Travelling with kids does not need to be scary, just organized! Here are some of my tried and tested suggestions. During our last trip we traveled for 13 weeks, had 10 flights, 14 different accommodations, visited 6 countries, 3 different climates with a mother-in-law, a 4 year old and a 2 year old.
Sharing Clothes and Packing Inefficiently.
Instead of packing clothes in a “shared” suitcase, use an Ikea toy organizer to separate daily clothes. Whilst this is not “space efficient” it does make it so much easier finding clothes. Simply hang it in the wardrobe of your hotel. This is especially great if you are moving hotels every few days as we were.
I packed different climate clothes in a recycled clear blanket bag which stayed zipped when not in use. For the hot countries the kids slept in vests and leggings. When we reached the cold countries these became their extra underclothes. They shared vests and socks. Socks were all white making it easy to find a pair.
We took enough clothes for 5 days straight and I took soap powder to hand wash clothes. Keep in mind that hotel rooms don’t always have fresh air (open window) only air vents which makes the humidity in the rooms high and hard to dry. We had a hire car which was great for drying out a pair of Jeans or a Jumper. You can also take them out for the day and hang them on your stroller. (1 item at a time unless you want to look like a crazy person). Make sure your clothes are lightweight and easy to dry for summer holidays. You can use board shorts for kids which dry fast and take up little to no room in your bags. Silk and satin also work well for woman as they dry fast and roll nicely.
Night Flights are not always best.
Unless your night flight is the the same length as your children’s regular sleeping pattern then don’t choose them. We learnt this travel lesson the hard way. Imagine an 8 hour night flight. Firstly unless they are totally exhausted they will not sleep for the first hour of the flight as they will be excited and the plane will be noisy as it serves evening refreshments. That’s first hour lost. Down to 7 hours now. Finally you get them to sleep (without medication) and they are snug as a bug sprawled out all over your head, face and lap and you realize you can not move for the remaining 8 hours. (Make sure you go the toilet first).
Don’t worry because you lose another hour and 1/2 as they generally start serving breakfast with a bang and a clanker and turn on those nasty bright lights to ensure you are jolted back into the correct time zone. Even if you are amazingly sound sleeper stays asleep they will have you correct the seat position, sit them up and fasten the seat belt tightly for the descent which is sure to wake them. But wait it get’s better! They have now only had around 5 1/2 hours of sleep, probably haven’t had their breakfast and still too groggy to walk. This is where hand luggage choices become important as you need to be hands free.
If you are picking a night flight make sure it is 10+ Hours, if possible.
Cute Kids Luggage
Sure it looks adorable but will your child carry or pull it along for approximately 5.2 mins before handing it to you? This also goes for teddy bears and dolls. Unless you can use it as your own hand luggage (comfortably and hands free) then forget it. If your child is attached to a teddy consider buying something small (pocket size) a few months leading up to the trip and get them used to their “travel teddy” before you leave.
Activities for the plane
We used a hanging travel bathroom bag for our “Activity” bag.
In this bag we had the following items to keep our kids occupied: a small note pad each, some coloring sheets (torn from larger books and folded) and some themed stickers for drawings. The bag simply hangs onto the back of a chair, making it easy to open.
My younger child also included a small toy car (plastic and lightweight) and 1 plastic toy soldier. You will be amazed how little they need. You will also find you accumulate small trinket stuff along the way.
McDonalds toys for example are usually compact, do something interesting and are some what disposable when your child loses interest. Take advantage of free kids packs where ever you go, even if you have your own pens and colors the novelty of new will make the activity last longer. If you have a long layover – add a few balloons to this packet and use it in the airport for some catching and chasing games. We also had a small activity bag with pens and paper for inside the Hotel and added any trinkets they brought along the way for playing. The Airplane activity bag remained in the hand luggage
Hand Luggage. It consisted of a Medical bag, Clear Bag, Snack Bag, Clothes Bag. We also wore Scottevests. (Read more)
We carried 2 hand luggage pieces. These were pull along backpacks which meant we could have our hands free if needed. I packed my hand luggage like a survival kit. Unless we were on the plane it was not meant to be touched just replenished. This also saved packing this bag every time we changed hotels or countries. This meant if your luggage got lost at any time we would be comfortable. This also became my grab and run bag in Tokyo when a (small) Earthquake hit and I freaked out. We had a change of clothes for each person. I chose thin fabrics that would roll easily and not crease (leggings).
