptoria.co.uk advises:
Taking an easily accessible bag, with snacks, wet wipes, nappies and medicines, to be covered for every eventuality. – Tweet this quote
Take regular toilet breaks
Be ready to take regular stops for toilet and snack breaks. This will not only give the driver a well-earned rest, but also let the kids stretch their legs and burn off some energy.
Make the most of what’s on offer
Mummy of three, Leyla, who captures her precious family moments over on her blog www.thisdayilove.co.uk says:
Plan your journey and stop at some interesting places, such as the beach, a National Trust or English Heritage site. There are hundreds of places to choose from and they make for an alternative break to the usual service station. – Tweet this quote
Be ready for funny tummies…
Be prepared for illnesses, aches and pains such as motion sickness. Travelling takes it out of us all, especially little ones so bring a small first aid kit filled with relevant medication, plasters and bandages.
…And the nappy rash
John, a stay at home dad of two and former travel journalist who writes the blog www.dadbloguk.com recommends:
Apply Sudocrem (or similar) liberally if undertaking a long drive. The one and only time our children got nappy rash was on a drive to Scotland and you can see why; they are stuck in a car seat for six hours and they can’t exercise or have any nappy-off time. – Tweet this quote
Baby wipes are your best friend
John (www.dadbloguk.com) says recommends tackling sticky hands and faces with a good supply of baby wipes or a gentle hand sanitizer.
You never know what the baby change facilities are going to be like. – Tweet this quote
Leyla, from www.thisdayilove.co.uk, agrees:
Always bring a pack of baby wipes, they come in really handy in the car – Tweet this quote
They’re great for freshening up grown-ups too! 🙂
Changing at your fingertips
Also, a travel changing mat can make life easier on the road because you can place it on changing tables/stations to make things that bit cleaner for your baby – you can even do a nappy change on the back seat of your car or even on the ground.
A rubbish tip
Take a couple of bin bags or spare carrier bags with you to put any rubbish you may accumulate on your journey. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination and having to clean out your whole car. Sturdy plastic bags (i.e. ones without holes in the bottom) are also handy in case someone gets a little car sick on the road.
Have your drinks and snacks in spill proof containers. It is important to keep everyone hydrated and well-fed on long journeys but no one likes to be sat in a sticky mess because Dad drove over a speed bump too quickly! If there are any unwanted leaks then remember you have a clean change of clothes for everyone packed in your essentials bag (you remembered to pack one right?).
Comfort is key
Be sure that everyone is wearing comfortable and practical clothes before leaving for your trip. There’s nothing worse than sitting in tight jeans for a long period of time, so don’t expect your toddler to! Let them keep their PJs on if they’re travelling at night or early in the morning.
Layer it up
Layers are great for car journeys because although it might be chilly when you leave first thing, a small space can soon heat up. Pack plenty of blankets and pillows for nap time (more sleep for them = more peace for you). Throw their favourite soft toy in if they want to bring it.
Keep them entertained
Now for the fun part. Keeping your children occupied is not only good for your own sanity but also helps with their boredom and general enjoyment of the trip. We have a awesome list of classic (and some of our favourite) car game ideas here, but if you don’t want to be stuck playing I Spy for the entire trip you’ll want to keep on reading.
Proud dad of three,Tom Briggs is an award-winning parent blogger over at www.diaryofthedad.co.uk and plays a fun game with his kids during long car journeys:
In France a couple of years ago, we kept the kids quiet by spotting a particular model of car. Continental Renault Twingos have distinctive headlights that make them look like sleepy eyes, so they’re easy to spot. The aim of the game was to be the fastest to spot five different colours. And, you’ve guessed it, we called it ‘Twingo Bingo’! – Tweet this quote
We are lucky enough to live in an age of incredible technology and not only is there a plethora of kids’ games and apps to be found on tablets and portable devices. Be sure to download your child’s favourite before the journey, and make sure your iPad is fully charged up.
Kids on film
… but putting a simple film on will also work a treat.
