A child pulling a suitcase in an airport

7 tips for travelling with children

Getting the whole family out of the house, even on a normal day, can feel like a military operation. Have you remembered the snacks? Water? A change of clothes? How about wet wipes? Sun cream? His favourite comforter (no, not that one, the one he can’t live without since yesterday morning)? We’ve all been there.

Add a few more miles and an overnight stay or two to the mix, and you’ll be forgiven for breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about it.

Even if you're lucky enough to have a child who'll sleep in the car or on the train, you're bound to face a few challenges along the way.  

So how can you prepare for travelling with small children? The key is, no prize for this one, preparation!

Find out how long your trip is

How long is your trip, and how will that fit with your child’s routine? If you can, consider booking a table at a child-friendly restaurant en route to coincide with when they'd normally eat. Spending an hour stood outside a restaurant with an increasingly impatient toddler while they try to find a place to accommodate you and your buggy won't be the best start to your trip. 

Children on public transport

Don’t be afraid to embrace public transport. Most children find nothing more exciting than going on a train or a plane, especially if you make it fun for them! A trip is an adventure for your child, and offers so many opportunities to discover new things – from looking out the window to spot animals, landmarks, or just other cars travelling by. You could count the number of stops before getting off the bus, or use take the opportunity for a quiet sing song. 

Allow plenty of time

If you forget everything else, remember this: always allow double the time you think you'll need to get to your destination. Even if you're not going very far, you might need the extra time if your child decides to walk rather than riding in the buggy, or if they decide they need the toilet in the least convenient place. If you’re lucky enough to get there early, use the time to relax and don’t forget to pat yourself on the back. 

Get the packing right

Packing? Yes, it’s still a crucial part of the game. Have a change of clothes ready and plenty of layers, check the weather forecast and adapt accordingly. Your child's ability to have fun will be reduced if they're wearing a raincoat in 30 degree heat or a swimsuit when it's snowing. Do you have enough nappies? You might not find the brand you're used to along the way, so it's worth taking extra from home to avoid any nasty surprises. Even if your child doesn’t wear them anymore, you might still find them handy when stuck in a toilet-free train, for example.

Carry a first-aid kit

Take a small first aid kit with you with plasters, antiseptic cream, Calpol sachets and grab hand sanitiser too. This kit should will deal with most common injuries until you get to your destination. Don’t forget to add any essential medicine (if your child suffers from allergies for example) and a couple of spare plastic bags in case of travel sickness or to wrap dirty clothes. Oh and remember, wet wipes are ALWAYS a good idea.

Select suitable snacks

You know how hell can break loose when your child is hungry or thirsty, so make sure you pack plenty of water and snacks. Lightly salted popcorn works a treat as a travel companion: no sugar rush, yet fun enough that a small bag will keep your child happy for a while.

Keep them entertained

Last but not least, keep your child entertained with their favourite toys or books, or a small notebook and pencils for drawing on. Technology can be your best friend here, with so many great apps available for children of all ages. For longer journeys, you might even consider downloading a favourite TV show to your iPad. 

Remember, when it comes to travelling with children, a little extra thought can go along way.

This post was written for the Early Years Alliance by Katherine Mengardon in May 2016 and was updated on 7 August 2018.

Where next?

Tips for camping with children

Fun ways to explore nature

Subscribe to Family Corner