We are a travelling family, not in the sense that we are gypsies. We do own a home! Although, I’ve always kind of wanted to live in some form of converted camper travelling around the world. But no, in the sense that we jet off at any possible chance we get. Whether that be abroad or somewhere within the U.K. We love to see new places and experience new culture as much as possible and it’s something we are passionate about distilling into Toby. I have never understood the types of people who go to the same holiday, to the same hotel and do the same thing time and time again. It’s madness. The world is a huge place. Get out there and explore it!
We are lucky enough to have taken Toby to multiple countries, he has been on 30 plane journeys (there and back) in his short five years and countless road trips. That isn’t in any way supposed to sound braggy, merely an emphasis on the amount of times I’ve seriously thought about tranquillising my own child. .As amazing as these travelling experiences are, the reality usually means a long flight (sometimes multiple) or a long drive in order to get to our desired destination. Gone are the days of in-flight movies, endless G&T’s and getting through an entire holiday read just in the airport. No. Travelling with kids is hard. Travelling with my kid, who admittedly has the attention span of a goldfish, is hyperactive, loud, boisterous and adventurous. Well, it can be hell-ish, if I’m not fully prepared.
I’ve all too many times been the stressed-out Mum asking around the plane if anyone has a spare pen, so he can draw for five minutes in a desperate bid to stop him jumping up and down in his seat and stressing out the old lady behind us. I once let him trick or treat on a flight, no joke, he legitimately walked up and down the aisles returning with handfuls of biscuits and sweets. I’m not even ashamed, it gave me 10 minutes much needed peace and by that point I was so over it he could probably have been flying the plane and I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Thankfully for me (and everyone else around us) I’ve now pretty much perfected my essential items for travelling with Toby in tow, so I’ve rounded them up into a list because let’s face it, none of us really know what we’re doing here, we’re all just trying to make it through! Hopefully you’ll find them as useful as we do and next time you’ve got a family trip coming up you’ll be stacking up on books instead of panic reading my top tips whilst packing!
1/ His own wallet with his own money – for some reason Toby associates the airport with shopping, I’ve honestly no idea where he got that perception from, it’s not like I use it as an excuse to stock up on make-up, perfume or gin so I really am just at a loss?! He’s getting to that age now where he understands things cost money, (and thank god for that because I swear we’ve spent nothing short of a million pound on kinder eggs, slime and other unnecessary crap over the years!) obviously he still asks for everything in sight all the time but when we explain to him he has, let’s just say £10 for a random non ridiculous example, and the thing he wants is half of that then it makes him stop and think about how much he wants it. It cues some of the meltdowns (I’m saying some really loosely here) of having to tell him no 1637291 times, well at least until his “pennies” run out anyway!
2/ A lunch box and no-ends of snacks – I know I’m stating the obvious with this one, as snacks and kids go hand in hand. Does anyone else’s child ask for a snack every 0.01 seconds? I sincerely hope so. Being organised with snacks is key when travelling. I will take things like crisp, crackers, raisins, sugar free lollies, fruit yo-yos etc. And I’ll always hide a sweet/chocolate treat somewhere he doesn’t know about as an emergency if things get really bad! I’m a true supporter of bribery, sometimes it’s the only way! I also always take a snack box or lunch box. We often go into the private lounges at the airports for a bit of quiet amongst the madness but mainly for the food. OK, only for the food. The all-inclusive food selection alone is well worth the entry fee. Aside from letting him live all his food fantasies and filling him up in there before we board, I’ll fill up his lunch box for the flight. Like a true Brit abroad. I have no shame. Plane food is always shit and this way he can eat when he feels like it so there’s no “is the food coming yet” on repeat for an hour.
3/ Activities Galore – I stress the word activities, toys just don’t cut it when it comes to keeping a small, bored and emotionally unstable person sat down for 8 hours. It’s well worth spending a little bit of time figuring out some time-consuming activities before-hand, so get yourself on Pinterest, there’s so many amazing and simple ideas about. Also knowing their interests really helps, much to my disappointment Toby isn’t really into arts and crafts, so I know taking colouring, stickers and things like that will only occupy him for about 7 seconds. He likes imaginative play, building, constructing and making things so I tend to take things like Lego, 3D puzzles, play-dough with loose parts and figurine’s, scissor activities etc. There’s a whole bunch of products and brands that offer great travel pass-times for kid’s, but these are a couple of our favourites.
The TeeBee Box – This is a firm favourite of ours, it comes everywhere with us, these little boxes are great for storing Lego, animal figurines, snacks, just about anything really. The best part is the Lego insert/brick plate inside, it makes it so easy for them to play and build with their Lego pieces wherever they are. The leather strap handle makes it easy for Toby to carry around himself, and it allows him to feel like he’s in charge (he likes that, we don’t call him mini Hitler for nothing!) so it’s one less thing for me to worry about!
Tot Bag – I must admit I have tried a couple of these activity style bags and this one is by far my favourite. Tot bag’s contain multiple activities that can be done just about anywhere, they’re eco-friendly and not filled full of plastic crap. The activities are often nature themed and thought provoking, in a nut shell they keep Toby quiet for a while and that will do for me! You can get a monthly subscription and they’re just a really nice thing to have for when boredom strikes.
5/ Bonus Prizes! Trust me on this one, I haven’t gone completely mad. I swear by this, never underestimate the element of surprise! I always keep a few ‘bonus prizes’ in my own bag, that he hasn’t seen for when he gets really bored. Just little things like surprise eggs, etc. This technique has saved me from many of “I don’t want to sit still anymore” induced meltdowns.
6/ Walk around – in reality, getting a toddler or young child to stay sat down and quiet on a long-haul flight is near damn impossible. We wouldn’t expect them to sit down and stay quiet for 8/9 hours at home, so how can we on a plane? one thing that massively helped my stress-levels and worry that he was annoying other passengers was simply just lowering my own standards! I’ve had to do that a lot since becoming a mother! (let’s all laugh/cry together!) Kids are kids, you might get the occasional knob head but generally people are really nice and understand that it’s not easy. It only makes it worse trying to force them to sit down when they really don’t want to. Let them have a walk about and stretch their legs, if they want to go to the toilet 56 times an hour, let them go! What’s the point in getting stressed out about it.
7/ Some kind of watching device – that description makes me sound as old as I feel. I’m really not with it on the latest technologies. I would say an iPad, but the other half went and bought some crap child friendly alternative and I don’t have a clue how to work it, let alone what it’s called. But that, whatever it may be, with a pair of headphones makes all the world of difference. I really do try to avoid/limit screen time at home where possible, I’d much rather see Toby playing outdoors or with his toys using his imagination than watching a screen but when it comes to travel. Needs must. Who am I to sit here and tell you to play eye spy for 10 hours straight with a pint-sized person who doesn’t know his A from his Z, well I’d be a liar that’s who.
So, there we have it, that’s my list of must haves/top tips for travelling with kids! I hope they help make your flights/road trips a little less stressful, and if they don’t then well, who really knows they’re all just unpredictable ticking time bombs aren’t they really?! Happy travelling!