Parents, steel yourselves: the Easter holidays are approaching, fast. It is likely you will soon be travelling somewhere, somehow with your children. In which case, now is the perfect time for you to get together with other parents and share your best tips for a happy holiday. You can do this here.
To get the conversation started, following are five of my top tips for travelling with children. You might also like to read the great tips shared by Weekend Noters here, here, and for those of you travelling to Bali this Easter, here.
1). Enforce time out. It is unnecessary for both parents to be exhausted and stressed for the entire holiday. Take turns to solo parent for a few hours here and there. You will know whose turn it is for time out.
2). Board the plane last. Airlines almost always direct travellers with young children to board the plane first. If this suits you, then by all means do as you are told. If it doesn't - let's just say because you don't want to spend a second longer than you have to on a plane with a child - then hang back and board the plane last. (This advice also applies to buses, trains, and boats.) Warning: Be at the gate on time. Watch the movement of the boarding queue. Be ready to board immediately when the time comes.
3). Heed the baby-boomers. Ten percent will be your saviours (the angels). Ten percent will make you want to cry (the grumps). The remaining 80 percent will ignore you, which is fine of course, it is the angels and the grumps you must look out for. The angels will magically soothe a crying baby; they will offer to help with your bags. The grumps will push in front of you in a line; they will stow their luggage in your overhead compartment and refuse to move it. To the angels, be thankful, very very thankful. To the grumps, be polite and don't cry (in front of them). Hint: Grumps have been known to transform themselves into angels at the baggage carousel, but don't count on it.
4). Find a local babysitter. It is everyone's holiday, right? Many hotels offer babysitting services; better still, find a sitter through an agency or an online noticeboard - I have had success with Craig's list in the USA and Gumtree in Australia. Hint: If you are travelling in a non-English speaking country, then ask your sitter to speak the local language with your children. A day or night out for you plus a language intensive for your kids is a great deal.
5). See a penny; pick it up; all day long you will have good luck. Even more so if you give the penny to a busker or put it in a charity donation box. No coin is too small to pick up and pass on; they all buy the same amount of good luck. And my goodness, sometimes luck is what you need; the best laid plans of mice and men and mums can fall apart in an instant when travelling with children. And if they do, then take a deep breath. And smile.
So parents (and non-parents I suppose, but please be constructive and don't be rude; we parents fondly remember travelling free like you do, and we are trying our utmost to keep our kids from bothering you, truly we are):
What are your best tips for travelling with children?
Before the plane takes off, get all family and friends to hold hands, even across isles and tell everyone 'when you feel the plane lift off, squeeze hands and see who gets it first'. Great for taking the mind off any nerves and works for all ages.