We never leave home without the portable DVD player, it’s a godsend for keeping them quiet for an hour or so at a time – Tweet this quote
… exclaimed blogger Shell (www.shelllouise.co.uk), a work at home mum with plenty of experience of bringing up her own children, as well as stepchildren and grandchildren.
John (from www.dadbloguk.com) gives us an extra titbit:
If you’re really clever, you will also take a battery pack or two. This reduces the risk of the tablet running out of power before the end of the film – Tweet this quote
What better way to entertain children than with toys. Stock up on small toys from the supermarket or pound shop and give them out to your little ones along the way. Harriet, the writer behind www.tobyandroo.com, a successful parenting and lifestyle blog aimed at sharing the woes and wins of parenting, suggests adding an element of surprise to this gift giving.
We wrap up little gifts that we then bring out when things seem to be getting really boring… nothing is more fun than unwrapping a present, even if it is only a little car or toy figure to play with – Tweet this quote
Take a Pic!
Disposable cameras are also an excellent way of keeping children occupied, as well as creating some great memories. See your trip from your child’s perspective and have lots of photos to add to the family album.
Map it out
For the inquisitive types, bring along a map (or have them make their own before the trip) so they can trace along where they are driving to. Pick a bright and colourful map or get a marker pen and map out your journey, perhaps highlight a few landmarks too.
Stash the snacks
Snacks are a great boredom buster for both grown-ups and children. Laura, wife and mum of two, who runs www.laurasummers.co.uk, is a huge advocate of taking plenty of snacks for the journey.
If things get tense, bring out some food, it nearly always works! – Tweet this quote
Shell (www.shelllouise.co.uk) suggests taking:
Plenty of snacks and drinks, some healthy and some treat food (after all they’re on holiday now!) – Tweet this quote
Leyla (www.thisdayilove.co.uk) also confirms that:
Food helps to distract and break up a long journey – Tweet this quote
However, it is also important to consider the consequences of too many sugary treats and drinks. Lisa, who blogs over at www.travellovingfamily.com says:
It is so tempting to hand back some goodies to the kiddies in the back seat to keep them quiet but I save the Cadburys chocolate buttons hidden for absolute emergency situations… toddler melt down during a 30 mile tailback? Reveal the chocolate! – Tweet this quote
The simple things
Really young babies won’t need many gadgets and gizmos to keep them happy. Cathryn, the mama behind www.littlepaperswans.com, learned a great trick when her daughter was just a few months old:
Edith used to get bored on car journeys, before she was big enough to face forward. We found that a musical mobile tied onto the car seat worked a treat and kept her tear free on all our car journeys – Tweet this quote
Also, parents say baby car mirrors are a great way for their babies to look at themselves as well as their parents when they are driving.
Read more benefits of a baby car mirror, which covers real testimonials from parents with children who are silent chokers, are breath holders, or just refuse to get in their car seats.
Travelling by PLANE with Kids
Sun, sand and sea is something many of us want from a summer holiday, but flying to your destination can be stressful even without little ones in tow. If you do take the plunge and decide to travel by air, then we have a few tips to ensure your journey is without turbulence.
Getting to the airport as early as possible will allow you to check in early, and avoid rushing to catch your flight. You may also be able to book your preferred seats in advance if you get there before everyone else. Arriving late may mean that everyone will feel rushed and panicked before the flight, not a great start to any holiday.
If you have a long journey to the airport, some recommend travelling down the day before and staying at a hotel near the airport. This breaks up the journey for everyone and also cuts down the chance of arriving late to check in (and of course the added stress).
To board or not to board?
Many parents also recommend taking advantage of the priority boarding when flying with young children. Boarding early will allow you to secure the best overhead cabin storage and get settled on the plane before the rest of the passengers. However some also recommend boarding as late as possible to reduce the amount of time your little ones have to sit still for. Sorry for the conflicting opinions 😱
The one-bag luggage limit can be a pain when you have to use the space for your own essentials plus baby changing supplies. Be sure to use your bag wisely and pack plenty of nappies and a change of clothes and any other items you may need whilst on board.
