The best tips and hacks for travel with kids

travel with baby

by Chaneen Saliee |

Whether you’re a seasoned traveller with your little ones in tow or you have had a pandemic baby and have never travelled with a child before - I have you covered from tips for travelling with a newborn right through to travelling with older children.

When you’re travelling with children, trips become less spontaneous and more strategic- and for good reason. Follow these tips and you’ll have as smooth a journey as possible.

Travelling with a newborn

Travelling with a newborn can seem really daunting. Will there be places to stop off and change a poopy nappy? What if the baby starts crying and others get annoyed? How old does my baby have to be before they can fly?

I asked all of these questions and hundreds more before I had even given birth. I also kept hearing over and over, “once the baby comes you won’t be able to do all that gallivanting”. And I felt l was about to lose myself. Fast forward almost 5 years and I have travelled with both of my daughters who were both under 2 when we started.

Newborns are potentially easier to travel with in that they are easily transported and you can plan it around their sleep.

Here are my top tips for travelling with children:

1 - Ensure you have packed plenty of nappies, wipes and feeding essentials.

2 - I always recommend packing a thermal flask (this one by Tommee Tippee) has been brilliant for me to warm bottles of breastmilk. Use it  to store hot water in case you need to make up bottles quickly.

3 - Use a baby carrier as they’re super easy to use, you’ll be hands free and your baby will be closer to you and therefore much more comfortable in the overstimulating and unfamiliar surroundings, such as an airport or a train station. I’d opt for a wrap sling because they’re brilliant for multi use.

4 - Ask for help and support if it is not offered. Most airlines offer fast boarding for people travelling with small children.

Travelling with breastmilk

For breastfeeding families, here are some further tips...

Before you leave check that there are these following necessities:

A fridge to store your milk - since breast milk is classified as a medical liquid it may be offered to you at no extra charge in hotels.

A freezer - you may have to call up in advance and check but you could use the accommodation freezer to store breast milk. Make it easy for yourself by measuring out how much milk you may need for each feed and store that much in individual bags

Washing facilities - ideally a kitchen would be but if you are staying in a hotel a bathroom will do just fine. Just try to ensure that you book a private bathroom.

Can I take breastmilk in hand luggage?

Passengers carrying expressed breastmilk will be able to carry an unlimited supply in hand luggage.

The guidance from is as follows:

You can carry breast milk in hand luggage even if you’re not travelling with a baby. You cannot carry frozen breast milk in hand luggage.

Individual containers of breast milk must hold no more than 2,000ml. Each container will need to be screened at the security point. Airport staff might need to open the containers to screen the liquids.

As with other liquids you will be able to carry your expressed milk in your checked baggage.

Pack a pre-cooled cooler in advance. It’s a good idea to pack it with dry ice too so that it will stay completely frozen throughout your trip.

Warming the milk

If you want to warm a bottle of breastmilk for the baby travelling with you can either ask for hot water in a large cup. It may be safer to hand the bottle over to the staff to warm the bottle in a safer space.

Or pack some hot water in a thermos flask - for this you may have to empty it at security.

breastmilk packing
frozen breastmilk, cooling bag, and milk in bottle isolated on white background

Pumping while travelling

Remember to have your breast pump in your hand luggage rather than as a standalone item or in your check in luggage. Travel delays happen all the time; luggage gets damaged or lost. The last thing you need is to end up at your destination without your pump!

I used to use the hands-free Elvie pump to pump while away. You can pump on the go with your pump hidden in your bra. It’s super quiet and discreet.

You can also charge your pump whenever you need to with the USB C port charger.

Elvie also has a manual suction pump which is about 90% cheaper than the electric pump, and personally I think it's brilliant. I used it every day as it was super easy.

When pumping on the move, it’s important that you store your milk in the most efficient way. Bring a cooler and store bags of milk laying flat rather than standing up.

