As the summer holidays start and everyone heads off on their vacations, I want to share with you the wisdom gained in four years of travelling with children. As my (almost) four year old has been to 20 countries, I feel particularly qualified to say something on this topic, and feel especially smug that I’ve never resorted to drugging any of my children for any part of any travel – call me judgey if you wish!
Here are my top five travel essentials for children:
A Trunki is a travel suitcase with wheels, handles and a pull-string which is suitable as hand luggage for all airlines I’ve come across. It is a fantastic invention. The Trunki is a hard case, suitable for your toddler to sit on as you pull them through the airport, which is such a relief from carrying them. It’s not really easy enough for a small child to open, so you won’t have the contents strewn across your mode of transport when you’re not looking, but as they get older, they can get their travel accessories in and out themselves. The Trunki holds loads too. Enough for one child on a 20 hour flight, certainly. You can keep a change of clothes, activities and whatever else you feel you’ll need for the trip.
There is a scooter-variety on the market, but a lot of the space needed for carrying stuff is taken up by the scooter handle, so that’s futile in my view. There are also ‘fake’ Trunki’s on the market – I wouldn’t buy those, simply because your child is going to want to use the Trunki as a ride-on: you don’t want the wheels coming off. (See the range of Trunki designs from Littlewoods for a good idea of the multiple options available.)
2) Sticker, paint and colouring activity books
In your Trunki, put loads of new books – they’re easy to get at a Pound shop or similar. Sticker books, colouring books, activity books and even books with the paint pallets on the pages themselves are ideal for travel and will keep your little explorer occupied for ages.
Most of us eat more when we’re bored. Have a variety of snacks available for your child. It will make for a much happier trip. Things like nuts, dried fruit, bars, flapjacks and the like are easy to prepare ahead and package individually, in snackable sizes. Airplanes and airconditioned cars will also dehydrate your child, which will lead to difficult behaviour from them. I don’t tend to buy juice boxes regularly, but I find the already-thinned-with-water juice varieties are great for trips.
4) Something from home
A blanket, favourite story, loved teddy bear or familiar night light or lullaby player is also a godsend on trips away from home. It reminds your little one of the stability they may be missing when travelling, and can be very reassuring. We carry a Winnie the Pooh projector night light along with us for just this reason.
Travel is hard on everyone, children especially. Back in the day I would board a plane, fall asleep and not wake till breakfast was served an hour or so before landing. Travel was blissful. Now I spend the entire trip sticking stickers, licking paintbrushes for on-the-page-pallet books and reading stories to keep my children happy. It’s exhausting, but people always compliment me on the children when we’ve been flying.
If you’re driving, have a repertoire of games up your sleeve. “I spy with my little eye” can be about colours, about ‘something starting with the letter… ‘, about shapes. It doesn’t have to be boring and frustrating. You too can have fun with your child in cramped quarters.
What is your must have travel essential for travelling with children?