Be prepared for all eventualities, such as aches and pains, tummy upset or nerves. Bring along medication, a comforter or soft toy to ensure for a smooth ride.
Karen, who has a brilliant website helping families from the UK setup a new life in Australia – Smart Steps to Australia – has this great tip:
Take sachets of infant paracetamol medicine with you for the journey. You never know who is going to feel poorly during the trip and it’s easier to give the sachets than pouring from a bottle onto a spoon – Tweet this quote
Are your children nervous of flying? Get their imaginations going and try role playing the flight before you travel. Let them be a cabin attendant or even the pilot for the day and take them through what will happen on the day you fly. Getting them excited about the prospect of plane travel will familarise them with the process.
The last thing you need after a flight is to worry about how you’re going to get to your hotel from the airport. Karen has another great bit of advice:
If you need a specialist taxi for after your flight (i.e. you need multiple car seats or a larger vehicle for your family and luggage), then think about pre-booking a taxi in advance. Waiting in line for the right cab when you and your kids are tired is no fun at all – Tweet this quote
The best seats in the house
Some of our mummy and daddy bloggers have suggested that the key to a tolerable flight is getting the right seats. As previously mentioned, arriving early at check-in means that you will be more likely to secure your prefered seats.
Family travelers, the Wyld Family, who share their adventures over at www.wyldfamilytravel.com suggest that families of four should:
Try to book the window side, especially if the plane is configured 2-4-2. This way, one adult and one child can sit together and it gives the family more room – Tweet this quote
Harriet at Toby & Roo, takes perhaps a more extreme approach:
We make sure that our three and five year olds are not sat next to each other, this way they don’t get the chance to wind each other up! – Tweet this quote
Keep them safe
Busy airports can be a nightmare when trying to navigate your toddlers. Although letting them run around can be a much needed energy burner before a long flight, there’s plenty of time for that after getting through security. Bring along a buggy or a pair of reigns so they will be in your sight at all times. Many airlines allow you to take your stroller right up to the doors of the aeroplane.
Keep them comfortable
Take a blanket or two and a pillow to keep everyone as comfortable as possible. Meanwhile, dress them in a few layers that they can take on and off throughout the journey – although your destination might be lovely and sunny, most aeroplanes are kept at low temperatures and can soon get chilly.
The Wyld Family say: take a throw blanket.
It can get cold on planes and the airline doesn’t always have extras – Tweet this quote
Popping or achey ears are inevitable when taking off and landing and small children won’t know how to properly clear their nose and ears. For babies give them a bottle ready for take-off – the sucking action will help soothe the pain. For those who are a little older treat them to some hard boiled sweets or keep it healthy with juice in sippy cups (just remember any liquid has to be under 100ml).
Please check hand luggage restrictions before you travel. See the government guidelines here.
Changing your baby on board in those tiny facilities may seem like a chore but as Lisa (who runs the blog Travel Loving Family) reiterates, it is vital that you make the most out of the designated changing areas.
Never change your baby whilst sat in your seat… It always amazes me when I see parents changing their child’s nappy from their seat. You wouldn’t expect someone to do it whilst on a bus, or in the cinema, or in the middle of a restaurant and yet, a plane is all three of these places combined! – Tweet this quote
Keep them entertained
Keep entertainment simple with games and activities that won’t take up your valuable hand luggage space. Word games are brilliant for this – we have a whole list of them right here.
Another great idea is to take a couple of disposable cameras on board and let your little ones tell the story of their holiday through their own eyes. You’ll have plenty of photos to put in the family album! – you may even have some with peoples heads in them 🙂
If all else fails, stick on a film or two on a portable DVD player or tablet! Download a variety of media in advance, such as books, music, games, apps and shows and let technology entertain the kids. The BBC iPlayer App lets you download shows so there is plenty of choice there (although remember then only last for a certain length of time).
