Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tips when Travelling with Kids

I've had a few people leave comments or email me about giving some tips for travelling with kids! I am by no means the expert, but I can tell you what does work for us (or doesn't as the case may be!) hehee :-)
Our trip last month they were aged Aaron 5 1/2, Maddison 3 1/2 and Samuel 10 months.

This is how we looked from behind ...
I had Samuel in the front pack and carried the trunki's. Lyndon had all the other hand luggage and held one of the kids hands, in this case Maddison and she also held Aaron's hand.

Front pack
If you are travelling with a small baby I would really recommend a front pack. You know your baby is safe and you also have your hands free to grab one of the other kids (heheee) or cart other stuff. We also had a small umbrella stroller which we checked in at the gate on the long haul flights. Not really for Samuel - it was more if one of the other kids got tired of walking. Sometimes it's a long walk between terminals especially late at night and they are really tired.
Most of my regular readers know that we bought trunki's for Aaron & Maddison for our trip back to NZ in 2009. Here's our honest opinion of these cases :-)
They are a great concept - I love them for putting the kids things in for travel (you can see here some pics of the inside of the case). But really ... using them as they are designed for (i.e. the kids riding them) is a complete waste of time and energy! Well it is for us anyway. I guess if your children are well behaved all the time, or you have kids that are afraid to let you out of their sight, or their ears actually are used for the purpose they are intended rather than being some sort of decorative accessory on the side of their heads, then they would be the perfect travel companion. But for us ... letting the kids ride them just creates trouble, stress and frustration! Trouble because when they are riding them they don't watch out for other people walking ... they are too busy looking down or behind to see where the other one is. Stress for us because their ears seem to be just for decoration and they don't stop when we ask and they are certainly not afraid to zoom off out of our sight. Frustration on their part when they fall off and frustration on our part with the stress factor!

Here's what I put in them.
  • A change of clothes in a plastic zip-lock bag
  • Their favourite soft toy (they are allowed to take only one when we travel)
  • A small polar fleece blanket (this is for when we arrive at a destination colder than Malaysia hehee)
  • Drink bottle (in a zip-lock bag!)
  • Snacks
  • Wet wipes
  • Tissues
  • Spare zip-lock bags
  • Reading books
  • Notebook
  • Colouring book & pencils
  • Activity book (dot-to-dot, maze, colouring, maths & alphabet exercises)
  • Stickers
  • Pencils, eraser, ruler, multi coloured ballpoint pen
  • Small toy (hot wheel car for Aaron, doll for Maddison, Samuel's toy was just something that was chewable hehee)
All their books and activities I put into a heavy duty plastic bag like this one.

Here's an example of what was in Aaron's bag.
Using this bag was a tip that one of Aaron's friends mothers gave me. It was a great one. We could just take out the entire bag from the trunki when we got on the plane and it fitted in the seat pocket in front of them or down beside them on the seat. They could keep the stuff in there rather than it getting scattered all over the place.
All the activity books and reading books were new to the kids. They had 2 picture story books each and one chapter book each which we read to them.
The trick to having things to keep the kids occupied is finding things you know they like. Both Aaron and Maddison love colouring and Aaron also likes activities and anything to do with math (he must get that from his father because it's certainly not my cup of tea!) ;-) The reading books I got them were ones I knew they wanted (Aaron is really into the Magic School Bus and Lego, Maddison had a story about a kitten and one about native animals in a rain forest). On the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore there is no on-board entertainment, so these activities came in really handy. But the Singapore to Christchurch flight there was entertainment (movies and games), so that's what kept Aaron entertained most of the time (he's a gadget kid through and through!). Maddison watched some movies, but she also did some colouring. I also had stickers in her bag and she spent some time sticking them in her notebook.
This last trip we had about 5 hours wait in Singapore before our flight to Christchurch. I bought a new dvd for the kids to watch on the laptop. We were also really lucky on the way over we were able to use a lounge which was awesome. Samuel was able to crawl about and burn off some energy! We weren't so lucky coming back ... it helps tremendously if your kids are well behaved! If one is throwing a tantrum you know for sure they won't want to let you in and will make up all sorts of excuses! (Not that I blame them really ... I probably would have done the same!) When that happens we just go some where close to the boarding gate and find a quiet spot where the kids can sit and watch and Samuel can crawl about.

