A Family Travel Survival Guide

Holidays are a great time for families to spend time together and have fun, but more often than not, the preparation and travel is more than a little stressful. Here are some tips that can help your family get more from your annual holiday:

Give them something to look forward to

Although everyone loves the anticipation before a holiday, children, in particular, hate getting there. So, let them know well in advance where you’re going and how you’re travelling. Get a globe or a map and plot the journey. Tell them what they can expect and what there is to do at the destination. Involve them as much you can in planning the activities. That way, if they do get bored during the trip, you can remind them what they have to look forward to when you arrive.
If you’re travelling to a foreign country, teach them a few phrases such as ‘My name is…’, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please’. Children pick up new languages quickly and will feel excited at trying out their new language skills when they arrive. Likewise, if the food will be different to what they’re used to, introduce some new dishes at home before you leave. Just don’t expect your child to enjoy Thai Green curry straightaway!

Just in case

When it comes to packing, even if you have the kids’ clothes in a suitcase, let them bring their own little bag or wheelie case for personal items such as a handheld games console, toys, games and books. Make sure it’s small enough to fit in the car at their feet or in the overhead locker in the plane. Include a change of clothes in case of spillages, as well as snacks (boiled sweets if you’re travelling by plane to relieve ear pressure) and any medicines your child needs. Don’t forget travel restrictions on liquids. Few things cause more trouble than taking a drink out of child’s hand luggage at the security check to throw it away.

Up in the air

Make things easier by checking in online, in advance, if your airline offers this facility.

If it’s your child’s first time flying, let them know what to expect and put their mind at ease. Tell them they may get sore ears and explain what they will experience during take-off and landing. If you’re worried about flying yourself, it’s better to get your partner to do this. If your child sees that you’re ill at ease, then they’ll worry too.

If they do start to cry on the plane, comfort and reassurance is key. You don’t want future air trips to be traumatic.

In the car

When travelling by car, make sure you clean the car inside and out the day before, that the car seats are properly fitted and the car well serviced. Books or games aren’t always the best way to keep children occupied in the car, especially if they suffer from motion sickness. Listening to the radio, singing or playing I-Spy is a better idea, although some parents swear by in-car DVD players. There are medications you can use to prevent car-sickness. Antihistamines, for example, are effective (eg cinnarizine) but shouldn’t be given to children regularly or without the advice of a pharmacist or family doctor.

If you child still naps, then plan your trip around naptime. Alternatively, consider travelling just before their bedtime. That way, all you have to do is belt them into their seats in their pyjamas. Obviously, this isn’t suitable for long journeys.

For long car trips during the day, try to break up the journey, perhaps for a picnic or to visit a park or nature reserve, to the trip becomes part of the holiday. Just make sure everyone goes to the toilet before you leave and plan regular toilet stops into the journey.

Siblings will inevitably bicker on long journeys, out of sheer boredom. Keep an eye on things by attaching a mirror with a view of the back seat. That way you won’t compromise safety by looking over your shoulder when things get heated. Audio books and gaming consoles can help, although they’ll still probably fight over which CD or game to play.

Finally, always remember to bring a plastic bucket for carsick emergencies. It’s not always possible, or safe, to pull over.

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