Holiday season hacks for mums to make the journey easier
Travelling with young children is right at the top of the parenting stress-o-metre.
It can be a bit like taking a herd of wild goats on holiday and it can push even the most organised parent to the state of fraught nerves. Making your way to and from your summer holidays means you are likely on-the-go for the best part of the day. This means you are disrupting your normal routine and this can throw even the most well-behaved children off kilter - and that's when travel plans are running smoothly, never mind when things don't go exactly according to plan.
The idea of flying with kids is probably the biggest single cause of stress for travelling parents. Nobody looks forward to dragging luggage through the airport with tired and unhappy children in tow, and the prospect of keeping them seated, quiet, and happy for hours on end can be terrifying.
So how do you survive the travel part of the holiday with smallies? Planning, planning and then some more planning.
One big concern for most parents is safety for their little ones while travelling.
I asked Family Friendly HQ travel expert, Hazel Fogarty, what were her big tips for safety around airport travel and this what she said:
"If your children are young enough, bring a buggy to save their little legs. Use wrist straps or toddler reins to make sure your little one never leaves your side. If you do get separated from your child report it and ask for help from security immediately, as they are far better equipped and trained in locating your wandering toddler, and try not to panic. There is no point running around the airport like a headless chicken, and let's be honest here - there is always the slim chance that we have reason to worry so it's better to be safe than sorry. It is worth investing in one of the many things on the market for children such as ID bracelets, cards, clothing tags or you can even get a stick-on tattoo with your child's details on it."
She also has some other great nuggets of information and advice that you may not have thought of:
• Make sure you are ready for check-in and security. Be aware of the security requirements and airline regulations. Keep all travel documentation within easy reach.
• Don't bring any unnecessary items that will weigh you down. Remember that everyone has to go through the metal detector, even baby who must be taken out of the stroller. Allow yourself plenty of time to go through security.
• If you are delayed, find out what your rights are. You can usually find an airline representative at the desk or gate. Ask how long you are likely to be there.
• Some airports have family-friendly areas, restaurants and facilities; make a point of finding out where they are before travelling to the airport.
• Avoid arriving at the airport too early, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and arrive hours and hours before your flight - bear in mind that not only have you a number of hours check-in time but the flight and transfer at your destination make the day long enough for your little ones.
• When planning your trip, pre-book your seats where possible and avoid boarding first if you can. As your seat number will be allocated there is no need to rush on to the aircraft, which means less time in a small space for your children.
• Try see things from your child's perspective, it can't be easy for them staying cooped up in one spot for so long.
• Bring lots of things to keep your little ones amused. A favourite teddy or comforter may mean the difference between a hysterical child and a happy one. Reading stories can distract your children and may even help them drift off to sleep. Tablets and phones can be a major distraction if you find yourself delayed for hours.
While most of this sounds like common sense, it can easily get overlooked or forgotten in the stress or panic of travelling.
I know from personal experience that when you have kids and you have a flight ahead of you, what you pack in your hand luggage can be the difference between enjoying your journey and having a major meltdown.
Olivia Willis is the co-founder of familyfriendlyhq.ie, an Irish family website with information for parents, things to do, daily blogs, reviews and expert family advice.
Here are the things that you should never travel without:
Even if everyone is in the whole of their health leaving the house, once you take off there's always the possibility that something will come up, and you never know when a toddler's next tooth might break through. And don't forget about you. A headache is also highly likely from stress or if have a screaming child sat next to you for the journey.
Plane food can be expensive and healthy treats are a great way to fight off the hunger until landing time, as well as serving as a distraction. I pack lots of different options in little tubs so there's something for everyone. The last thing you want is to spend a fortune on food from the on-board service - keep that spending money for when you're at your holiday destination.
Take enough water so that you will all be hydrated during the journey, meaning the kids will be able to handle things a little better. Also, when you land and if the heat hits when you disembark the plane, you'll all have plenty of liquids to sip on. Those bus journeys to the terminal building can take ages, can be crowded and are often hot.
I don't mean anything expensive, but a little gift can help get kids excited and in the holiday spirit. Nothing beats the novelty of something new and it's a great distraction on-board.
A cardigan or a hoodie
Airplanes can have drastic changes in temperature; while you're waiting to take off you're likely to be warm and then once the air conditioning kicks in everyone is shivering.
Spare clothes and wipes
Pack a light change of clothes and plenty of baby wipes, just in case. If there's an accident or a throw up, they'll be plain miserable if they're stuck in something dirty or wet.
My youngest likes to sit on a pillow so he can see out of the window better and then when it's time for him to nap, he's much more comfortable.
A bottle or sweets
Flying can cause painful ears. When my kids were babies I'd have a bottle with me to encourage them to suck and therefore swallow. Now they're a little older I pack some sugar-free lollipops for take-off and landing.
If you are potty training, consider packing pull-ups
Planes during the potty training days can be a nightmare. Don't worry, I'm not suggesting that you add a potty in there - you have enough in your hand luggage with the list of essentials above. Potty-training gurus may disagree, but if toddlers are still having lots of little accidents then I'd recommend putting them back into pull-ups on the plane, just in case.
I never check in my pushchair (although if you plan to carry your child in a sling you could). Most airlines will allow you to bring your pushchair all the way to the gate. They'll then check it at the gate and have it waiting for you outside the plane door when you depart. Make sure that your pushchair has a tag with your name, address, and phone number.
Download games or apps
Before you board, download some kids' games or kid-friendly apps to your smartphone or tablet (switch it to airplane mode for the flight).