How NOT to travel with kids

by admin on May 3, 2013


It’s surprisingly easy to get it wrong when travelling with kids, regardless of whether or not you think you are a seasoned or expert traveller, as my recent trip to Borneo highlighted. You’d think I’d have learnt by now as we do a lot of travelling, even more so now we’re expats in Singapore, but it’s bloody hard organising and packing for two small people as well. I still get it wrong and ended up paying for it.

So here’s my guide on how not to travel with kids (and this all happened on the one trip).

1) Leave all packing until the last minute

Have you heard of the 7 Ps? It’s a military adage for Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Well it’s true. On our last holiday I was still packing at 3am the morning before we flew. I was tired and all I wanted to do was go to bed. It takes time to pack for a family holiday. The only thing leaving everything until the last minute will achieve is more stress, arguments and you’ll be more likely to forget stuff.

21stCM’s advice: start getting things together a few days before you fly and be almost ready to shut your case 4 hours before you leave home.

2) Forget packing lists

On my last trip I didn’t write a packing list as I didn’t have time. The result? A disaster. I ended up forgetting to buy nappies, take toothbrushes and my hairbrush.

21stCM’s advice: no one should think they are above writing packing lists. It’s easier to keep track of everything if you use them.

3) Only check your flight itinerary as you leave home

10 minutes before we were due to leave home I had a look at our flight itinerary for the first time, only to realise that instead of 20kgs each that I thought I’d booked, we only had 20kgs between us. What ensued was a speedy dumping of anything heavy and transferring everything else into our hand luggage. Talk about how not to impress the inlaws. Everyone’s stress levels were through the roof.

21stCM’s advice: Read the details of your flights and accommodation well before you fly, even though you think you know them.

4) Check in the only bottle of Calpol (liquid paracetamol) you have, so it’s in the hold not in your bag.

Calpol is king when you’ve got kids on a flight, especially if your kids get bad ears. Baby C had a bad cold and was in so much pain when we came in to land (the descent on short flights always seems to be the worst), that she screamed the entire time. In fact both children were in agony and it was awful. Our bottle was lying useless below us in the hold as I’d checked it in by mistake.

21stCm’s advice: Keep some Calpol (sachets are good for space-saving) easily accessible in your hand luggage for flights as it’s great to stop earache, especially if young children have a cold. Give it to them 30 minutes before you descend and peace will reign (hopefully).

5) Travel with plenty of bags and extra bits

It’s hard to pack light when you travel, especially if you have young kids. We had 8 bags, a sling, a buggy, 2 teddies and stuff between four of us, so no suprise that we left something on the plane both on the way out and on the way back. Thankfully we realised whilst still in the airport and they let us reboard the plane again to get them.

21stCm’s advice: Don’t take too many bags and count the ones you have got, so you can check you have everything when you get off the plane, then hopefully you won’t lose anything.

6) Leave cool weather clothes at home

I packed shorts and sundresses because we were going somewhere I thought would be hot (and it’s hard packing light with kids at the best of times). However, time and time again I have been caught out with freak weather conditions or not realising early mornings and late evenings would be cold, and we’ve ended up freezing or having to buy more clothes. This time was no exception as we had heavy rain and it was damp and cool, jeans and t-shirts would have been welcomed.

21stCM’s advice: If you think you’re going somewhere hot, still pack a few clothes for cooler weather, just in case. (Singapore is probably the exception as it’s always bloody hot here.) Take T-shirts, leggings or jeans, socks and a jumper for each person.

7) Don’t pack the attire recommended by the resort

We were asked by the resort to bring long trousers and walking shoes for the jungle walk we were going on. I don’t have either (as I’m far too cool of course) and I forgot to tell the rest of the travelling party that we’d need them. As you can imagine I wasn’t so popular when everyone found out. Thankfully we weren’t all devoured by mosquitos on the walk. The same thing happened whilst on safari last year. The only shoes I had to wear were a pair of silver sequined ballet pumps. Note to self: must go and buy some more appropriate attire for nature walks.

21stCM’s advice: If you’ve been advised to bring long trousers and walking shoes, or something in particular to wear, then do just that (and make sure everyone travelling with you knows too). Oh, and don’t forget to read the small print on your itinerary as it might have valuable information on appropriate clothing. Check dress codes resort websites too.

8) Underestimate the number of nappies you’ll need

We ran out of nappies as I forget to buy some at the airport as we left Singapore and they didn’t sell them in the hotel’s shop (how inconsiderate of them). We were lucky that staff were able to bring some over from the mainland, otherwise it could have been a real disaster.

21stCM’s advice: Calculate the number of nappies (applies to swim nappies too) you need carefully and pack them in your case. And DON’T count on them selling them where you are staying.

9) Don’t take sufficient kids’ snacks

Baby C is a fussy eater and won’t eat jars of baby food. We struggled all holiday with finding things for her to eat (made worse because she was teething). She loves fruit pouches, and I was kicking myself I didn’t buy more before we went.

21stCM’s advice: If you have a fussy eater take as much of your children’s favourite snacks as possible.

10) Don’t take extra milk/juice if you have a baby

Milk/juice is good for take-off and landing (and any other time babies need calming down). I was cursing on the plane that I didn’t bring more as they didn’t have anything they could give us on the plane.

21stCm’s advice: Bring spare milk/juice in your hand luggage if you have a baby (mini cartons are fine if you can find them). You can get cartons of ready mixed formula airside in the UK, although in Singapore you can’t.

How did I get it all so wrong!

Maybe next time, if I follow my own advice, and our holiday will be stress free, right?

Have you had any faux-pas when travelling with kids?

p.s. Check out 21st Century Mummy’s shop for great idea for keeping kids entertained whilst travelling.

Image from Catolink4



Honestmum May 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Such incredible tips-I once left my passport at home and had to drive 80 miles there and back to get to the airport. Never. Again.

Gammon & Chips (@maddiesinclair) May 8, 2013 at 3:01 am

Hello from BritMums’ Carnival! This is a great post! And very apt for me at the moment, as yesterday we flew to Malta with our 2 kids, Gammon & Chips. And I’m flying back to the UK on my own too. I’m an Aussie expat, so have done the trip to Australia and back lots of times both with and without children, but I often find the short European trips almost more difficult that a 24 hour night flight with kids, because the short haul planes don’t have as much room, don’t have the seat-back TVs, don’t serve food which can pass the time, and flights are generally during the day (so have awake kids!) etc etc. Thought you might like to read my post on my Top 10 Tips for Surviving a Long-haul Flight with Children:

Maddie from Gammon & Chips :-)

admin May 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Hi, thanks for your comment. I prefer short haul. Long haul with my toddler are hard.

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