John over at Dadbloguk.com, suggests that before the flight…
… download some films onto a tablet computer and buy some child-friendly headphones. The headphones are the crucial bit! Aircraft in particular can be very noisy so headphones will help them listen to what is going on – Tweet this quote
Eva, who blogs over at Captain Bobcat suggests having some:
relaxing music ready for the grow-ups to listen to and stay calm – Tweet this quote
She also thinks:
Stickers and activity books are a great way to keep younger children entertained on flights – Tweet this quote
We have a whole blog post dedicated to keeping your children entertained in-flight, check out How to Keep Children Entertained on a Plane.
Use what you’ve got
Oh, and of course there are the free magazines that you get on all flights. Emilee from Don’t Forget The Passports, a fantastic travel deals blog, shares this really great tip:
Don’t forget about the in-flight magazines. They usually include some wonderful destination guides with fabulous images so you can teach the kids about the world while you’re flying over it! You can also do a little quiz afterwards to see what they’re learnt and stretch their brains a little – Tweet this quote
Send them to sleep
Keeping your kids occupied and your fellow passenger’s content is so much easier when the children are asleep. Booking a night time flight that is around or after their bedtime will make sure that your child is naturally tired by the time they are on the plane. Once on board try and carry out their bedtime routine as closely as possible.
Bring along their favourite teddy, get them into their PJs, brush their teeth, read a short story and let them sleep through the majority of the flight.
Treats and surprises
Travelling to the airport and then sitting around waiting for your flight can be a real chore. But here is a great tip from Maria, who runs the family blog One Tiny Leap. Maria has a lot of experience travelling all over the world with her family and shares this advice:
To get my kid excited about what’s to come on the journey, I buy his magazines and sticker books at the airport, a whole activity in itself which takes a good half an hour, and makes him treasure them so much more. I also like to invest in a couple of puzzle-toys and wrap them up so he can open them on the plane as a big treat – Tweet this quote
Travelling by TRAIN with Kids
Environmentalist mum and travel expert, Eva (CaptainBobcat.com), highly recommends travelling by train.
Not only is it more eco-friendly, but also a lot more fun for kids as they don’t have to sit still for hours – Tweet this quote
And it’s true, travelling by train can be an amazing experience for the whole family, adding to the excitement of the holiday as you all learn about new places. It’s also a safe, comfortable and an affordable alternative to many other forms of travel, offering a chance for a stretch of the legs during transfers too. Keep your luggage close in case of any emergencies, and most trains provide everything you may need from toilets to canteens!
Eva goes on to say…
… whilst they are small you can travel in the UK, sparing yourself the flight costs, the hassle and the emissions. There are so many beautiful places to stay and see in the British countryside. National Trust properties are a particularly great to visit, as well as being earth and child-friendly – Tweet this quote
To see exactly what there is to do at National Trust sites, click here.
Plan, plan, plan
Trains wait for nobody and I’m sure everyone has missed a couple of trains in the past and, although it’s no biggie when you’re on your own, it could be a huge deal if you have tired and hungry toddlers at your side.
Book ahead to make sure that you and your family will be sat together, preferably at a table. There’s nothing worse than having to put your 5 year old 3 seats behind you next to a complete stranger, as she moans that she is bored!
Charlotte, who blogs over at www.cupsofcharlotte.co.uk says:
Be organised when travelling and make sure you have plenty of essentials – you never know when there are going to be delays – Tweet this quote
Timing is everything
Be sure that everyone is ready, with all their belongings, when you enter and exit each train. If you have to catch several trains, ensure that there is plenty of time between them – running from one platform to another is not ideal when half the team have little legs!
Jo, who writes about everything from teenage pregnancy to car air fresheners over at www.slummysinglemummy.com, shares her top tip for travelling on scheduled transport with children:
Build in loads of extra time. Worrying about being late to catch a train or flight just adds extra stress that you really don’t need! – Tweet this quote
Write it down
A written itinerary of where you need to be and at what time you need to be there is definitely a good idea. Unfortunately many stations do not publish which platform a train will arrive at until the day you travel, but a trick is to keep updated on the operator’s website via a smartphone or tablet.
