Travelling with kids for the first time? Check out my top tips to help make your journey a little easier.
I spent over 20 years as a travel agent and saw many different family dynamics. From parents bringing their baby away for the first time, to families where the five year olds dictate the holiday agenda, as well the families with teens – which are probably the hardest to please! I picked up lots of tips for travelling with kids along the way – I hope they help you with your travel plans.
1. Choose the right holiday for you
Discuss what type of holiday you want with your partner. Many parents book the top family complexes because they think it is necessary, however, a kids pool may be all you need.
Kid clubs can be handy, but many only accept children from age 3, you may need a specific club or crèche that caters for babies and toddlers. If travelling with an infant, ask yourself are you going to leave your baby in a crèche? – many parents don’t even use the facilities on offer.
When your children are older, you may need to book the best family complexes, where slides in the pool and mini discos will be the best part of your child’s holiday, but while you children are young, take advantage while you can, and book the holiday you want.
When you kids are older, talk to them, ask them what they want from a holiday. There will be times where kids clubs are no longer considered cool, and may children prefer a pool to the beach.
I love bringing my children on city breaks but sightseeing in 40 degree heat is not ideal. If there is a pool or beach on their doorstep, they probably won’t want to leave it! A swimming pool with slides or a waterpark nearby is ideal, but in many cases the most important thing for teens is having fast free WiFi!
2. Check airlines baggage allowance
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Many airlines allow you to bring a buggy / stroller as well as one piece of equipment, i.e car seat, booster seat or travel cot, separate to your baggage allowance. Aer Lingus insist that infants cabin baggage must be included in your own allowance, while Ryanair allow an additional 5kg, free of charge if travelling on an adult’s lap.
Airlines baggage policy, child’s meals and seat requests all vary, so when travelling with kids, it is important to check with the airline you are flying with.
3. Top tips for travelling with kids on flights
With the exception of the crawling age (usually 7 – 12 months), travelling with babies and toddlers on airplanes should not be a big ordeal. In most cases they will have a nap, and once you bring plenty of snacks and toys to keep them entertained, it is usually fairly straightforward.
When planning European holidays, make sure you research airport transfer times. Many people choose to book short flights to top family destinations such as Majorca or the Algarve (two and a half hours), but then spend two hours on a coach to get to their resort. In most cases it is easier on children to spend four hours on a plane to destinations like the Canary Islands, where you may only have a short 10 minute transfer time to your accommodation.
Flight times are important too. Ideally choose times when your children are likely to sleep, or alternatively be wide awake to enjoy the flight comfortably. If travelling on a long haul flight, the inflight movies will be a novelty, and it may surprise you how easily children adapt. Make sure to prebook a bassinet for infants under 6 months.
If you are flying to the USA, try to fly direct if you can afford it. Alternatively check prices with a stop in the USA en route to your destination. For example if flying to Orlando, check prices with a stop in New York, rather than travelling via the UK. Flying directly to the USA from Dublin or Shannon airports will allow you to clear customs before you depart. This means when you land in the US you are treated like a domestic passenger, so you wont have to queue to clear customs when you arrive.
4. Ditch the trunkis
There are many great travel tips for travelling with kids, but one of my favourites is to invest in lightweight hand luggage so you don’t have to pay to check in bags. As well as expensive baggage fees – a 20kg checked bag to the Canary Islands costs up to €110 in peak season, there is also the added advantage of not having to worry about your loosing your luggage!
Get rid of the trunkis as soon as your children are able to wheel heavier cases. Kids like wheeling their own cases anyway, and if you invest in the best lightweight suitcase available, you can save a fortune on checked baggage charges.
I tell my children they can bring whatever fits in their case, this usually works out well when packing! Buy a portable luggage scales and bring it with you to avoid any stress thinking your luggage may be over weight. You can buy them for less than €15.
5. Travelling with kids on city breaks:
If travelling on a city break with young children, choose an early flight home. Once you have checked out of the hotel, the kids will just want to go home and you will spend a fortune trying to amuse them on the last day. The €30 saving you thought you made by coming back on the later flight, believe me, you will spend it twice over.
For city breaks where there is a lot of walking involved, buy a cheap fold up scooter. Depending on your weight allowance, leave it behind you if necessary.
Try to fit some sightseeing in the morning while the kids are fresh and plan an activity for them in the afternoon – a visit to a park, zoo. or kids attraction is ideal. Give them maps and let them help plan the day.
My kids bring cameras with them and enjoy taking pictures and selfies. Encourage them to take selfies in front of famous landmarks, they can show them to their friends or teachers when they get home.
6. Bring lots of supplies when travelling with kids
If travelling on an airplane with babies or toddlers, make sure you plenty of snacks. Children are always hungrier when they travel. I suggest bringing twice the amount you think will you need, in case of delays. A new toy or colouring / activity / sticker book is also a good idea and whatever you do, don’t forget wipes and a change of clothes!
Download movies or the kids favourite TV shows on to tablets or phones before you go, and bring head phones. A powerful power bank is also a must – there is bound to be a device that needs to be charged.
7. Email the hotel before you go
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Try to avoid bringing things you don’t need. Many hotels have baby equipment, so you may not have to bring your own. These are not always advertised in brochures, incase many families ask for buggies, sterilisers or bottle warmers at the same time.
Call or email the hotel before you go and ask them what equipment they have, and pre book it if possible. Ask for an early check-in or late check-out and a ground floor room, if that is your preference.
8. Make lists
Make a list of all things to do/bring and do this in the run up to the holiday and at your leisure. The night before the trip can be fairly hectic and something can be easily overlooked. That way you won’t arrive at your destination, having forgotten something. Make a checklist of the most important items that must come home too, so you know you won’t leave anything behind.
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