Are you off anywhere nice this weekend? Got your summer holidays planned? Travelling with young children can be a daunting prospect at the best of times, but the great tips in this guest post from Sunny D will certainly help. For more top tips, including some great Father's Day card ideas, check out the Sunny D website.
Transporting your brood from one place to another can present problems, especially when public transport is involved. Here are a few things to keep in mind whenever a family odyssey looms on the horizon.
Expect the best, prepare for the worst
It’s easy to get stressed out just at the thought having to organise, pack for and mobilise your little army. There’s so many things to remember, and the thought of how badly behaved they can be may cause anxiety and a frayed temper even before you set off. If the kids pick up on this and become anxious and grouchy themselves, before you know it the whole trip seems doomed before you even begin.
Plan for all outcomes
So give yourself plenty of time to plan, organise, and anticipate possible outcomes. What happens if you miss a train or connecting bus service? What if someone feels sick? Think back to previous trips and any incidents that made them difficult, and try to give yourself the tools and the breathing space to deal with problems should they happen. What went wrong before? What caused a drama, tantrum or complete meltdown? What is likely happen this time? There’s a million possible things that could go wrong on any trip, but some are more likely than others. Buses and trains can be late, tickets can disappear and then reappear out of thin air, and so on. Take the time to nip potential problems in the bud and you will find the whole process less fraught. Planning is the key to remaining calm and staying in control whatever might happen.
Book your tickets well in advance
Seems obvious? There may be advantages that you may not have considered. By booking in advance not only do you avoid the disappointment of not being able to travel on your preferred date at the ideal time, but you will usually be able to take advantage of advanced sales discounts, and there are many agencies and websites out there offering such services. You will also usually be able to reserve specific seats, so you can position yourself close to the toilet if you have very young children that need to go often. On coach and bus services there may be wider rows of seats at the back allowing your whole group to sit in a line together, making it easier to keep an eye on how everyone is doing without having to lean over the backs of seats or across gangways.
Bring your own food with you
Saving a small fortune at rail and service stations is a bonus; the true value of being able to produce food at an appropriate moment cannot be over-estimated. You never know when food is going to be available or when hunger will strike, so win one of the easy battles and be prepared with some tasty and nutritious goodies for your journey. A mobile picnic or quick snack can also help break the monotony of a long journey or the boredom of waiting for a travel connection.
The children can lighten the load
With cool and trendy backpacks and kids' travel cases available for children as young as three, there’s no excuse for your little darlings not to help out by carrying a few of their own things. These can include clothes, games, books, food or anything else that might be of use on your trip. Children love to be involved and feel responsible and this will help with that.
Joining and alighting your transport
Trolleys full of luggage and armfuls of kids can be tricky to manoeuvre through crowded terminals and platforms, and this is usually the most stressful part of any journey - making your connection and getting everyone and everything on board. Never be afraid to ask for assistance. Visit the information desk at train stations and coach depots, and ask for help to load your luggage while you take charge of your little ones. If there are no staff available then ask another traveller. You will usually find people far more willing to help than you might expect, particularly if it is clear that you have your hands full.
Don’t let them get too bored
Long journeys are usually boring. Eye spy and other games (think of ones that can be played even without a pen and paper) can pass the time fairly easily. (Ed's note: See our top travel games article for more ideas.) You could also bring books or comics to keep them occupied for as long as possible. If you're bringing games consoles, phones and tablets then make sure that batteries are charged before you set off.
Be as comfy as you can
A couple of small cushions (inflatable ones are great) and fleece blankets can make all the difference between a cold cabin and a cosy little snug. A comfy place to just sit and relax could even see small children nodding off for the duration of the journey.
Look out for the sights
Try to engage your children in the journey by pointing out places of interest along your way. You could prepare a list of interesting facts about them, and you can tell them interesting facts about your final destination, why you’re going there and what’s special about it. You can count down the stops till you get there and this builds anticipation and gets them to invest in the whole process of travelling to new places and makes it fun, interesting and exciting.
Remember that they’re children!
Above all, remember that no matter how much effort and planning you put in, not everything will always run like clockwork - especially when kids are involved. Expect that it might not go as smoothly as you want and go with the flow. So: (i) plan in advance; (ii) stay calm and keep them entertained; (iii) whatever happens, don’t let it get to you. You’re going to get there in the end. It’s up to you how you feel when you do.