Travelling with children can be a very mixed experience. It can be wonderfully rewarding, yet many parents (myself included) see it as even harder work than just staying home. Here is our list of essentials to take on holiday with your kids.
Their own special suitcase
Involve your child early on in the plans for your holiday, and take him to buy his own new bag. Depending on his age this might be a backpack, a small wheelie case just for his essentials, or even his own suitcase carrying all of his stuff.
Kids’ suitcases are awesome these days, and can even be ridden around the airport. You will kind of wish they had them in grown-up sizes.
Let him help plan a checklist and pack the bag as well. Make sure that he knows you will have plenty of things to carry, so this one is his responsibility. My son packs his own each time we go away and loves helping decide what he needs to take.
Make sure you bring his favourite comforting toy or blanket in this bag, and perhaps his own drink bottle – even this is a great start for planning and responsibility for the smallest child.
You will still need to keep an eye out to make sure he remembers it though – no one wants to lose a favourite teddy in the middle of an airport!
The emergency kit
Not so much first aid as first cleaning products. Yes, when travelling with kids it always pays to take a basic first aid kit, including bandaids, sunscreen, travel sickness medicine, children’s paracetamol and antiseptic cream. But you also need the emergency ‘I travel with toddlers and messes somehow always just happen kit’ kit.
You might include in yours:
- Baby wipes (these are great for faces and awesome for stains on clothing as well)
- Disinfectant wipes
- Hand sanitiser
- Spare undies and a change of clothes
- Vomit bags if you have a child who gets queasy easy
- Snap-lock bags for any soiled clothes
Depending on whether you are driving or flying, and how available snack service will be to you, you will always be happier that you brought some small nibblies for your child. This is especially true if he is a fussy eater.
Kids love opening tiny portions of things (let’s face it – who doesn’t?) so you could buy snacks already in small portions or buy bigger bags/packets and then create your own snack sized portions using snap-lock bags or cute containers.
The breakfast aisle has ever more convenient food-to-go options which are generally pretty healthy and will serve as a snack any time of day.
For picnics or long car trips, we love bento-inspired lunch boxes that compartmentalise their food and provide lots of options to choose from when they open it. Most retailers have these today so have a look in the lunch box area at places like Kmart, Big-W or Target or there are lots of options available online.
Some snacks that travel well include:
- Squares of cheese and rice crackers
- Sultanas and other dried fruit
- Blueberries or cut grapes
- Muesli bars
- Breakfast biscuits
- Fruit puree squeezies - these are sold in the baby aisle, but I’ve known kids up to 10 years old still fully loving them
Marsupi baby carrier
This one is an absolute given if you have a baby. The baby carrier is light and folds up so conveniently small; it makes far more sense to take this than a stroller or pram when you are travelling by plane.
Even if you are driving somewhere, Marsupi is handy for day outings and great for things like the beach or nature walks where your pram will struggle. Marsupi can be used in both a front carry and hip carry position so perfect for when your baby needs to sleep or wants to be held and also look around.
This lightweight material means you can wear it in lovely tropical destinations and still keep yourself and your baby completely cool.
A mother that I know swears by this tip and her kids love it. Her four-year-old calls them Tivities, so now the whole family does.
Before the holiday, head off to Kmart or the $2 shop and stock up on little games, card decks, art and craft activities, stickers etc that your kids would enjoy. Wrap each on up if you like, but put them all in a bag or backpack which will become a lucky dip.
Then on holiday when you are on the plane, waiting for dinner etc, pull out the bag and let your child choose one Tivity. They love the surprise of the bag that keeps on giving, and the interactivity of the game or colouring, puzzle etc that comes out is great for the whole family.
If you are happy with a little bit of screen time you can also load up your smartphone or tablets with heaps of new child-friendly apps as well (especially ones that don’t need an internet connection) or audio books and stories are great too.
You will never be sorry when you have these. Some great apps include Colour by Numbers and the Monkey Lunchbox suite.
You can fall back on the screens for entertainment, and they are a great all-purpose babysitting help for any situation, but Tivities are a bit more old-school cool.
This is another old-school idea, but kids love to navigate and follow along on the holiday route. Source actual, paper maps or guidebooks to suit the holiday so they can follow along and even draw or mark on the book things of interest. Add stickers and sections of blank/lined paper so they can make notes. For younger children you can help them put stickers on the places you have been.
Children also adore the wall of flyers in any hotel lobby or information centre – let them grab some everywhere you go to add things from to their collection.
If you were incredibly organised you could pick up a travel diary for your child, and add the maps, stickers, pens/crayons and gluestick to the kit for them to build their own journal as they go.
Yes, we know that your smartphone is all the camera you will need, but children LOVE having their own camera. You can buy proper digital cameras made for children, or even grab some disposable ones.
They are fascinated by taking their own photos, and it can be really interesting to look back through them and see things documented from their unique point of view.
Leave the kids at home
Here’s a different idea – how about abandoning this whole list and just jetting off with your partner (or even entirely on your own?)
Although I am yet to do this myself experts say that mums who have a couple of days away from their kids benefit so much mentally and physically from this break. Plus, sometimes you need a chance to miss something to really appreciate how lucky you are!
Perhaps book a small holiday without kids directly after you have this one…