Written by Mother of MANCUB, Dominique Morton (@dominiquemorton)
A Comprehensive Guide To Travelling With Babies & Toddlers
Okay so you’re thinking about travelling with your Cub, or you’ve had an awful experience and want to do better this time. The good news is, you are not alone!
The biggest regret from my pre-parental life is not appreciating Cub-free holidays as much as I should. Rolling out of bed at 4am, strolling out your front door passport in-hand and arriving at the airport for an alcoholic breakfast, followed by a cosy plane nap before landing at your destination ready to hit the beach. Dreamy.
Well, it’s time to wake up and welcome your new reality. This holiday is not just about you. It’s about the whole family and the Cubs. The sooner you come to terms with that, the more you will enjoy / survive the experience.
It’s not for the faint hearted, however, with the right planning and tools, it’s totally worth it. Soaking up different sights, cultures and experiences is invaluable for those little curious minds, and you’ll create family memories to treasure for a lifetime.
Having travelled from the UK to Barbados, Morocco, the Balearics and Crete with young twins under 2, here’s my top tips on how to plan and make the journey a smooth ride for you and the Cubs;
Choose your flight carefully
Go for times that fit in with your Cub’s nap schedule. If you’re travelling long haul, consider taking a break with an indirect flight. You might be desperate to get to your final destination but 12 hrs on a plane with kids could quite possibly send you crazy. Stopping for a few hours is a good opportunity to stretch your legs and gives the kids a chance to burn off some energy. Added bonus – flights are often cheaper when you stop off.
Book a window seat
Great entertainment for your Cub when they’re awake, and a good undisturbed quiet sleeping space for them if they nap.
Make a list. The mental load is a lot for even the most talented multi-taskers. There’s so much to think about and it can feel overwhelming. Writing it down should help, I recommend separate lists for hand and hold luggage.
-You don’t need to pack absolutely everything. On my first trip we took 6 suitcases and may as well have packed the kitchen sink. I took every possible piece of equipment with us including the milk prep machine, only to realise it didn’t work properly with the American voltage sockets. It was totally unnecessary and in hindsight a little bit (alot!) crazy. There are lots of baby equipment rental companies in popular holiday destinations. Google and use them for bigger items like travel cots, car seats, toys, and highchairs
-Remember, babies exist all over the world. They aren’t novel to us so you will be able to find things like nappies and wipes in local shops once you arrive. It’s good to pack a few of these to get you started, but you don’t need a supply for the full duration of your holiday
Here I take back what I said about not packing absolutely everything. There is no such thing as being over prepared for the journey when travelling with Cubs. Whether it’s flying, driving, or on a boat, short haul or long haul, being organised for every eventuality pays off!
– A baby carrier makes life a little easier in the airport and when getting off the plane before you’ve been able to get the pram and luggage. The way things are in UK airports this summer, you might not see your hold luggage for several hours or even days!
– Keep your hands free by using a backpack rather than a shoulder bag or pull along.
– Minimise what’s in your Cub’s hand luggage. Bags can become very heavy very quickly and they’ll just end up moaning wanting you to carry it for them – as if you’ve not already got enough!
– Plenty of wet wipes and nappies/underwear plus nappy bags. The nappy bags are also great to collect rubbish inflight.
– Muslins, muslins and more muslins
– Packing cubes are great. They help you stay super organised and each person can have a different colour so items can be found in a rush. Packing an extra outfit in each cube for each person (not just the Cubs) is handy. There’s nothing worse than sitting on a plane or a car for hours covered in a sick.
– Airports and planes don’t cater well for Cubs so pack a variety of meals, snacks, readymade milk formula and treats. You don’t want a hungry child on a plane. Make sure you’re full stocked up just in case you are delayed and stuck on the tarmac for 3 hours (it does happen). Don’t forget to have food for yourself too. There is no limit to the amount of liquid you can take through security for babies under 1 so don’t worry about that.
– If you’re a more routined family, be prepared to break your snack rules. Trust me, on travel days, snacks are life!
– Refillable water bottles are a must.
– In-flight entertainment. Small (quiet) toys, puppets, books and a little blanket are great for babies. For the older children, colouring books, wooden threading block, reusable mess free stickers and puzzles helps to keep them occupied. Apple to Pears toys such as Farm In A Tin, Ocean World, Construct A Tractor, or Dinosaur Island are ideal.
– Charge any electronics 100% beforehand and take a portable charger. Download plenty of things to play and watch – there’s no 4G / Wifi in the air.
– Headphones are useful so the other passengers can’t hear
– Medications such as Calpol, ear drops, and inhalers are a must in hand luggage.
Prepare your Cubs for the journey
Talk to them before you go and let them know what to expect from the journey. You’ll be surprised how much young toddlers can understand and the benefit a little info about the day can give. Busy airports can be sensory overload. Communication is key.
Meet & Greet is a great parking service and a good way to take control of your journey to and from the airport. It allows you to leave your house at your own leisure, in your own car, meaning you can pack it the night before and have your car seats on board. You’ll pull up right outside the airport and they’ll take care of the rest. Your car will be waiting for you with car seat on your return so no waiting around for a taxi.
Board The Plane Last
We all love being at the front of a queue, but trust me, you want your Cubs to be the last people to board that plane. They are going to be confined to a single seat or your lap for a long period of time – you don’t want to extend that period any more than is necessary. Get to the boarding gate in good time, then do last minute nappy changes and let your Cubs roam and explore for as long as possible. If you’re travelling with a partner, get them to queue and board first to set up your seats / ‘area’ ready for you to join just before take-off.
Take-off & Landing
Give young babies a bottle or breast feed for take-off and landing – it helps prevent their ears from popping or any discomfort. You could also use a dummy if they’ll take one. For older children a safe sweet / treat that they can suck will do the job.
I’ll close on my most important piece of advice. Don’t worry if other adults have a problem with your Cubs on the plane – you never have to see them again. But the chances are, you’re more worried about what they’re thinking than they actually are about your screaming baby/toddler. Most people have been in your situation and just want to help.
You survived the journey, now it’s time to enjoy the holiday 🙂
(If you enjoyed this read, check out our Twinning on Holiday Menoir)