Travelling with children may not be the relaxing holiday of your single years but, with these tips, you’ll be equipped to embrace the adventure, writes Adele Thurlow.
● Before booking a trip overseas, make sure it’s not coinciding with local holidays, festivals or events, unless you’re prepared to pay more and encounter longer queues.
● Involve your children in the planning process and let them add activities to the itinerary. Input at this stage can lessen the likelihood of complaints during the trip.
● Paying extra for adjoining rooms or a junior suite can make an enormous difference to your relaxation levels and grant you adult time. Look for accommodation with block-out curtains, too, to minimise the chance of early waking.
● Search online for deals, ticket discounts and local tips.
● Google the location of parks and playgrounds in the areas you’re visiting so kids can discharge energy.
● Download a toilet app such as Flush to help you find restrooms wherever you are.
● Ensure you have a translator app if you’re travelling in a non-English speaking destination.
● Don’t leave home without travel insurance.
On the move
● Pack lightly. Frequent traveller and pro-packer Emma Jenkins recently spent three weeks on a family trip in the United States. Her family of five took two small suitcases and two small backpacks between them. Emma gave her children a packing list and made sure they stuck to it. She says merino items look smart, don’t crease or smell and are light to pack. Large scarves can become blankets, sunshades, snugglies, even handkerchiefs in an emergency.
● If you can’t pack lightly, make each child resposible for their own luggage — get them their own wheelie-bag to pull.
● Use packing cells within luggage — one for underwear, one for T-shirts, one for hats etc. They help keep bags tidy and make it easy to locate specific items.
● Take a well-stocked medical kit.
● Load an e-reader with children’s books before you depart. Use it to maintain a bedtime routine and for downtime.
● Lounge access is not to be underestimated. It can include priority check-in and boarding, which reduces queuing time. It’s potentially cheaper to pay for lounge access and enjoy the complimentary food, drinks and entertainment than keep kids occupied in an airport for a few hours. Plus, the use of showers on layovers can restore even the weariest of spirits.
● Restricted use of screen devices in day-to-day life can really pay dividends when you grant access on a long-haul flight.
● Air New Zealand’s Skycouch is a godsend for families with young children, providing space for a comfortable sleep.
● Hungry kids are not great travel companions so take snacks with you everywhere. If you can, pack snacks from home such as crackers, biscuits, packaged nuts, and muesli bars.
Pack some for on the plane and in a backpack for day trips. At your destination, find a local supermarket to stock up — it will save you a fortune on eating out for every meal.
● Take reusable water bottles but remember to empty them before going through airport security.
● Brief your children on what to expect, such as how long a journey will take. For children old enough to understand, describe the behaviours you expect, rather than trying to lay down the law on the hop.
● Set limits for things like spending money and ordering of restaurant meals. Perhaps give a set amount of local currency, which they can supplement with their own savings, to spend on toys and souvenirs.
● Be flexible with your itinerary and don’t attempt to do too much. Include a mix of indoor, outdoor and downtime activities.
● Always have lots of wet wipes.
The Peart family, now based in Raglan, spent six months last year travelling through Asia and the Middle East. They’re no strangers to intrepid adventures: when Will and Jacqui’s first child was 10 months old, they moved to Guatemala, and when the youngest was 6 months old, they travelled together through Sri Lanka. Will Peart shares his top travel tips:
1 Thank your children for being door openers
At times, kids may feel like stones in your shoes but their presence will open doors that you otherwise wouldn’t have known existed. Kids are a universal icebreaker.
2 The 3-day rule
Stop for three days at each destination. We’ve tried, over and over, to move faster but cracks begin to appear. Before you book, map out your journey along with all the highlights you want to hit, then cull any that compromise the three-day rule.
3 Discuss differences
If you’re like us, you’re travelling because you want your kids to see that there’s more to the world than the bubble you live in. Make a conversation out of the differences you encounter: “Why do you think Mummy and Daddy aren’t giving money to that poor child in the street?”, “What would be the good things about a dictator running a country?”
4 Team up on admin
A significant part of being on the road is planning the next part of the journey, or undertaking errands to keep everything on track. Boring, right? Actually, some of the most interesting moments can come about when you’re trying to get a simple job done like getting a bag fixed, buying a sim card. Choose a child to help you complete each errand.
5 Kids’ days
You’ll be dragging the kids to all sorts of things they’ll soon tire of (another temple, anyone?) so build kids’ days into the itinerary. Let them choose what you do, how you get there and what you eat. We watched The Nut Job 2 in Russian (without subtitles) in an Uzbek cinema.
6 Patting animals
Walking through the Annapurna Range in Nepal was a huge highlight for us, yet if you ask our daughters about their highlight, it was the dogs, yaks, monkeys, and cats. Stop often to pat animals and, if necessary, dispense a squirt of hand sanitiser once you’re done.
7 Loosen up at the baggage carousel
Kids running amok at the airport are a sign of poor parenting, right? I don’t think so. Let them find your bags and try to drag them off the baggage carousel. What’s the worst that could happen? They’re so proud, and you get to stand back and do nothing, except resist the urge to “manage” your unruly lot.
As parents, we’re cautious of the dark art of bribery but it’s critical to survival when travelling with children. We introduced a points system: one “demerit” point for poor behaviour. If a child accumulated five points, they missed out on receiving a reward dollar. Seeing their siblings spend their dollar (or save it for something more significant) was effective in improving behaviour.
9 Worry less about what they’re not doing
We felt a fair bit of judgment when we told people we were taking the kids out of school to travel for six months. Formal education, after all, is a cornerstone of our bourgeois existence. We managed an hour or so of school work most days but the travel experiences more than made up for any missed textbook lessons.
10 Let them work it out
Involve the kids in managing money, interpreting bus timetables, learning language basics, looking at maps, and learning capital cities. Just like in “real” life, the more you do for them, the less of a favour you’re doing them.
11 Spew bag quick draw
Always have a spew bag (or three) handy — like in the front pocket of your day bag; you need to be able to reach it in a nanosecond.
12 Track them
A Bluetooth tracker, such as a Tile, allows you to geo-locate important items like your keys, your remote control or your bike. Your kids are at least as important as your remote control. For about $100, you can buy Tiles for three kids. Ours had them hanging discretely around their necks and knew, if they got lost (or worse), they had to hit the “panic button” which set off an alarm on our phone so we could find them.
13 Prioritise variety
You’re making memories. By prioritising places, cultures and experiences that are different from each other, you’ll make many shorter memories rather than fewer longer ones. We were in Kashmir in India, in a region rich in Buddhist culture and had planned to move directly to Nepal. Realising that these locations might blend in to one long memory, we found cheap flights to Oman and flew to the Middle East to camp along the beaches of the Arabian Sea. Different? Check!
Will and Jacqui Peart met during an Outward Bound course nearly 20 years ago. They now have three children: Harper (11), Isobel (9) and Olive (7).
Explore New Zealand with portable wifi at Pocwifi.
Adele Thurlow. (1st April, 2018).Tips to embrace a family adventure. Retrieved from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/news/article.cfm?c_id=7&objectid=12023845