Travelling Overseas with Kids
I don’t know about you, but the thought of travelling with kids is enough to make me crack open a bottle of wine. I mean seriously, in my opinion travelling with kids can be compared to trying to control a birthday party for 3 year olds – it’s just non stop from beginning to end. However, over the years the one thing I’ve realised is that travelling with kids can be really fun and memory provoking, as long as you’re organised and prepared prior to your trip.
Now I know what you’re thinking… “has Angela lost her mind? Organised and prepared in the same sentence that involves travelling with kids? Doesn’t she realise I’m a mother? I’m juggling just to keep ahead of the laundry, meals, school work and now she wants me to get organised for our trip!” I feel your pain, trust me I really do as my kids Finlee (5) and Chloe (2) have flown to: Canada, USA, Antigua, Hong Kong, Bali and all over Australia however, if you put the little extra in now it will pay off in the long run; I promise. So for all of you currently reading this and freaking out, don’t worry I’m about to share with you my top 25 must know tips for travelling overseas with kids.
Planning Your Overseas Family Holiday with Kids
Tip #1: Plan a simple trip. If you’re planning on going to Italy, to show your kids every art museum, go on adult tourist tours; think again. Kids are simple creatures and have very short attention spans and quite frankly don’t give a rip about your love of art at this age. If this is your first trip with your child (ren) try and plan a flight plan that is simple, won’t take long and has limited lay overs.
Tip #2: Book travel insurance. Once you book your flights, book your travel insurance immediately after. The golden rule is: “if you can afford to travel, you can afford travel insurance.” This is even more imperative with children. I was once travelling in Colorado (USA) with Chloe and she became very unwell. Not only did I need to pay for a visit to the local GP, ended up taking her to the emergency room and also had to get medication on top of this. If we didn’t have travel insurance, we would have been out of pocket close to $5,000.
Tip #3: Valid passport and visa. Make sure you either have a valid passport that has at least 6 months on it before it expires or arrange to get one. In addition, do your research on the country you’re travelling to in order to verify if you need a visa to enter the country.
Tip #4: Extra documentation needed when travelling with kids. If you happen to be travelling overseas by yourself, make sure to have a letter of consent from your partner stating that they give permission for you to take the kids out of the country. Personally in my own travels, I’ve been asked on 3 different occasions to show a letter from my husband (1 X in USA and 2 X in Canada). In our letter, we also include a direct contact phone number for my husband just to be on the safe side and that immigration can contact him if needed.
Tip #5: Book a bassinet. If you don’t fancy holding your baby for 14 hours, you’ll want to look into booking a bassinet ASAP. I’ve found many first time travellers with babies don’t realise that some airlines actually have bassinets that babies can use while on the flight however, you must request a bassinet as it’s not a guarantee that the airline will do this for you. Recently, I also found out that some airlines will allow you to pay a small fee to ensure you get a bassinet on your flight. BOOK IT!! Trust me the extra $40 is worth every cent on a 14 hour overseas flight.
Packing for Your Trip
Tip #6: Pack Lightly. You do not need to pack your entire house for your trip and this includes when you’re travelling with kids. My husband and I can pack for a 4 week holiday with 2 suitcases. My husband and I split a suitcase and Finlee and Chloe split a suitcase. Kids don’t care what they wear, so if you have a handful of shirts, jumpers, socks, undies, pants etc you’ll be fine; I promise. Step away from your comfort zone and embrace the world of simple packing. You’ll thank me later.
Tip #7: Pack Your Pram/Carrier. Do NOT leave home without your pram and carrier if you use one. I don’t care what anyone says, PACK A PRAM. Did you read that? PACK A PRAM!! My husband and I were going to Disneyland with the kids and at that time Chloe was only 7 months and Finlee was 4 years old. Dale told me that Finlee was old enough to walk and that he didn’t need a pram. I reminded Dale about how big Disneyland is, how much walking adults do (let alone kids), but Dale was set on not taking the extra pram (FYI – I had done my research and knew that you could rent prams at the entrance of Disneyland so I wasn’t too worried). Let’s just say, in the short time that we had walked from our hotel to the entrance of Disneyland Finlee was already complaining about having to walk, how hot he was etc. While I’ve never seen my husband pull his wallet out fast enough to pay for the rented pram. Did I mention, pack a pram/carrier.
