Its that time of the year again. School has closed and it’s the holidays! Travelling is invariably a part and parcel of it. And although many parents look forward to visiting relatives or going for a nice relaxed holiday, not many look forward to the travelling especially if you’ve got a pre-schooler who’s bounding with energy and can’t sit still for more than 5 mins – let alone a 2 hour flight or a 24 hour train journey!

So here’s a few tips to make travelling less of a nightmare.

1.  Prepare them

Children love to know what’s happening. Many times we underestimate their ability to understand and so we can sometimes just pull them along. But when they know what’s happening, you’ll be amazed at how much more cooperative they become. Think through the whole travel process and give them as much information as you can. Your conversation can go like this, “First we will stand in a line to check in. Then we will give them our bags to carry. We will then have to wait in another line, where you’ll have to let go of your dolly for 5 mins, and put her in a special basket that will go through a machine to be checked. Then a lady will check you to see that you are not a dangerous person. Then you’ll get your dolly back and we can go to the place where we will wait for the aeroplane to come…” (you get the point!)

Be as well organized as you can. Try to pack in advance and don’t leave things for the last minute. Children can sense when their parents are stressed and if you try and rush them at that point, they will start the journey on a bad note.

Talk about the vehicle they will be travelling in. For example if it’s a plane – describe the seats and how they have to wear a seatbelt (you can even practice it at home). If it’s a train talk about the bunk beds and how you may have to climb up to sleep and make it sound exciting!

2. Toys

Toys are a great way to keep children entertained while travelling. But choosing the right toys are essential – you don’t want to be taking something big and bulky that occupies a lot of space or a car that sings an annoying song and makes people around you stare with hatred.

Depending on the time of travel, ideally prepare about 10 – 15 mins per toy. So carry a good number of toys and keep taking out a new toy or activity every 15 mins. Do not just give them the whole lot at one shot, they will get bored very quickly.

Here are a few examples of good toys to carry:

  • Playdoh or clay: Two small containers can keep a child entertained for quite a while. Sometimes I make clay at home and carry it in a Ziploc bag with a couple of moulds or clay tools.
  • A set of animals or small dolls or superheroes are great for imaginative play
  • Story Books: When they are a bit hyper, you can put them on your lap and read to them
  • Small colouring books and a small box of crayons (if you have more than one child, please carry two sets, so you don’t have to deal with two children who decide that they both want to colour at the exact same time!)
  • Stickers and a small blank book: This is another great way to pass some time. Children love stickers.

3. Travel Games

Travel games are a wonderful way of keeping your child occupied while travelling. Please click on this link to get a list of 15 great travel games for pre-schoolers that don’t require any preparation.

4. Make an activity or craft bag

In a Ziploc bag, cut a few pieces of craft paper, put a couple of blank cards (made from chart), fevicol and a pair of scissors. Tell your child to make a card for the person they are going to visit. Or just use their creativity and make whatever they want. Another idea is a Ziploc with clay, some straws and a few pieces of pasta. You’ll be amazed at how long they can keep at it! (And don’t forget the golden rule – one bag per child!)

5. Travel Journal

This works well for journeys that are longer. Buy them a blank page book and explain to them the idea of a travel journal. Tell them that they have to draw and colour the different things that they see. They can also stick things that are part of their holiday like their boarding pass or shells or feathers, etc.

6. Snacks

This is another great way to keep children occupied! Very important: Please do not give your children sweets and other high sugar snacks or drinks. The last thing you want while travelling is a child with a sugar high! Choose snacks that take time to eat. Go for finger foods that are clean and don’t make a mess. Some examples are raisins, bananas, pineapple, grapes, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks, idlis, cream cracker biscuits, Marie biscuits, etc. Make little snack bags for each child. I normally carry them in Ziploc bags since they occupy less space and can be thrown away once done with.

If you’re travelling by a plane, sometimes while ascending and especially while descending, children’s ears tend to pain. I’ve found carrot and cucumber sticks to be very helpful, as they have to chew hard. Another thing is to make them do is keep yawning – this releases the pressure in the ears. Sucking something is also a great way to release ear pressure – give them water in a bottle with a straw or even a juice in a tetra pack with a straw. If the pain is very severe, I give them a lollipop – the sucking is good, and if nothing, it’s a great distraction from the pain. (But this is only for real emergencies i.e. when the child is screaming! But please remember to only do this on the descent – I’ve tried it once on the ascent and then regretted it cause I had two sugar high kids to look after the rest of the flight!)

7.  Technology

When all else fails and your kids have reached the end of their patience (and so have you!), pull out your phone or tablet. Be prepared before the journey and download a few apps or videos so they are ready for emergencies!

8. Important Things to Carry

  • Wet wipes – one of the best inventions! Great for cleaning dirty hands, wiping tables or seats, removing stains from clothes…
  • Tissue paper – I generally always carry a roll of toilet paper – great for wiping spills
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • First Aid Kit (Just a small pack – even in a small Ziploc bag – bandaids, betadine, band ages, Dettol, etc.)
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • Plastic Packets – have plenty of these at hand – for soiled clothes, diapers, air sickness, left over food…
  • Spare clothes (for both your child and you!)
  • Diapers – I generally make my children wear diapers while travelling – you never know when they have to go! And also not every toilet is very clean.

9. Prepare your children for emergencies

One hates to think of the possibility of a child getting lost. But while travelling its important to teach your children what to do if ever that happens.

  • Safety rules and how to always be next to your parents
  • Just incase you get lost, what to do and who to go to (ideally a mum with kids is the safest)
  • Learn their parents name and phone number

Another good thing to do is write down your number on their arm.

Hope these few tips help you while travelling, and make your next journey more enjoyable and fun! If you have some more tips, please do write it in the comments below.


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