You have about 4 hours where your milk is fine at room temperature but if you will be travelling for longer than that plan ahead by carrying a small cooler.

You can clean your pump parts on your travels with these quick clean microwave bags by Madela, and if you don’t have access to a microwave, these plant-based, breast pump cleaner wipes by iHerb will work well.

Finally, prepare for the journey home by freezing some gel packs solid so that you can keep your milk cool on the way home.

Travelling with a toddler

Okay, so now let’s talk about the fun of travelling with a toddler. Try to travel at night if you can or during your child’s nap time. It’ll give you some peace of mind on the journey.

When we went to New York, my daughter was 15 months old and a real joyful, bumbling, active little thing. She still is at 4 years old. We booked a night time flight, which I highly recommend because she slept through most of the flight and her routine was mostly intact. That was not before she delayed the flight wandering up and down the aisles once everyone was seated. The wonderful well-meaning flight attendant suggested taking her for a walk up and down the aisle as a way to help her release some energy before such a long flight! What actually was happening, from my 15 month old's perspective, was that she was seeing just how big the plane was, and how much space she would have to practice her new found running skills. When it was time to put our seat belts on, she was having none of it! Kicking and screaming and running off along the aisle.

Eventually, with the aid of much bribery and a sprinkling of screen time we got her to sit still for long enough to allow the flight to taxi and take off. We had many more instances like this on our trip and we vowed never to travel again but of course we didn’t mean it.

Related: 11 tips for keeping kids entertained on public transport

What to do if your toddler has a tantrum while travelling

The most important thing to remember is that your child throws a tantrum because they do not see the world as we adults do. They have their own agenda. To explore as much as they can. If you can bear this in mind and actively make room for some level of exploration you’ll prevent many tantrums from happening.

If the tantrum persists and becomes a meltdown, consider less obvious reasons why your child might be so upset. Could it be too crowded? Too hot? Too loud? Could they be hungry? Tired? Scared? Take them to one side and wait it out.

When this is unavoidable, and you're in the midst of a tantrum, the following may help:

• Remember to stay calm

• Breathe

• Get down to your child’s level

• Let them know you see them and understand their frustration

• Get your child to breathe

• Explain why you are doing things your way

• Offer a fun alternative

Activities and games to play while travelling

Activities are always going to help as a distraction. Pack a range of lightweight options such as:

- Notepad and crayons

- Tablet or phone with movies downloaded (these can be revisited anytime during your trip if you don’t over expose them to this activity).

- Play dough (just a little in a sandwich bag is enough)

- Picturebooks

- A doll or snuggly toy (sometimes I put on a little puppet show, sometimes my daughters put on a show)

- Snacks (some for yourself as well please!)

- Everyday items, such as keys or cards in a wallet can keep a toddler occupied for a long time!!! So use these, just keep an eye on where everything goes so you don’t lose anything.

Switching up the activity or environment is vital if you want to have a good time. Stop for breaks; to visit the toilet, for snacks and for general movement. All of us, especially children need to disperse stagnant energy from within the body.

Some of our family favourites are:

Mini dance parties

In your seat, boo your head, pump your fists and shake your booty. Music or no music! It’s a real laugh.

Simon says (stamp your feet, clap your hands)

This is a super easy game. Toddlers love it when they get to be Simon too so take it in turns for variety.

Sensory quiz

I love this one so much. Get your little one to close their eyes and touch and smell different things to see if they can figure out what it is.

Singing along to our favourite songs with the movement (wind the bobbin’ up)

Singing nursery rhymes with movements is a brilliant way to entertain your child. I sang 1000 hours of nursery rhymes on our travels and it’s free, it takes up no space and can be done anywhere!

I-spy, colour edition (I spy with my little eye, something coloured red).

This is brilliant as a way to teach colours and have an age appropriate version of I-spy.

Finally, use each trip as a learning experience to teach your child more about the world, and to learn how you as a family best travel.

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