Tip #8: Pack Baby Wipes/Nappies. You can never have too many baby wipes and nappies; EVER!! I love baby wipes so much that at times I’ve been known to use them to clean my bathroom; ha ha. But seriously, baby wipes will come in handy more times then not. In regards to nappies, plain and simple – you don’t want to run out of nappies when travelling; especially in remote or third world countries where these supplies may not be readily available.
Packing Your Carry on Bags for the Flight
Tip #9: Pack Snacks. Pack lots of snacks. Remember kids like to eat things their familiar with, so getting your kids to eat new things (like airplane food) on a plane is a battle I choose not to deal with. I should also note if you’re travelling with more then one child, pack 2 of every snack in order to reduce your risk of arguments breaking out mid-flight. Also pack some snacks that your kids don’t typically get (m&m’s, lollipops etc). When I fly, I always pack some sandwiches, cheese and crackers, yogurt etc and store this food in our Fridge 2 Go Lunch Bag (keeps food cold for up to 8 hours). This way, I know if my kids refuse the airline food, they’ll still have something sustainable in their tummy.
Tip #10: Pack Toys and More Toys. Remember kids like variety so it’s better to pack more toys then less as it offers variety and heck you’d be surprised as to how many toys you can fit in a carry on bag. When the kids and I pack toys, I always like to look for toys that they a) haven’t played with in a long time as this allows them to have more interest in the toy vs something they play with every day b) pack toys that are small and compact but offer so much such as: lay-n-go mats for things like Lego (image below), baby crayons, drawing sets, travel chalk board mats, Montessori inspired toys etc. Also I like to buy a few new toys, wrap them in paper and pull them out when all hell starts to break out; works a treat!!
Tip #11: Pack Spare Set of Clothes/Warm Socks. Finlee has vomited on every overseas flight, but one. And when I say vomit, it’s everywhere. So always pack at least one spare set of clothes (two if you can) and a pair of socks to keep their toes warm as the flights can get so cold. Also if you have a child who vomits, wears clothe nappies etc I’ve found it’s great to pack your spare change of clothes in a wet bag because the inside of the wet bag is water proof so nothing will leak during your travels.
Tip #12: Pack Medication. You never know when you’re going to need teething gel, a band-aid, cotton bud, pain relief etc, so make sure to create a mini first aid kit (remember to ensure it meets the airline guidelines for liquids). When travelling with our kids, we prefer to put everything in our ouch pouch because it’s compact and we know exactly where the medication is vs having to dump everything out.
Tip #13: Pack Baby Wipes/Nappies/Formula/Bottles/Dummy. As mentioned above, baby wipes are a must have for all ages. If you’re travelling with a baby make sure you have enough nappies, formula and bottles for the flight. And if you’re trying to get rid of the dummy, going on an overseas holiday is not the time to get rid of it, so don’t just carry 1, but rather carry at least 3 so in the event they get lost you have a spare.
Checking in at the Airport
Tip #14: Prepare for the worst. I know this sounds harsh, but by preparing for the worst you have 0 expectations and by having 0 expectations when something goes right, like when the kids listen etc you’ll be over the moon and when something goes wrong, it won’t be as bad as you didn’t expect it to go right anyway.
Tip #15: Arrive early to the airport. If there is one day in the world that you want to be early, getting to the airport prior to an overseas trip is the day you want to be early. By being early you’re able to relax and if you’re relaxed the kids will naturally be relaxed. In addition, if you’re travelling with a baby, by getting early you’ll be able to secure yourself a bassinet.
