Post originally published here, on the fabulous My Travel Monkey blog.
As any parent will testify, once your little bundles of joy arrive into the world, your life changes… Yep just like that… With a snap of fingers, say a sad farewell to spontaneity and wave a weary hello to precision organisation.
Everything from a trip to the supermarket to a walk around the block requires an unbelievable amount of effort and newfound multi-tasking skills, especially if you want to do it all on a punctual schedule. If you don’t already have them, you soon learn pretty quickly…
This leads me neatly to the subject of family holidays. It’s a daunting prospect to say the least. When Monkey was about 6 months old, we desperately wanted to get away. But I admit, the thought of taking him abroad, on a plane and having to prepare for it, filled me with dread. So, we opted for a staycation in Wales and we packed our car to the rafters with his bouncy chair, toys, cot, etc. and it was essentially a home away from home.
Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful time, but looking back, having now taken Monkey abroad on several occasions, I’ve realised that children are hugely adaptable. It’s us parents who feel the need to be surrounded by our belongings. Babies/toddlers just want to be fed, watered, have fun and have their parents’ undivided attention.
So, it’s with this in mind that I’ve devised this checklist for mums and dads who are planning on travelling abroad with their young kids.
Research, research, research!
If you’re nervous about going abroad for the first time, don’t choose a destination that’s more than 2-3 hour flight time away – and opt for a country which doesn’t have a big time difference.
Check reviews online via sites like tripadvisor. Ask yourself: does the hotel have good children’s facilities, crèche, cots, facilities to warm up milk/food, etc. Is dinner time early enough for you to work into your routine?
If you are going for self-catering choose somewhere that has had good reviews from previous holidaymakers. Will they provide cots and highchairs, etc.? How far is it to the nearest shops? Will your need a car?
Cover all bases that will affect you.
Make sure you plan ahead of time for important documents such as passports. Don’t do what I did and leave applying for your baby’s first passport until the last minute! The passport office lost the documents and I had to reapply again. There were a lot of phone calls and a lot of tears, but we received it the day before we flew. Check if you need travel vaccinations, and make sure your travel insurance includes your child/children.
Make a list of all the essential items you need to do and pack – from nappies to armbands, you can never have enough lists! I love them and find they are the best fail-safe way of not forgetting anything.
Check-in with your airline
Make sure you double-check with your airline what you are allowed to take on board the flight – and that you won’t be charged extra for travel cots, pushchairs and car seats. Make sure you know what baggage allowance is included in the cost. I would recommend buying cheap luggage scales. Mine have come in very handy, when I’ve been worried that I’ve exceeded my limit. You don’t want to be facing a hefty bill at the check-in desk.
Be prepared for all eventualities
You don’t want your little ones to get hurt or sick, but packing a first aid kit is essential. Stock it up with all the usual medicines such as Calpol, rehydration powders for diarrhoea and antiseptic wipes and creams for cuts and grazes. If your baby is teething, don’t forget teething gels or powders. A thermometer, plasters and mosquito creams or insect-repellents that are safe and gentle for young babies and children are also a must.
Take a few favourite toys with you, the smaller the better, so they can be packed easily. Also books and stickers are great to keep toddlers entertained.
Take an ipad!
Or some other portable media device. This has been the most invaluable piece of kit for us. There are just some occasions, particularly on the flight, where nothing else will do, but an episode of Peppa Pig or The Gruffalo will keep our son from getting too restless. Educational apps are also a bonus. Remember, don’t forget the charger!
I’ve always packed a few favourite snacks for Monkey to enjoy, such as popcorn, raisins and snack bars. Also a Yumbox Bento box is brilliant to use for long-haul flights – pack their favourite foods, and you have them all in one place – then it comes in handy if you’re out and about, as you can never be sure that nutritious and healthy snacks are on hand or easily available. For babies, pack enough formula for the flight if you’re using it – and for weaning youngsters, enough pouches to last your journey and a few as a back up while you’re on holiday.
A snooze shade has come in very handy for us. It’s a great invention, which works as a sunshade and partial blackout blind. It fits over any pram and buggy and has worked for us during the day for naps, and during the night when we’ve gone out to dinner.
Have a good time!
Enjoy yourselves. I am guilty of liking the rigidity of routines. But over the last few years, as I’ve relaxed, so has need for control on holidays and at home. So what if your kids have a late night or so what if they’ve scoffed an ice cream! Shock horror, they go to bed a couple of hours later… Holidays are about a break from the norm, so shake it off, chill out and go with the flow. Everyone will be better for it…
Feature Image: Flickr: Katsuhito Nojiri