I love traveling, I have a few kids and I’ve been taking them along on holidays for the past five years. Baby number three has so far clocked up 11 flights in 15 months. Logic would suggest then that I have some idea of what I’m doing; some tips up the old sleeve to make traveling with three young kids not only worthwhile (because if you’re spending the big bucks on flights/hotels/petrol it better be good) but actually enjoyable. Having just returned from two weeks in Croatia with three little misses under six, I realise just how little I know.
I’ve devoured articles by others on traveling with kids but have come to the conclusion that where children are concerned there is no one size fits all advice. No family is the same, let alone the kids within them. And the children themselves are growing and changing, wanting more structured activities, able to stay out later, wanting to hang out with other kids. What worked last year isn’t necessarily going to work again this year.
I’ve also found that a lot of the suggestions for traveling with very small children (or even just the one child) make it into a production of toys, books, snacks, games etc. But traveling with three is a whole different kettle of how-are-we-going-to-amuse-the-tykes for the next three hours in this plane/ferry/car. To a large extent you can’t do it. First of all, there are too many of them. Secondly, you’re too tired. It becomes more about them learning to amuse themselves – setting them up with the requisite equipment and letting them get the hang of entertaining themselves and each other. And lots of snacks for them. Wine for you.
The few tips I have gathered for traveling with kids are probably just what works for our family and the way we travel, but in the interests of sharing (and with apologies to the French) here they are..
- A good pram is invaluable and worth every penny.
- Expect and request help. In Brazil we were treated like rock stars traveling with children -there wasn’t a queue we weren’t taken to the front of- and really, why shouldn’t it be that way? Ask for assistance. If you’re traveling with kids, you’re suffering enough.
- The bassinet row on a plane is gold– don’t assume your infant is too big for it, check individual airline weight restrictions. Even if they are too tall to lie down in the bassinet, treat it as a playpen that lets you eat your meal. And check the airline’s version of a bassinet. For one US airline it was a cardboard box lined with a couple of pillows. It made my daughter look like a puppy.
- If you’re traveling with a one year-old that is too big for the bassinet and too small to require their own seat, ask for a spare seat next to you if possible. It always pays to ask. And don’t fly anywhere more than four hours away, it’s just not worth the pain.
- If you’re traveling with more than one child separate the kids’ clothes into separate plastic bags in the suitcase to keep things easy to find.
- Travel cots and prams usually aren’t included in your weight allowance. If you have a bag for them and find yourselves with suitcases that look like they will be over the weight allowance, stuff a few of the heavier items into the travel cot/pram bag.
- There is no consistency whatsoever about whether you will be allowed on a plane with filled sippy cups. Accept this and save yourself the frustration.
- When picking a destination I’ve found that the kids will surprise you with what they will eat and where they will find interesting but two things always make a huge difference: a swimming pool and friendly locals who like kids (big thumbs up to Italy and Turkey in particular and a très grande wooden spoon to the people of France who have make it abundantly clear that they do not care for my les enfants horribles).
- Manage your expectations. We struggled in Croatia with being on a beach in beautiful weather against a gorgeous backdrop and wondering why the hell we weren’t relaxed yet. Aim for quality time with the kids and some time off from cooking and laundry and then any actual cultural experiences, sightseeing or rest are just a bonus.
All you need then is a really good babysitter…
What are your tips for traveling with kids? What has worked best for you and what advice would you leave behind?