Where do you start? Starting to pack for any form of travel with young ones can seem daunting, whether it's a weekend break in the UK or a two-week adventure abroad. More often than not, you can find yourself drowning under heaps of to do lists, laundry and an army of toys and activity books. But, you're always bound to forget something – spare clothes for the journey in case of accidents, headphones the kids can use with your tech devices or even your toothbrush. Some are more vital than others, but there are ways to assure you don't leave anything behind.
How to avoid? Just as the advancement of technology has helped ease restless little ones (for many parents, cartoons on tablets are a godsend) it can help ease packing stress too. With a variety of apps dedicated to family packing lists, such as Baby Pack & Go (available both on Android and iPhone), you can whittle down your packing time and catch up on sleep which will set you in good stead for your impending travels. With the ability to access existing lists, and add items to personalise them to your baby or toddler - you'll find absolutely everything you'll need. You can also customise your lists by adding photos, which can be helpful if you have more than one child.
Top tip: Make sure you pack multiples of your little ones' favourite items; we've heard horror stories of parents being unable to settle their baby once their favourite dummy had fallen in to the road – they were unable to find the same brand of dummy on holiday, and were left with an inconsolable baby. Not ideal, and can easily be prevented by stocking up on items!
We've shown you how to pack minus the stress, but there are certain things that every parent of young children needs – car seats and pushchairs. Of course, the car seat will only be needed if you're renting a car abroad. When we posed this question via our social media channels, the argument of packing your own items versus renting your own items became apparent. Renting does mean you will save yourself the hassle of packing the items, but does that mean that you will get the same quality when it comes to safety?
How to avoid? Most reputable car companies will allow you to hire a car seat, which you will be able to pick up alongside your car. There have been a few horror stories, but just make sure you check that the straps are not twisted, and that you remove the covers to check for any wear and tear.
Top tip: If you do decide to pack your car seat most airlines will let you check that in for free, but remember to tuck in the straps so it does not get caught in the baggage reclaim conveyor belts.
We've all been there, where you're so tired that you've wanted to scream 'leave me alone' to anyone who tries to talk to you, but thought better of it. What we tend to forget is that children don't seem to have this filter. The last thing you want during your travels is a tired child on your hands causing a raucous and distressing themselves even further. The excitement of the holiday will thrill and then pretty suddenly tire them out, which is easier to manage if you're travelling by car, but if you're waiting for a boat, plane or train, things can turn a ugly very quickly.
How to avoid? It goes without saying that if your baby or toddler is still in the stages of taking naps during the day, the best flight to choose would be those that coincide with their naps. Booking one of these flights means that once the plane takes off, your little one should doze off to sleep, hopefully.
Top tip: To help the little ones drift off to sleep, and protect their ears, a few parents have recommended using Earplanes. It may just save them, and yourselves, from an earache!
Hungry children turn into little monsters, and partnered with tiredness can create the perfect recipe for travel misery. If you're travelling via train or car packing baby food and formula is a little easier than trying to get it through airport security. Even though you're only allowed to fly with 100ml worth of liquids, if it is baby food, formula or sterilised water you are allowed to take through enough to complete your journey – which may in actual fact be over 100ml worth.
How to avoid? Sterilised water must be kept in a baby bottle. The security staff may also make you open up to half the baby food and milk bottles to conduct tests, so you may want to bring more than what is just enough to tide you through your journey. Do not be surprised if the staff ask you to sprinkle the milk and water on your wrist, as well as taste test some. You can also ring Boots, ahead of your arrival, where they will be able to put aside some formula/food for you once you get through to the departure lounge. Aside from food preparation on your side, kid's in-flight menus are often under advertised, so don't be shy to ask when you're booking your tickets. You can usually expect pureed or bottled food for babies and healthy fun variations for the slightly older kids.
Top tip: Instead of giving your little travellers sweets, which you may think will keep them happy, think about the impending doom of a sugar rush followed by a severe crash – not what you want. Our best tip is to use sandwich bags to store savoury snacks to avoid the unnecessary crashes. Think blocks of cheese, some healthier crisps, and even some strips of vegetables.
Travelling is a pretty stressful situation in itself, but when the little ones outnumber the adults it can be even more nerve-racking. From checking in, to security and even waiting to board, it's not always fun and games – even more so when the children seem to encourage one another, and you have a full scale children shaped hurricane reeking havoc. You attempt to stagger your liquid intake as you attempt to prolong the need to use the toilet, as you slowly mutter to yourself, how will I fit them all in the cubicle?
