Travelling with children

It's holiday time and you finally have a chance to get away. But here are a few tips to ensure that you enjoy your trip and don't wish you rather stayed at home.

Proper planning pays off
Get as much information beforehand as possible. Find out what facilities and activities are offered by the hotels or resorts where you would be staying at. If it is difficult for you to take all the essentials such as prams and cots with you, phone around to find out where you could hire items and book them in advance.

Air travel
Plane trips with young children can be hair-raising for parents (and fellow passengers). When you book, find out what the airline offers children. If you fly long distance, don't settle for the cheapest airline – one which caters best for children, could be worth every extra cent. If your child is under two and doesn't have to pay for an extra seat, buy one anyway if you can afford it. It is much safer for the child and you will welcome the extra space. On short trips, avoid flying at peak hour.

When you make your reservation, tell the airline that you will be flying with a child. There is chance that they will block the seat next to you. Also remember to reserve a kiddie's meal for your child.

If you are the only adult, ask for assistance beforehand. You could do with an extra pair of hands when you carry your child and hand luggage to and from the plane.

Carry a backpack instead of a handbag so that you have both hands free. Remember to pack an extra set of clothing for you and your baby.

At the airport:

  • Book in early so that you can sit together.
  • Try to get seats at the back of the plane, close to the toilets and attendants.
  • Use your child's car seat on the plane.
  • If you want to use a sedative, check this with your doctor first. Sometimes medication has the opposite effect and it could even make your child hyperactive. It is therefore advisable to test it a few days before you leave.
  • To avoid and reduce earache during take-off and landing, bottle- or breastfeed your infant or give your older child something to suck on.
  • Pack a bag with lots of different toys to keep your child occupied. Don't give everything at once – present a new toy every now and then. But for your sanity (and those of your fellow passengers), choose toys that don't make a lot of noise, are safe and don't have tiny bits that can cause choking or get lost easily.

Long car trips
These really test your patience – especially on a hot summer's day. What can you do to make it easier?

  • Leave at night or in the early morning hours. It helps a lot to travel when the kids are asleep.
  • Cover the back seat with an old sheet or blanket to protect it against rubbish and spills and take lots of empty plastic bags.
  • Buckle up. No matter how tempted you are to let you child roam around, don't budge on this one. Putting up with a niggling child is a lot less painful than dealing with serious injuries.
  • Take a break. Stop somewhere at least every two hours. Many garages now offer facilities where children can run around and have a bite to eat. Plan your trip in advance and find out about interesting, child-friendly places where you can take a break.
  • As with a plane trip, pack a bag with lots of different goodies and toys to keep your child entertained.
  • Keep paper towels and wet wipes in the car to clean up spilt juice, sticky hands and other gooey stuff.
  • Remember to block the sun with a towel or shade screen.
  • If you are bottle feeding, prepare a few bottles in advance and pack them in a cooler bag.
  • Take a bottle of ice water along. You'll be grateful when your child is thirsty or when you need to clean up spills. It also helps with motion sickness.

And if all else fails, remember that the travel part is only temporary and that you'll have a chance to relax (and recover) when you reach your destination. Happy holidays!

(Ilse Pauw, Health24)

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