By happy accident when we travelled in 2009 we didn't get the seats with the bassinet that we had requested. But actually it worked out heaps better because the arm rests on the seats with the bassinet don't lift up, so it's hard to get the kids comfortable to sleep. In the other seats you can lift the armrests and they can put their heads on your knee.
This last trip we were very fortunate that the flights between Singapore & Christchurch and back weren't fully booked so I was able to have the 3 seats with the bassinet for myself and Samuel and Lyndon, Aaron & Maddison had the 3 seats directly behind me. It meant that Aaron & Maddison could take turns at sitting with me if they wanted and it was also a storage spot for extra blankets and pillows.
The most USEFUL tip I can give you though is this. Make full use of the blankets they provide on the plane! Seriously ... they are a life saver! :-) You can see Maddison has it on her lap in this pic.
They catch the food spills (which do happen!) and also the vomit! Those blankets are a great help in cleaning up vomit! Believe me. The last couple of times we've travelled one or both of the kids have been sick and thanks to the blanket we have just rolled it up and given it to the air hostess to deal with - so much easier. To help stop the vomit though I would recommend you don't give the kids the orange juice they serve on the plane! It's too strong (we learnt the hard way!). Also the sick bags on the planes now you have to tear the top before you can use them. If your kid is going to be sick you do NOT have time to be fiddling about trying to tear the top of a sick bag ... that's why the blanket is a must! If you think or know your kids might be sick, it is a good idea to tear the tops of the sick bags before you actually need them! And if you don't need them they make good rubbish bags! :-)
I have a spare change of clothes for the kids in a ziplock bag - it's easy to grab that and the wipes on the way to the toilet if they do need changing and then you have a bag that you can seal with the dirty clothes. (Spare bags are a good idea too!)
All our kids have had dummies, but if your kids don't then I would recommend they have something they can suck during takeoff and landing if they have problems with their ears. Yummy Earth do some organic lollipops which the kids like.
Here's a pic of Maddison at aged 2 engrossed with her sticker book :-)

The bassinet does have other uses than for sleeping. When we went back to NZ in 2008 Maddison (aged 16 months) was really too big to sleep in the bassinet but it was a great playpen for her :-) (I did put her in there once she was asleep though and had her legs hanging over the edge!)
Toothbrushes from the airline are another good toy ;-)
This last trip Samuel only just fitted in the length of the bassinet for sleeping. The disadvantage to the bassinet is every time there is turbulence you have to take the baby out and buckle him back in with the seatbelt to you. That can be very disruptive to their sleep. If it's a bit bumpy I end up not even bothering to use the bassinet for sleeping.

Samuel ate his snacks in there too :-)
The things I had for Samuel's entertainment were snacks and lift the flap books which he just loves. Aaron and Maddison had several board books with lift the flaps at that age so I just put a few of those in for him to look at. He also liked going to the toilet and chatting to himself in the mirror while sitting on the change table :-) Singapore Air have toothbrushes and combs in a drawer in the toilets, so he loved fossicking through that as well :-) (Mind you so did Maddison! In fact every time she went to the toilet she wanted another toothbrush ... after the 3rd time I reminded her to bring the brush she had got the time before! Thankfully she was happy to do that!) :-)
I'd recommend you have something new for them for the return trip as well! I got them a new colouring book (from the $2 shop) and I had a different dvd for the wait in Singapore. Samuel had a new lift the flap book.
So that's it. I am sure I have missed out some things ... and I know that every time we travel things will be different. But that's what has worked (or not) for us in the past.
You know you are doing something right anyway when the couple sitting behind you on the plane comment to you that your kids were really well behaved :-) (that was with Maddison going to the toilet every 10 minutes at one stage (for the novelty of it), Aaron doing a huge vomit and Samuel chattering away like a magpie whenever he stood on my knee and looked at Lyndon and the other kids hehee).
Recently Ali Edwards did a couple of blog posts about traveling with her two kids which were great ... you can read them here and here.
Hope all this helps someone out there :-)
Thanks for visiting.


Yeong Shong said...

that's great ideas....the zip lock back is so useful....during our last trip, our stuff were all over the place, and it was messy....

Jaime Lee said...

Rachel, appreciate that you indeed did a very thorough post about traveling with kid and kids :). I really like your idea about storing the things in the zip lock bag...brilliant idea. I have to put it down into my checklist :). I guess I will forget about the bassinet in this case coz by then L will be too big for it. I will just get a three row seat :). Thank you so much for the tips! See you around at Scrappin Sudio blog. ta!

Blossom inch said...

Thanks for all the tips and love your work here. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic, informative post! I know if my kids were younger and I was planning to travel, I would really love reading ideas like these. So many great tips!!! Your kids - although I'm sure they have their moments - must be pretty great little travellers by now. My boys are going on their first overseas trip (and first plane trip ever for Tyler) in November. They will be 7 and 9 by then so I'm sure they'll just watch movies for the whole 3 hours! ;-)

Mariam said...

I survived!! my iris was such a good girl I am so amazed!

Will bookmark this post of yours

Mrs Frizz said...

I had a wee giggle here and there reading your post my friend ... and little Miss M when she was just a littlie in the crib thing ... too cute ... and ewwwwwwhhhhhhhhhh on the vomit bit ... but yep, know where you are coming from, from past experience.

Shirl said...

Wow, that's really thoughtful of you to come up with a long list of tips for travelling with kids! I don't have any children on my own, but I still found this an interesting read... it's going to be helpful when I have kids in future! I'm going to share this with my sis-in-law too :)