How to avoid? There are special services at the airport that will turn your travel nightmare in to a smooth-sailing dream. Heathrow, for example, offer a concierge Meet & Assist service which a lot of people often assume is for those with mobility issues. However, they also assist families and those who are nervous flyers. They can meet you on the Heathrow Express platform, or even kerbside, and can walk you through check-in, security, the departure lounge and even aiding you to the departure gate. Why not book the same service for the way back, and be eased through passport control. Another thing to research pre-travel is what the airport has to offer, some airports now come with specially built children soft play areas, these are gems for parents as the little ones will be able to run around and tire themselves out before flying.
Top tip: A lot of parents are already familiar with the technique known as 'branding', which isn't nearly as terrifying as it sounds. To put your mind at ease, write your name and number on the forearm of the children just in-case they decide to take a little walk by themselves.
Are we there yet? A question we're sure tops the charts of parent's most heard annoying questions. Travelling by car, train, plane or boat, a restless child can make any journey feel twice as long. But, an interested child will make the journey absolutely whizz by. When parents are asked how they occupy the kids when travelling, there is a split between those who choose the technology route, and those who prefer an abundance of colouring and sticker books. Whatever side of the argument you sit on, there are ways to engage your children pre-holiday that can be an infusion of both methods.
How to avoid? A week or two before you are set to travel, this can also include the journey, why not ask the little explorers to create travel projects. Depending on their age, try encouraging them to recreate the journey in their travel journals, using maps to outline car or plane routes. This way they know what to expect and can do some geographical and historical research. If you're travelling somewhere with an abundance of nature and wildlife, why not get them to sketch plant and animal life? Once they arrive on holiday they can collect leaf samples, or even take some knee-height pictures, to keep and look back on.
Top tip: Travelling by car? If you don't want the kids to be doing too much in the car, which may result in travel sickness, why not check out some of these car games. With the ability to download and print off the rules, The AA will help you make quick work of your car journey - from name that tune to classic sing-alongs.
A child falling ill is something that every parent dreads, combining an ill child whilst travelling abroad is potentially every parent's nightmare. But, there are ways to prepare for even the tiniest of sniffles. Holiday insurance should be top of the list, making sure that your family is covered, just in case. If you're travelling within Europe a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will allow you to access state provided healthcare at a reduced cost, or often for free.
How to avoid? Pack a mini first aid kit, no matter where you're travelling to. Contents should include: sunscreen (minimum factor 15), plasters, tweezers, children's aspirin, antiseptic wipes, antihistamines for children, anti-inflammatory medicine for children as well as common remedies for coughs and colds. Also make sure to include a children's thermometer so that you can judge a fever should there be a need. It may also be worth packing some children's travel sickness tablets as well. There are a couple of apps, for both iOS and Android, which would be useful to have for whenever you're travelling. Red Cross First Aid, aids you with step-by-step instructions on everything from cuts to asthma attacks and even choking. CareZone is another app that will not only manage your medicines, dosage and help with scheduling when to take them. It also allows you to scan/search, which is perfect for when you're abroad. You have the ability to document your symptoms, which is perfect if your little one has had a fever and you've been monitoring their temperature prior to a doctor's appointment.
Top tip: If your child does fall ill, always ask for written records of your child's healthcare. This would include who saw the child, the state of the child during examination, medicines used, tests run and the diagnosis. Any medicine prescribed, and the receipts of those, should also be held on to - these records and receipts may be useful in the future, and even more so if you need to make an insurance claim.
The constant battle between the kids wanting a drink and needing to use the toilet is all too familiar to most parents, and often leaves us running to find the nearest bathroom. One of the biggest complaints we've had from fathers is that many baby changing facilities are usually found in the female bathroom. Toilets on planes, trains and in service stations are hardly family-friendly, resulting in a few nail-biting misses for parents.
How to avoid? If you're road-tripping around the UK, the Great British Public Toilet Map, is an incredibly detailed map that pinpoints exact locations of public toilets with the ability to search for preferences including accessibility and baby changing facilities. Finding toilets overseas can be a little more daring, but with WC-Finder app you're able to search toilets near your location and find them within the map. Similarly, you can also search for specific facilities and can see an overview of the cleanliness and opening hours.
Top tip: It has been openly discussed that some parents (who have come under a lot of fire) usually revert back to pull-up nappies during an airplane journey to avoid the first teething problems that newly potty-trained kids have.
There really isn't anything you can do about fellow passengers eye-rolling and sighing, but remember to remain calm and in control. Children will be children, but they'll feed off of your energy, so make sure you try to keep relaxed.
All gifs used are from giphy.com, with thanks.