Travelling with young children can be a testing, anxiety provoking experience, leaving you longing for the comforts of home, or it can be an interesting, adventurous time when you experience the world through the eyes of your child.
Here are some useful tips to consider before leaving home:
- Plan to travel at a time when your young child is at his best. Avoid travelling at bath, dinner or bedtime. Early morning when your toddler may still continue sleeping. or is refreshed is ideal, as well as mid morning, early afternoon, or later in the evening. Do not be tempted to travel by car during the night, for safety reasons. Give yourself ample time to get to the airport and check in. Print tickets at home and check in luggage earlier in the day if possible.
- Ensure you have your child’s favorite snacks and foods with you as well as bottles of milk and sippy cups. This is not a time to spend worrying about mealtimes, but rather about giving baby what he needs. Young children may reject foods they’ve always eaten when travelling, and may want more breast or bottles of milk because they are feeling insecure. Know, that after your trip, they will settle into a routine again. Avoid packing sweets as well as salty foods. However, the odd lollipop or chocolate to help you through a difficult situation may be useful.
- Dress your little one in comfortable easy to change clothes and have at least two changes of clothes for your child and one for you. Have nappies (diapers), extra dummies and medication easily accessible. Avoid the temptation to medicate yourself or your child to aide sleep, as this can be dangerous. Explore some natural pain relieving methods for sore ears when flying.
- When children are taken out of their comfort zone they tend to need an object of permanence to cling to, as it makes them feel safe and secure. This can take the form of a blanket, teddy, or other type of toy. While it may be an additional object for you to carry, it is a necessary item to help keep your child calm. If you can, have a replacement identical item packed in your carry on luggage in case the precious object of permanence gets lost. Pin the blanket onto your child if possible.
- Pack a bag of new toys, books, and interesting things for your child to discover. It is not necessary to spend a lot of money. Old Xmas decorations, second hand books, and homemade toys will work. Make a post box out of a margarine tub and cut cardboard cards for toddler to post in the lid of the tub. Books with large stickers will keep your little one busy, even if you have to help him peel off the stickers. Both these activities are good for fine motor development. New lift the flap books will keep him busy as well as finger puppets. A white board to draw on and crayons to put in and out of a box. Magnets and a magnetic pad, and a zipper on a coat can keep him intrigued. An ipod with familiar songs or age appropriate stories can also keep your little one occupied.
- Pack snacks such as raisins, cold carrots, finger biscuits in little containers that your child can open and close. Always be conscious of packing toys and foods that do not pose a risk for joking.
- Give your little one plenty of opportunities to run and explore. If travelling by car stop several times along the route at interesting safe places where your child can be free. Once you are at your boarding gate take your toddler for a walk around the shops or stand at the window watching the planes and buses. Ask if there is a children’s area at the airport you can spend time entertaining your child. Some international airports have wonderful toddler areas with all the necessary amenities and toys you will need to pass an hour or two. On the plane take your toddler for walks up and down the aisles. Make use of people on the plane who show an interest in your child playing peek-a-boo.
- Chat about your trip showing your child pictures of the places you will visit as well as talking about the plane and how it flies. Have pictures of family members you will be visiting, their favourite pets, and toys on your camera. Some children may be fascinated to follow the route of the plane over various countries and oceans.
- Try to be calm and creative as you find ways to educate your child while keeping him entertained. Remember he will pick up on your feelings, so if you are stressed he is likely to act out. Most people understand what you are going through and will be eager to help. Be safe and a Bon Voyage!
By Claire Marketos: BA Psych (Hons), HDip Ed
Parenting/Educational Consultant, Speaker. Author, Child Activist