By Laura Mason
The thought of travelling abroad long haul with little ones is enough to put me into a sweat, and that’s before I’ve even entertained which hot sunny destination I’d like to go to!
A few years back we bravely bit the bullet and took a six-month and a 20-month-old to Mexico. Meticulous planning and cheeky well wishes from fellow passengers aside, it wasn’t actually that bad.
Fast forward a couple of years and I like to think we have mastered as many tricks of the trade as humanly possible! I’ve always loved travel. For some it’s shoes and handbags, but for me it’s travelling. I think it can bring so much to the whole family – experience, quality time and education, so I have forced myself to not be deterred by a bit more excess baggage.
Take a look at some of my hints, tips and general wisdom that should help convince you that the extra effort doesn’t outweigh the end result…
Planning is key; being organised really helps and prevents those last minute panics. I know it’s not spontaneous or that adventurous when everything is planned down to a tee, but you can even plan in that spontaneity or make an ‘on the moment’ decision during a planned ‘free day’ so that you don’t get too caught up in an itinerary.
There’s enough stress and general panic about travelling abroad without having to go through it all on the day of your trip. Unless you live on the doorstep to the airport, it’s worth pitching up the night before at the nearest Travelodge (or similar) for a full night’s sleep and refreshed start. Better still, some airlines will let you drop your bags the night before, so while the kids are settling down to sleep, the formalities can be taken care of relieving you of even more flight day stresses.
If budget allows, an airport lounge is a great add-on to your airport experience. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be flying First Class to get the Lounge experience. Most airports, and more and more airlines feature lounges open to the general public for a small price.
Virgin’s new V-Rooms are a fab space away from the hustle and bustle with a specially designed area for under fives with a variety of touch screen games, a soft play area and slide, arts & crafts table and TVs screening child friendly content, to ensure the little ones are kept fully immersed during their airport experience.
Pick your airline very carefully. I am a big fan of Virgin Atlantic, they provide a fantastic experience for families, but more importantly, the staff I’ve experienced have been incredibly kind and considerate and take the time to ensure you are comfortable and not ostracised for – god-forbid – traveling with children! To make flights comfortable for your baby (and peaceful for you), Virgin Atlantic have specially designed in-flight cots which you can prebook free of charge. You can also bring your own child car seat to fit in your child’s seat as long as it meets safety standards.
I always get the kids’ Trunkis and fill them with some games, snacks, tablets, that they can whip out should they bore of the entertainment on board.
A new find this year has come in the shape of Trunkaroo. They provide little trunks brimming with activities, arts and crafts that will entertain little ones for hours. Handily, everything you need for the activities are included within the box so they are very convenient as well as easy to pack and many come without little bits and are pretty mess-free so perfect for confined spaces!
Last of all, my overriding tip is to have confidence – raising children is a constant game of double-guessing yourself but you get there eventually. Travel is the same; if you really want to do it, try not to deprive yourself. Happy holidays!