Travelling with small children

Travelling with young children can be hard work but that’s not to say it’s impossible, nor that it shouldn’t be done.  All it takes is a bit of forward planning and a reasonably relaxed attitude!

Most of our travel since becoming parents has been limited to within our own country and mostly to within a few hours of home though we did make a rather epic journey to Swansea for the weekend earlier this year.

1. Plan your route! 

We rely heavily on Google Maps on our phones when we’re travelling anywhere (even to go places that we’ve been many times) as it updates constantly to take note of any traffic issues and shows options for quicker routes.  If we’re travelling any sort of distance we usually know pretty much the direction we’re going to take and will have a basic plan of when and where we’re going to stop.  Some people prefer to travel at night when they’re going any distance with their children but this really doesn’t work for us.  We’ve done it twice, once coming back from London when Ben was about three and, despite leaving at bedtime, he chatted all the way home – falling asleep at around 10pm as we passed Leeds on our way to York.  Fail.  The second time we tried this was travelling to France this Summer when we got the sleeping kids out of bed at about 10.30pm to drive down South through the night.  They didn’t sleep and clearly neither did we.  This just meant that we arrived at the ferry port utterly exhausted with a full day of travelling ahead.  Of course this is just trial and error, you have to find out what works for your family – travelling at night doesn’t work for us!  We try to plan our journey around meal times and potential snoozing rather than just setting off when we feel like it.

Kids in the back of the car, travelling at night

2. Travel light

Ok, that’s something of a joke.  Anyone travelling with children will know that travelling light doesn’t really happen.  Even with just one baby there’s the travel cot, car seat, pushchair, feeding equipment, toys, clothes . . . and the list goes on.  Consider using a travel system to minimise the room used in the boot.  We have a travel cot which has served us very well over the years but we tend to leave it at my parents’ house as that’s where we need it the most.  It’s worth checking what equipment is available at your destinations – many places are able to provide travel cots and high chairs if you give them notice.

3. Be prepared

And when I say “be prepared”, I mean for just about anything!  Have you got spare clothes in case anyone is sick / has an accident?  Have you got drinks and snacks in case you get stuck in traffic and can’t get to services?  Have got you blankets in case you break down?  In fact, have you got breakdown cover?  These are all relatively minor things which could make a big difference to your trip if something went wrong.

Flat tyre

4. Be flexible

If you’re travelling a long distance you need to be flexible with your timings – stopping at services with kids, even just go to to the toilet, is not a quick task.  A drive which would normally take you 4 hours on your own will probably take you 6 with your kids in tow.  (That said we did manage to drive from Swansea to Manchester in just over 4 hours without stopping earlier this year – it was not fun but Dave was determined we were going to get home!)  You might have only planned in one stop and then find you need two, or you could have a blow out on the motorway just an hour from home . . . yes that happened to us on the afore mentioned trip to London.  If you set off with a flexible attitude to the journey you’re going to be more relaxed in general and enjoy it more.

5. Go for convenience! 

Travelling with kids can be hard work – and we learned that hard way that when it comes to airport parking convenience is key.  There are lots of options for parking Manchester Airport but I promise you there’s nothing worse than landing in the middle of the night with over tired children and then having to faff about travelling miles to your car, I’d rather pay a few pounds extra for the convenience!  Have a look at www.parkhero.co.uk to price up a variety of airport parking options! 

6. Enjoy it! 

Much as travelling with three small children takes a bit of planning and can be hard work, ultimately the memories made are worth it!  Ben and Chloe both speak often of our trips to Snowdonia, Swansea and France in the last year.  I’m excited to see where we will take them next!

Children on the beach in France
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