The best family travel tips

travel with baby

by Stephanie Spencer |
Updated on

Whether you’re a seasoned traveller with your little ones in tow or it's your first holiday with your baby, with the summer season well and truly upon us, we know that whilst it’s one thing to pack for yourself, packing for a holiday with babies and kids in tow is a whole different ballgame. So, we spoke to the experts for the best family travel tips for travelling with a newborn and beyond.

When you’re travelling with children, trips become less spontaneous and more strategic, and for good reason - with all those baby holiday essentials to pack it feels like there's a never ending list of things to remember.

Be it by train, across country or international, planes to far-flung places, or car journeys to the perfect staycation, here is a roundup of top tips to help you manage that mental load whilst travelling, from Parent List Founder Chloe Lowe.

General travel tips – the baby basics

Whether you have a newborn or a toddler, these key tips are always on my mind:

• If travelling for a family holiday abroad – remember to organise your passports and any necessary visas in plenty of time. Eliminate the stress and panic of last minute

• Don’t forget travel and health insurance before you go - annual family policies are often the best value

• Find out about required travel vaccinations and be sure to book them well in advance of travel if needed

• Pack ALL the snacks, water, formula, extra bottles and extra dummies if you use them

• Pack plenty of nappies, including swim nappies if you’ll be by the water, wipes, changes of clothing, snacks, formula if bottle feeding and a basic first aid kit. You never know when you might need paracetamol, anti-histamine, nappy cream or plasters!

• Use packing cubes to aid your packing – they keep everything so well organised

By plane

Travelling by plane with a child can be daunting, particularly if you're going long haul. There are so many questions and what ifs that swirl around your mind: What if the baby starts crying and others get annoyed? How will I change a nappy on a plane? What if my toddler gets bored? The tips below will help to ease your mind that you have everything you need to travel by plane with your kids:

• Pre-order formula and nappies to collect from retailers inside the airport departures. This way, you don’t have to carry them through security.

• Any child’s medication must be accompanied by a prescription if travelling through an airport and this includes Calpol, so ensure it’s either under 100ml or take sachets rather than a bottle.

• Book your seat in advance and as early as possible – sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how often people forget and leave this to the last minute. Choose your seats wisely; for example, try to sit close to the toilets with baby-changing facilities. Cabin air pressure can wreak havoc for tiny tummies, so you may need it more often than you expect.

• Call the airline after booking and check if you can book a seat with a baby bassinet for your newborn to sleep in.

• Most airlines will let you check in two large items at no extra charge, such as a buggy or car seat, so always check this in advance.

• A sling is an absolute lifesaver enabling you to keep baby close and your hands free.

• Pack lots of spares, from clothes – for the baby and for yourself, to wipes, nappies and formula. That way you’re prepared for any delays or mishaps.

• Help stop tiny ears from popping with a dummy, bottle, or nurse them to keep the ascent and descent as pain free as possible.

• Children under two years old will usually sit on your lap, so dress comfortably. If aged over two, consider getting them their own seat for everyone’s comfort

• Families with infants and toddlers are often able to board first but if your little one is mobile, consider sending only parent ahead to board and keep those tiny legs active in the airport for as long as you can, to tire them out!

• If taking a tablet, ensure it’s fully charged before you leave and it’s always worth downloading some favourite shows. Don’t forget your cable either as most planes now allow you to charge at your seat. And pack comfortable headphones rather than relying on the ones provided by the airline which are more suited to adult ears. You could also pack a toddler suitcase for carry-on with some toys and games to keep them entertained.

By train

Train travel is often easier and more cost-effective than flying, In the UK children under 5 years of age travel for free on most journeys, (although it's always worth double-checking with your train company to make sure).

And did you know that kids under 4 can travel for free on the Eurostar, provided they can sit on an adult's lap! Not only a cheaper option if heading to Europe but there are also no weight restrictions on luggage, and each passenger can have 2 suitcases per person, not including hand luggage. Perfect for when you need to pack everything including the kitchen sink!

• Try and book a seat in advance if you can. Opt for a table where possible and a window seat for your little one to look out of

• A sling rather than a buggy will help you stay hands-free and navigate the aisles, enabling you to walk around when your little one needs help to settle or starts to get bored. If you do need to bring your pushchair, you can also check in advance which train stations have lifts to make your life easier

• You can get some great toys for travelling that are ideal for holidays or when on the go, such as reusable stickers, no mess colouring and doodle kits, are also brilliant and don’t forget to pack a favourite book and cuddly toy Tablets are great for entertainment – from games to Peppa Pig, and don’t forget a charger!

• Avoid rush hour or commuter trains and quiet coaches!

By car

Travelling by car can be a great option for travelling with young ones, as you're literally in the drivers seat, so you can stop when you need to. However, there's still a lot of prep that goes into a car journey with kids. These are my favourite car travel hacks to make life easier:

• Car caddies are useful for storing all essentials and a great idea for toddlers

• Leave plenty of time for your journey. Factor in regular stops for toilet, comfort and boredom breaks – every two hours is recommended

• Rear view car mirrors are brilliant for peace of mind

• Where possible leave at bedtime so that they can sleep in the car, failing that, aim for nap time

• Window travel shades can help to protect your little ones from the glare of the sun and help sleep

• Dress them in layers to avoid overheating rather than one heavy item

• If your baby or toddler uses a dummy, keep some spare in the front of the car

• Don’t forget to keep favourite teddies, comforters or blankets within reach to aid sleep

• Music or nursery rhyme CD’s can also help, along with a few favourite toys, books and even sticker books for in-car entertainment. And classic games such as I-spy and spotting colours can also help to eliminate boredom

• Keep a stash of tissues, wipes, bottled water and a few spare carrier and nappy bags in the car at all times, they will be essential in case of emergency

Overall, the key to easy travel with kids, is to be prepared and flexible. Adjust your expectations and try not to sweat the small stuff. Try not to rush – easy to say, I know, especially if dealing with tantrums, but give yourself time where possible. This will make journeys way more stressful in the long run.

Travelling with kids can be unpredictable, so be prepared for unexpected challenges and be willing to adjust your plans as needed. Everything may not go according to plan but don’t let that stop you from travelling and having the time of your life!

Chloe Lowe is the founder of Parent List, a web based app with 100s of checklists for tasks across self-care, routines, behaviour, activities, food and so much more. At the heart of the app is the desire to give parents a little more time, a little more headspace and a lot of support. This is so that they can better manage their daily juggle, put themselves first and can be the best version of themselves for others.

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