I placed them into a large snap lock bags (kids & adults) and I also included a small plastic scented garbage bag (rolled tightly) in each pack for the possibility of wet or soiled clothes to go in. I also included a pull up nappy (even though they were toilet trained) in case my child needed to go the toilet in an emergency like the seat-belt sign on during landing. Luckily we never had to use it.
I also carried a “in-flight medical bag”. This included pain relief for everyone (2-4 tablets each), toothbrushes and mini paste, moisturizer, plastic bag for vomiting or soiled clothes and mini hand soap. Safety pin, Sanitary items, hair band, hair clip, band aids, Throat lozenges (2-4) and a travel comb, mini men’s roll on deodorant (Less floral smelling so we could share). This was placed into small pencil case type bag.
The “Snack Bag” contained: Disposable spoons and forks, Muesli bars, dry cereal, fridge free cheese and crackers and some trail mix bags for low GI and high protein. I also had some small mini packets of biscuits to keep the kids occupied if stuck in a queue or picky between meals. I also carried a UHT milk for my youngest, but this was kept in the “clear bag” for security.
I carried 1 tinned 12 mth + baby pasta food. This was if our kids missed a meal at anytime we could feed them straight away until we found fresh safe food. We also made sure we accumulated stuff along the way, peanuts off the plane, biscuits from hotel room etc. Mini UHT milks. These were added to the “Snack bag”. I had extras of everything in the main suitcase. The snack bag also contained small snaplock sandwich bags for adding left over sandwiches or muffins in from restaurants, this also came in handy when we had to rush for a flight and the kids were still eating their dinner. It got bagged up so they could eat it as we walked or ran.
Also in the hand luggage was: baby wipes, straws for drinking out of big cups, 4 disposable paper coffee cups with lids (great for kids drinks on the move and hot coffee when you have a child sleeping on you). Small packet of tissues, A boba Baby Carrier which we used for sleeping children (or climbing the Vatican stairs in Rome). This carrier even held my lightweight 5 year old daughter who fell asleep on a plane layover and couldn’t walk. The carrier may not have been great for her but she slept and I saved my back. Finally, collapsible water bottle to be filled once on the plane.
The second hand luggage contained the passports, ipad, camera, laptop and other such stuff and this bag became the “Day Bag” when we left the hotel each day.
“The Day Bag”
The day bag contained spare clothes for the kids, cardigans, rain coats if applicable and a mini snack bag : containing muesli bars left over breakfast muffins etc. I also had a “Day medical” bag which was a mini snap lock bag with pain medications, empty bag and band aids, hand sanitizer and some pens and paper for drawing in a restaurant or queue.
Pajamas: leave your sexy nightie and tiger boxers at home. The best pajamas are the ones that don’t look like pajamas. This allows you to go down to the foyer with a unsettled child, to go and fetch milk or late night snacks from the corner store without looking like a travelling weirdo. You can also run for a plane in your pajamas. Same thing for the kids, pajamas should look acceptable as day clothes. We used leggings a lot which I bought off E-Bay. If I knew we were catching an early flight or train I would dress the kids in their actual clothes and socks ready for the next morning. Always pack the bags the night before.
Travelling with babies
When we traveled with our babies (few years ago now) we used bottled water and did not heat our bottles unless we were in the hotel. We also used self sterilizing bottles which can be popped into a microwave. We just asked hotel restaurants to do this for us. I used aqua tabs for sterilizing water for washing the bottles. All these items were kept in a large lunch box which I then used as the washing up bowl. We took our own nappies for night times (to avoid leaks) and used nappies we purchased in various counties for day use.
These are our tips. What are your top tips when travelling with kids?