How to not pack everything. (But not forget anything.)
- Make a list to ensure you pack smart. Dump into a suitcase a week out. Go back in one day before and cull. (Try using travel cubes, which let you separate into categories: underwear/socks, swimwear, tops, bottoms, etc.)
- Give kids a sense of ownership over their stuff by letting them choose a few items they wanna bring. Cover their bed in options to gently guide them/avoid giant tutus.
- Stash toiletries in their own pouch or zippy: toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, SPF, all-purpose body wash (that can be used for shampoo, too), medicine, nappy cream etc.
- Call and find out exactly what’s provided at your destination. Don’t have to lug a travel cot, pram, or beach towels halfway across the country? Great!
- I always packed a black-out blind, or black fabric and gaffa tape to make kids’ bedrooms dark. Never ever not worth it.
- Things we nearly forget but always need: drink bottles, a few books, water shoes and hats!
- Take a small, light travel stroller instead of your regular stroller. And check it in at the gate.
- Don’t fly just after vaccinations. Leave at least a week. Trust me on this one. *shudders*
What to bring along for the journey.
- Pack a full change of clothes for kids, plus spare undies or nappies. This is in case of mess, but also lost baggage at the other end. (Spare undies and top for you, too.)
- Hoodie for everyone, always. Planes, airports, taxis, long car rides: these places demand snuggly warm fleece. Bonus points for a lightweight dark scarf as a blanket/light shield.
- Each kid gets their own travel backpack with teddies, drink bottle, snack, activities and books, hoodie. Means you don’t have it all in YOUR bag, and they learn responsibility.
- Snacks. Travel is actually code for snacks. Buy or make a ton of little snacks kids can open, and keep them up the whole way.
- Cheap travel treats (cars, figurines, sticker books!) to give out when the kids are being helpful/reach a certain time.
- Download TV shows, movies, audiobooks and stories, and some educational games (we love Reading Eggs and Kiddopia) onto the iPad before you leave home.
- Pack a mini-medi kit in your bag with kid Panadol and bandaids just in case.
Tips for driving or flying a long way with a toddler.
- Where possible for long trips, go overnight. Travel, especially planes and airports, are very stimulating and you have a better shot of kids sleeping if it’s dark and boring as you travel.
- Everything takes longer with kids; arrive at the airport early. If you’re travelling as a family, get one parent on first to grab cabin space for all bags, then the other parent boards last with the kids. (Who ideally have done running races in the airport to burn up energy.)
- Kids under two don’t get a seat: they’re on your lap. Ask kindly, persistently, sweetly at check-in and the gate if they have any vacant seats you can snaffle.
- Consider the ‘split up.’ One parent and kid/s sits a few seats away. This gives some excitement and a ‘fun new’ destination for the kid/s when they swap.
- Driving? Play something everyone in the family will love/tolerate, like this one I carefully made: Kids In The Car.
Plan well and make (mostly) exquisite memories.
- Be considered when booking accommodation. Consider: enough space to play indoors for rainy days, dark bedrooms, noise, proximity to parks, playgrounds, beach etc.
- Think about activities big and small to keep the kids busy. Nearby playgrounds, boat tours, exhibitions, plays and kid-based art stuff, zoos, train/ferry rides.
- Book one or two things in advance to give the trip some shape.
- Bring or buy some Weetbix and milk so early-risers are fed and happy before the actual breakfast buffet opens at 8am.
- Keep the itinerary flexible: Plan one big activity per day and a bunch of small ‘maybe’ activities if time (and tantrums) allow. Leave pleeenty of room in your day for meals, lazy mornings, and do-nothing downtime. (We book 11:30/12 lunches and 5.30 dinners. Wild!)
- Holidays are great for relaxing strict routines and being a bit loose. Buuuut, kids still need some structure and good rest. Too many late nights, big days exploring, cousin battles and shitty naps add up. Factor in ‘reset’ days where everyone can rest and take it easy.
- Enjoy yourself! If you can, book a babysitter or utilise a kids club. It’s your holiday too. Happy parents = happy families.