Okay, this is the promised post about the practical and logistical preparations for travelling with young children.
Airports always seem such rushed, busy and chaotic places, and adding in international travel with young children, has the potential for it to be a complete disaster. However, with a bit of clever planning, it doesn’t always have to be so. I needed to plan, that meant lists! Starting at the beginning, first thing I did was make a list of clothing items I needed, jeans, shorts, tshirts, underwear, pyjamas. And irrespective of the weather ALWAYS carry a sweater/jacket/jersey with.
Next up was medication. This too I made a list. Little Man is asthmatic so those meds were first on the list. Next was travel sickness/nausea meds, and always take medication for upset tummies with when holidaying local or foreign lands. Another absolute ‘in case’ is something for fevers and pain, as well as the regular ointments for burns, insect bites, bumps and bruises. A good anti-histamine and an allergy medication is a must! A few plasters, bandages and cotton wool as well as the thermometer, and you should be ready to zip up the first aid travel kit.
With bags and luggage sorted, it was time to get ‘travel organised’ for the actual journey. I asked kids to sort through their toys and had each of them pick 3 small pocket sized toys to take with in their hand luggage. Little Miss chose 2 small dolls and a horse. I also packed a colouring in book and crayons for her. Little Man took a few small model cars. I also asked him to choose a book, and he took a collection of Roald Dahl short stories. I’ve been asked why did I bother with all of this when I could simply have taken an iPad with, but you know me by now ( 😀 ) I prefer old-fashioned parenting… And I wanted them to experience and feel and hear and see every part of the trip, not to be so engrossed in a game, that the moments just pass by. Since Little Man enjoyed reading my Hajj Journal so much, I suggested he keep his own travel journal this time around and he jumped at the idea. So we got matching notebooks, and a few pens as well.
Also in their respective hang luggage backpacks, I put in a packet of chips, a packet of mini-cheddar biscuits, and a cereal bar each. Food at airports are exorbitantly expensive! An extra change of clothes and this too was ready to be zipped up.
Next up, I googled ideas for a few ‘travel games’ I obviously had to find something that would be appropriate for both the kids. We played ‘I spy’ but with a twist to make it pre-schooler friendly for Little Miss. Instead of just ‘spying’ items with a certain letter, we ‘spied’ different colours. Another game that we came up with was ‘Airport Bingo’ where you had to spot a specific thing, 3 times eg. lady wearing glasses, person with backpack, man drinking coffee etc. The first person to find all 3, would then call out the next ‘specifics’ This was actually really interesting and made the kids take more notice of their surroundings, as well as it being just a game, it did sharpen their observation skills as well.
Last was my hand luggage. This included my regular travel necessities, and passports and documents, a few food stuffs, and of course WET WIPES!!! No travel with children is ever possible without wet-wipes, even if that travel is just to the grocery store! (LOL)
If at all possible, try to ensure that your hand luggage is a backpack type or at least something that can be carried by a shoulder strap so that you’re able to have both hands free, to hold onto the kids hands. Even the bags that have the trolley style wheels aren’t very convenient when you have to pull the bag along while one child is holding onto your hand frantically dragging you along, trying to find a bathroom while the other wants to watch just one more plane take-off!
Double check that you have sunscreen, necessary toiletries, phone, camera, chargers, and a healthy portion of patience, and you’re good to go make some incredible forever-kind-of-memories!
P.S: Expect a few edits and additions s I remember points that there were helpful. 😉
Post-Travel Edit: Sometimes the most successful ideas are the ones that happen spontaneously. Little Miss was at one point digging through my bag, and came across a small pad of post-it notes. This kept her entertained for a really long time, sticking it on the chairs, walls, bags. She even drew a smiley face on one, and gave it to the air hostess as a ‘Thank you’ note.
Post-Travel Edit 2: Little Man’s travel journal ended up being more like a scrap book. He pasted in the boarding passes, the hotel room key-cards, tickets for busses and entrances, even sweet wrappers that he really enjoyed.
Post-Travel Edit 3: Try and get to the airport well ahead of time, especially if its the kids first time. That way there’s enough time for them to explore and indulge their excitement, without feeling rushed. Also check in early, so you can get seats closer to the bathrooms. This isn’t always the most favourable spot on the plane, but with young children on a long flight, certainly the most necessary.