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How to prepare for long journeys with children

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Life before kids: Remember those days? It used to be so easy going out for the day or away on vacation. Back then, all you had to do was pack what you needed and get in the car, turn on the radio and wind down the window and just drive. But when you have kids, spontaneity is not all it is cracked up to be. In fact, being spontaneous could be your undoing when preparing for long journeys with a child, whether by car, train or plane.

It is all in the planning

Travelling as an adult and with other adults can be stressful, but throw children into the mix and it is potentially a recipe for disaster. The best way to avoid accidents, mishaps and just pulling your hair out in frustration is to plan what you will need to take with you in terms of comfort, safety and entertainment for the younger members of the party.

If you are driving on a long trip, and by long we mean one that is longer than two hours, be aware that inaction makes children fractious. Ensure you factor in regular stops so that everyone can get out of the vehicle and stretch their legs by walking or running around. If you have a baby, pack a blanket so they can have a roll around on the ground. Try to make these stops at places where there are roadside services with toilets. However, if you want to cut down on the number of times you need to stop for your child, you could plan your journey around times they are normally asleep. A night drive may not be your preferred time for driving, but it should ensure that the kids sleep for longer and disturb you less.

To keep the kids comfortable and amused during the drive and therefore less likely to quarrel, there are some car accessories it is wise to invest in. When driving with babies, for example, you should try to keep the sun off their faces, which can make them feel sick, by installing a window shade. This also applies to older children who also won’t enjoy having the hot sun in their faces. Then there are the accessories that will help keep them amused, such as a backseat mirror, and for older children, an organizer that hangs over the back of the seat that they can stuff with their books, toys or games.

How about flying with kids? A long flight with kids presents other challenges, as of course there are no real opportunities for them to stretch their legs or play, not without annoying other passengers, anyways. When planning your flight, it is important to check out the airlines charges for children’s seats and the regulations regarding what can and cannot be taken on board.

The bag you take on board is going to be your best friend when flying with kids. Pack this with moist wipes and a change of clothing for your child. You never know when they will spill their drink or have a toilet accident. If your child is only just out of diapers, pack a couple of pull-ups, just in case. There may be a queue for the toilets on an airplane and your young child may not be able to wait.

Entertainment is the next thing to consider. Let your child or children pack their own ‘on the plane’ bag so they can choose the items that they find the most entertaining. Alternatively, pack a bag for them and do not let them see it until they are on the plane. In this way, they will be surprised by the contents and you may find they remain amused for longer. Although it is considered poor parenting to let a television become a babysitter, it is undeniable that a tablet that plays their favorite TV show or Disney movie is the best way of ensuring you, and your fellow passengers, can have a hassle-free journey. Just remember to pack the headphones. Also, be more lenient than you would be normally and include some treats in the bag, such as a pack of cookies or a bar of candy, or even better, grapes and other fruit.

If you are worried about your child being comfortable on the flight, do not feel obliged to put them in day clothes if they are likely to get fidgety. Instead, put them in their comfiest pajamas and include a small pillow. You may even find that they are more likely to go to sleep if they are already in their sleepwear.

It is never going to be easy to travel with kids, but providing you make a comprehensive plan in good time, you should be able to minimize the amount of aggravation you will inevitably have.

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