It was time to plan our next trip. With a third child now we decided it was time to go back to the USA to visit family and introduce our complete family. Since America had already been added to our done list we decided to add some interesting new places to our travel resume.
We consulted with the kids. The girls wanted to go to Hawaii. We asked Zac, our infant son, what he thought. Being a complete prodigy he looked at us and then burped up his milk onto my lovely feeding pillow leaving a wet mark the shape of Africa on it. True story. Mostly.
With the family’s votes in we decided to go with a Caribbean cruise out of Puerto Rico. Yeah, I know, the obvious choice when you are offered Hawaii or Africa.
So the planning began. Having three kids changes the whole dynamics of travelling from complicated to “what the heck were you thinking?” All of a sudden we were faced with additional hotel rooms, larger rental cars and the destruction of our 1:1 adult to child ratio. So how can you make the whole planning thing easier when travelling with kids?
Here are my five top tips:
ONE: Plan in advance when booking flights and accommodation
It’s fun to be unpredictable and go on sudden holidays with not much notice but it makes things harder with children, especially getting the accommodation that suits your needs and preferred seating in planes. One of our flights we didn’t manage to get the seats we wanted and my 4 year old ended up seated separately at the front of the aircraft, my two year old was seated with my husband and I was seated all by myself :). While this arrangement sounded quite lovely to me (think of all that quiet reading time) I’m sure the person seated next to my four year old would have been less than pleased.
TWO: Write a packing list and start packing a few days in advance
Being a busy (often sleep-deprived) mum of three, packing can be quite a feat. Having a list keeps you on track, enables you to have the necessary clothing items washed and ready and means that you will pack sensible items such a toiletries and good shoes rather than packing in a hurry and mistakenly packing anti-fungal cream instead of your toothpaste.
THREE: Plan activities for your kids that will way outlast the flight time
We once had a 9 hour flight to Singapore and I went all out with activity preparation for my two girls. I spent days planning fun activities to keep them going and thought I had at least 11 hours worth of entertainment. Well my kids used up every second of my planning but we landed happily in our destination with little fuss (a major accomplishment in itself). Having more activities means you can cater to delayed flights, extended runway time or just kids who like to do everything at hyper speed. It may also help you avoid situations where your children try to curb their own boredom by drawing a mustache and glasses onto a sleeping fellow passenger.
FOUR: Prepare mentally
They say that you should never work with children or animals. That’s because they are completely unpredictable! You can read as many articles as you like on “How to keep your baby happy during a long flight” and “5 ways to stop a baby screaming” but we all know the reality is far from what we often envisage.
One of our trips back to America landed me in exactly this scenario after my 6 month old baby screamed solidly for two hours. Although that sucked for everyone on the plane, I was counting it as a win. At home she usually screamed for 3 or more so I was feeling rather hospitable to my travelling companions that I had shared with them a more restrained version of the truth. When this does happen all you can do is breathe, apologize to your fellow travellers and take turns sharing the screaming baby with your partner in a hope to settle them faster.
Remember too that a baby may be screaming because he/she has ear pain from the pressure or because the person next to you wont stop talking.. Sucking on a bottle or a dummy can help with the ear pressure. As for the person next to you, good luck!
FIVE: Go with the flow
The thing about travelling with kids, or travelling at all, is that it can often throw you a curve ball, so instead of stressing, plan to expect the unexpected. Have a stash of treats in your pockets to bribe unruly kids from precarious or embarrassing situations, memorize a bunch of games that you can play anywhere to distract the kids from pulling the hair of the passenger in front, such as eye-spy or would-you-rather? (You can download my kids activities travel pack for free right here) and remember to pick your battles. A 15 hour flight is not the time to teach your child about limiting screen time or try to discipline your kids for being too loud. Simply use lots of distractions and turn everything you can into a game…. “Let’s see who can make up the funniest story in the quietest voice”
The funny thing is, I am generally a glass-half-full kind of gal but with travelling I would rather expect things to be rough and have the opposite, than picture the perfect flight and watch my dreams die as my child tips her plane food onto the lap of the person in front of us.
With my next trip just days away, my to-do-list now looks like this….
Plan more activities to keep the kids from killing each other on the flight
Pack inflatable pillows to try and encourage the kids to sleep on the plane for the sanity of myself and every other passenger on the flight
Get together clothes for every possible weather scenario during our 5 week trip
Buy snacks for our transit that the kids actually like but won’t create a sugar high that manifests upon takeoff
Buy gifts for our American family members to say “It’s great to see you, sorry about the spew on the carpet.”
All in all I am looking forward to our trip and am excited to introduce my kids to my family-in-law, create some fun memories with my husband and kids and hopefully (fingers crossed) to have a few moments of peace sunning myself in a hammock somewhere.