Tip #16: Take Pram to Gate or Ask to Borrow a Pram from the Airlines. Since you’ve arrived to the airport early, you’re going to have at least a couple of hours of walking around, eating, playing and at some stage your child (ren) are going to want to sit, sleep so keep your pram or get one from the airlines until you board the plane.
Down Time before the Flight
Tip #17: Wear your kids out and let them explore. I love to watch my little ones exploring at the airport. The pure joy and excitement in their faces is soooo awesome!! However, after approximately 12.5 minutes the kids are over looking at the airplanes and are usually wanting to eat, cry or scream. So I always have a few tricks up my sleeve when waiting to board the airplane 1) a game of hide n seek or 2) a play with the balloon ball. Balloon balls are super compact and fit great in your carry on bag. Simply insert a balloon into the fabric cover and blow it up. When done, pop the balloon and put the fabric cover back into your carry on and when your little one wants to have a kick while waiting for luggage, in the hotel room simply insert another balloon and your good as gold.
Tip #18: Bathroom break and put on pj’s. Last time I checked, the bathroom on the airline is about the size of a broom closest. So I prefer having the children go to the bathroom right before we get on the plane and then dress them in their pj’s; this way they’ll not only be comfortable on the plane, but ready for bed so I don’t have to try and find everything in the carry on bag.
Boarding the Flight with Kids
Tip #19: Pick your battles. As a parent we need to pick our battles and I choose not to pick my battles with my children on a plane, with 400+ people and I have no where to exit. No, I’m not saying allow your kids to run up and down the aisle, kick the persons sit in front of them or scream the plane down. What I’m saying is, if you’ve tried to get your little one to sleep and they won’t sleep however, their being quiet, not screaming then I would suggest don’t push your kid to sleep. If your little one (s) don’t want to brush their teeth on the plane, ask yourself is this really a big deal? The answer is no, they can brush their teeth tomorrow when we get off the plane. Pick your battles my friends.
Tip #20: Board last. When my husband and I travel with the kids we always have the children board last. One of us will take the carry on bags on first, set everything up (snacks, IPAD, blanket) so when the kids get on the plane everything is ready. We’re calm. The other added bonus we’ve found by boarding last is that the kids are so excited about everything around them that by the time their bored, we’ve already taken off and they can take the tray tables down and start playing. This by far is the best solution as this means the kids are happy, the passengers around you are happy, but also your happy.
In Flight with Kids
Tip #21: Remember the flight will end… eventually. So even though you may feel like you’re in hell (which you probably are), try and remember that it will be over soon.
Tip #22: TV’s/IPADS/DS. I have to be honest and say I’m not a fan of electronic devices. Fast forward to travelling with kids, overseas and all of a sudden my love for electronic devices is at it’s all time high. Ask yourself, is allowing your child to watch an extra movie really going to make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things? The answer… no. So let the children use electronic devices, you might just get to read a magazine.
Tip #23: Arrival documentation. What ever you do on your overseas flight, complete all arrival documentation prior to landing. There is NOTHING worse then having to deal with exhausted children, then having to stand in line at customs/immigration to realise you forgot to complete your arrival documents and will need to get out of line, go and fill everything in and then stand back in line.
Tip #24 When in doubt hit the call button. When I first starting traveling with my kids overseas I remember my GP saying to me “when in double hit the call button.” Have a glass of wine, a beer, heck even a whiskey if you need to because this one drink might just get you through the next 5 hour while on a plane with your children.
Landing with Kids
Tip #25 Get off the plane last. I know you’ve been on the plane with your kids for hours and you just want to get off, stretch your legs and get to your hotel. However, just let the other passengers get off and this way you’ll be less stressed, the kids will be less stressed and thing will run a lot smoother for your family when having to clear customs and immigration.
Making Memories with Your Kids
I promise everything will be ok when travelling with kids overseas. Lastly, what ever happens on the plane, regardless of how bad it is… remember to get the camera out, step away from the electronics and create long lasting family memories.
This post is an entry in the Virgin Australia Problogger Event competition.