We have three children and over the past eight years we have been on planes trains and automobiles with all of them. Some trips, like our trip to Lake Garda, have been more fraught than others- we got stuck in the airport for 3 hours and the boy filled himself up on sweets that lead to him being violently and repeatedly sick at cruising altitude, demanding that they stop the plane so he could get off. Still, it was an experience, and we are now much wiser as a result of it (top tip: the bottom CAN fall out of sick bags if there’s too much in them).
The majority of the time we go anywhere, we go by car, so it’s always good to have a few pointers on car travel with kids. I think the biggest tip I have for car travel would be to carry a potty round in the car. Our eldest is eight but if you get stuck in a traffic jam and the urge for the loo comes over you, it doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or 80- you need to go. And yes, in lieu of a potty for the grown ups we have a bog in a bag. A huge cool bag of drinks, snacks and more snacks also accompanies us for longer trips, but don’t forget to put it in the back rather than the boot, otherwise you won’t be able to get to it very quickly. For the most part we manage to avoid gadgets in the car but it’s always handy to have a USB lighter adapter so you can pump Spotify through the car stereo when Kiddy Boppers vol.3 drives you up the wall without having to worry about your battery life.
My final car related tip is more dependent on your kids. Normally we arrange the seats so the smallest car seat is in the middle so it doesn’t obscure the rear visibility but it’s always good before you set off to see which of your brood currently can’t stand the sight of another of your offspring, and rearrange the seating so they’re not next to each other. This will save potential aggravation and might just make the whole trip less stress filled.
When it comes to other modes of transport, if you’re taking the train, a family railcard is essential. Ours paid for itself in about two trips as we got it during a special offer but if I take one of the kids with me on a day out in London, it’s cheaper with the child than without. Which doesn’t really make sense but there you go. If you’re venturing onto the Tube, it’s worth planning in advance and looking at the internet to see which stations are buggy friendly or you may have to struggle to get a pushchair up the stairs. Sometimes going an extra stop and walking a little bit when you get out can actually be much easier. Generally the Northern Line is very deep whilst the Circle, for example, runs a lot closer to the surface and in some instances isn’t even underground (an interesting piece of trivia is that only 45% of the Tube is actually underground).
Of course if you’re off abroad the chances are you’ll take either a train or drive to the airport, so you can always factor in some of my tips for flying. The hardest thing at airports is the wait, and managing the wait without filling the kids up with sugar. Get them a book or a comic that they can’t look at on the journey and build their expectation of it for the airport departure lounge, that way it should keep them occupied for a least a little bit of the wait.
From our experiences of flying with kids, especially from Heathrow or Gatwick, it can sometimes be more beneficial to stay overnight in a nearby hotel, such as the Park Stay n Go. Even when you live as close to major airports as we do, getting there with your luggage can be a major hassle, especially if you have to check in hours before a flight. Sleeping overnight in the vicinity of the airport can make a real difference. Mind you, we got to have a flight on the Goodyear Blimp a few years ago, which was a real experience and one you’d be unlikely to find at any airport, so my final tip would definitely be to take any opportunities that come your way with open arms!
Disclosure: This is a featured post.