Train travel is definitely more versatile when it comes to occupying your children. You could play some word games like ‘I Spy’, spotting objects out of the window – just be sure not to disturb the other passengers! If you have managed to nab a table, bring along your own cards or travel sized board games.
Leyla (www.thisdayilove.co.uk) suggests:
colouring and activity books for train journeys – Tweet this quote
and Simone, a mum of two who writes on her lifestyle blog Married to a Geek recommends:
Bring books, toys, colouring in, teddies and iPads. Anything to distract the little ones and make the journey seem shorter and less boring – Tweet this quote
With the likelihood of transfers during your journey, you can let the little ones blow of some steam and stretch your own legs too – just make sure they’re in your sight at all times as station platforms can be busy and dangerous.
Print out a child-friendly version of that itinerary you prepared and let your kids count down the stations all the way to your destination. If it’s a familiar route why not pop some interesting landmarks on the list for them to spot?
Pack a picnic
Although most services provide snacks and drinks on board, this may get expensive if you have a large family. Bringing along a picnic will solve this and many other problems like “I don’t like anything here” and “I’m still hungry”.
Eva recommends taking your own food:
Take your thermos, reusable plastic bottles and cups. Home-made sandwiches are a lot more yummy and healthy than packaged ones – Tweet this quote
Wendy, a 25 year old stay-at-home mum living in Hampshire, blogs about all things parenting and pregnancy over at Naptime Natter. She says:
Make sure to chuck a few snacks in a bag, as well as a drink. We all know what little ones can get like when they are peckish – and no one wants to suffer through hours of I’m huuungry! – Tweet this quote
Consider a sleeper train
Along the same thought process as booking an overnight flight, opting for a sleeper train for long journeys will cut down the time you need to occupy your children. Keep their bedtime routines as normal as possible and arrive at your destination bright eyed and bushy tailed… hopefully 👶
Stay close to the cafe
Coffee is always good and Maira from One Tiny Leap offers this great tip:
Try to book your seats near the café carriage as it offers a break from the never-ending cycle of walking up and down carriages, plus you can get your kid a little snack to keep them going – Tweet this quote
Travelling by FERRY with Kids
A ferry trip can be a simple and cost-effective alternative to plane or car travel, which both require little ones to sit still for hours on end. With loads of things to see, plus a variety of modern facilities, ferries can be a much-needed boredom buster when holidaying overseas. Other advantages include no luggage restrictions and the ability to take your car on board. Here are a few things you might want to know before embarking on a nautical adventure with your kids.
Check before you go
Check specific travel restrictions before you travel with your operator. For example, some ferry companies do not allow heavily pregnant women to ride aboard.
Also make sure to have all the important documentation you may require to hand. Whatever age your children are, you may need passports if you are crossing borders or when you try to re-enter the UK.
To apply for a child’s passport visit the government website here.
Book a cabin
If your journey is expected to be longer than two hours, it might be worth the fee to hire a cabin for your family. Not only will it serve as a safe place to pop your bags, but also a pit stop for nap times and a toddler meltdowns. Most modern ferries have en suite bathrooms too, making it a great choice for those who are getting to grips with potty training or if the grownups need to freshen up.
We found Office Mum’s [AKA Andrea Mara] tip on hiring a cabin without a window very interesting…
… a major advantage of a windowless room is how late the kids sleep in the next morning – Tweet this quote
Pack easily accessible ferry bags
This tip is especially important if you are taking your car on board. As soon as you drive-on, it is very likely that you and the kids will want to ‘abandon ship’ as soon as possible, to explore the ferry and blow off some steam. Carry some handy bags filled with everyone’s essentials that will be ready to grab when you jump out of the car.
Pack baby wipes, nappies, snacks, toys, a change of clothes and whatever else you might need, including any necessary documentation. Backpacks are the best for this kind of journey as everyone can carry around their belongings hands free. If you’re planning on taking electricals on board, be sure to carry a spare battery, charger and a continental plug adapter if needs be.
Don’t forget some spares for the grown-ups
Take extra care to pack your own spare set of clothes too. Simone – http://www.marriedtoageek.co.uk/ learnt from her own disastrous experience:
Children will cover you in all sorts, and sitting for 20 hours in a poop covered top is not ideal! – Tweet this quote
Explore the Boat
Head up to the top deck to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean blue. Travelling via ferry will probably be a novelty in itself, so make the most of it when you’re trying to occupy your kids. Count the lifeboats, spot the seagulls, and look out to the horizon to see what the sea has to offer.
If you’re on board a modern ferry, there should be a variety of family-friendly zones and facilities including TV lounges, snack bars, play areas and games rooms. Make the most of them and add to the excitement of your holiday.
Bring your own beer! Uh, we mean picnic…Although most ferries provide a good variety of child-friendly cuisine, the restaurants can often become pricey, especially for larger families. Avoid the cost and the busy queues by preparing your own picnic – if it’s a sunny day why not enjoy it on the top deck.
If you do venture into the canteens, steer clear of peak meal times when the spaces are full of other hungry travelling families.
Be ready for the travel sickness
Boats are notorious for turning tummies into jelly and if your family don’t have good sea legs it will definitely be worth taking along some provisions. You can never predict how choppy the ride is going to be, so be sure to pack plenty of sick bags and spare clothes, as well as sickness remedies like wristbands and tablets.
Where’s my car?
If you have left your car on the lower decks, take care to remember where it is. Frantically searching for your vehicle amongst the huge articulated lorries can be extremely dangerous and stressful with a few little ones in tow. Be sure to arrive at your car in good time to avoid the mad rush of departing the ferry.
Travelling by COACH with Kids
Coach travel can be a very cost effective way to travel compared to driving, flying or going by train or ferry. However, sometimes this mode of transport can seem exclusive to young backpackers and singletons and not ideal for parents with toddlers who need lots of distractions and regular toilet breaks.
Nevertheless, travelling by coach can be an adventure for the whole family, as well as having the added benefits of being able to avoid high costs, long queues and busy spaces. You can travel to many lovely domestic and international locations via bus too!
Bare in mind that your main luggage will be taken off you and stowed away beneath the coach for the whole journey, so bring a separate essentials bag on to the bus with you. Pack plenty of food and drink, a spare change of clothes, changing necessities if you have a baby and any toys or medication you may need during your journey.
Entertaining kids on a coach is similar to occupying them in your car. They can’t move around and there isn’t much activity space, so bring along small, sensible toys that keep the noise down to a minimum.
Click here to jump back up to the Travelling by CAR section.
Bring along a well charged iPad or portable DVD player for those moments and let your kids plug in for an hour or so, leaving you to relax and enjoy the trip as well.
Don’t forget about yourself
Packing things for your own comfort and entertainment is important too, as things can soon get tedidious when travelling long distance.
Tots to travel (totstotravel.co.uk) insist that you:
Pack something entertaining for yourself such as an MP3 player, a book or magazine, in case there is a time when the kids are asleep or happily occupied and you get time to yourself – Tweet this quote
Make the most of the rest stops
Unlike when you’re in your own car, coach travel requires you to adapt to their set rest times and toilet stops. This can be tricky when trying to potty train youngsters so be sure that you and your toddlers make the most of the breaks and go to the toilet, grab a snack and stretch your legs. There’s nothing worse than being caught short.
Be sure to dress you and your kids in lots of different layers. Pack a spare jumper or blanket for when it becomes chilly but be prepared to strip off again when the coach heating kicks in.
Beware the sickness
Due to the nature of coach travel, some children may feel nauseated during the journey. Bring along sick bags, although these should be provided, and make sure you take any medication or remedies in your essentials bag.
Have you got any tips that you would add to this list? Please LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW.
Or share your thoughts on our Twitter Page.
Or just Get in touch.