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Travel + Fun

16th May 2019

Taking a boat, train or plane with the kids? Here’s 15 ways to make it easier

Fiona McGarry

“Are we there yet?” Four little words that strike fear into the heart of parents everywhere.

While family holidays are about bonding and relaxing, the hours spent actually getting to your destination can be stressful. As well as being a professional Travel Counsellor, Cara Hunter is a mum-of-four (including twins) who has travelled extensively with her family. Here are her top tips to avoid travel nightmares:

1. Preparation is key

“A few nights before you travel, try to make sure the kids get as much rest as possible and get a few good night’s sleep. Travelling in itself is tiring, but if the kids are tired starting out, that makes things more difficult for everyone.”

2. Have insurance and an EHIC card

“Make sure you have travel insurance and your EHIC card (formerly E111). The EHIC will give you cover in Europe for doctor’s visits and things like that. Usually, you won’t end up having a big insurance claim, so the card is something to remember too. It’s definitely worth getting.”

3. Think ‘comfort’

“Comfortable clothes are a must. Choose clothes suitable for the conditions on the journey and at the destination. Travel cushions or ordinary cushions also help, depending on your mode of transport.

“If it’s an early-morning flight, I’d tend to leave the kids in their pyjamas and they can sleep on the journey. The same applies if you have an evening or night flight on your way home. That way, you can get the kids to bed without having to change them – in an ideal world!”

4. Keep the essentials handy

“Keep a well-stocked bag handy for the travelling stage. Don’t leave your travel essentials in luggage that you’ve checked-in or that you’ve put in the boot. The essentials include water and non-sugary snacks. It’s important to avoid too much sugar if you want to keep the kids relaxed.

“If your kids are very small, keep a few changes of clothes handy. Keep your basic first-aid kit within reach too. I’d always advise having things like sticking plasters and antiseptic, as well as arnica for bumps.

“I find it important for when you arrive at your destination, that you have your itinerary in your handbag/carry bag with reference numbers and telephone numbers for your onward travel, transfers, accommodation or car hire etc. and your Travel Counsellor’s number, they’ll be in on hand 24 hours a day for any mishaps.”

5. Take toilet breaks before travelling

“Before flights or long journeys, I’d advise taking the kids to the toilet whenever there’s an opportunity. If you’re flying, that can help to avoid the situation where the kids want the toilet as soon as they’re strapped in for take-off.”

6. Allow extra time

“Leave yourself plenty of time for every stage of the journey, especially if you’re taking a flight. Even getting from the car parks over to Departures is going to take extra time when you’re managing the kids and the luggage.”

7. Keep tabs on tinies

“Make sure you have your harness or wrist strap handy in busy places like the airport, or anywhere there’s a chance that a toddler could wander off. They’ll be safer and you’ll have more peace of mind.”

8. Avoid earache

“If you’re taking a flight with a small baby, time their feed with take-off. Take-off is the stage where kids can have problems with their ears. If the baby is feeding as the plane is ascending, that can help avoid earache. For older kids, I’d give them lollies to suck on. You might need to do the same when landing.”

9. Have an adult on the aisle seat

“On flights, try to avoid the children being in an aisle seat. Try to have an adult there if possible. When kids are on the aisle there’s more risk of them reaching out and grabbing as the air stewards are going past with hot drinks.”

10. Be sun-ready

“If you’re flying out for a sun holiday, get the sunscreen and insect repellent on before you get off the plane. Lemon oil is a good option if you’re prone to mosquito bites.”

11. Stay hydrated

“Keeping everyone well-hydrated is essential. Encourage the kids to keep drinking water as travelling itself can lead to dehydration.”

12. In-car entertainment

“For long car trips, the portable DVD player can be really handy. It’s also useful on a long ferry crossings or any situation where the kids are sitting for a long period of time.”

13. Sail smart

“If you are travelling by ferry, having a cabin booked can be really useful. It’s a place to help the kids get nice and relaxed. If you or the kids are prone to seasickness, get a cabin in the middle of the ship. Most people also tend to want a window, but if you have a cabin without, the kids are more likely to have a sleep-in in the morning and that’s good for reducing tiredness and crankiness on the rest of the journey.”

14. Avoid panic

“Personally, I find Rescue Remedy really useful when travelling with kids. If the parents are stressed or panicking about making connections, that kids pick that up and it doesn’t help.”

15. Fill up on fuel

“If you’re driving in another country, make sure to fill up the tank when you get the chance. In Europe, say in a country like France, you could be travelling for a long time before you come across a service station. It’s not like Ireland in that way and you don’t want to end up stranded on the side of the road with the kids in the back.”

Cara Hunter is a professional Travel Counsellor and mum-of-four. “Travel Counsellors get to know you and your family and advise on what kind of holiday will suit your interests and your budget,” Cara explains. “They advise on everything from honeymoons to package holidays. Your Travel Counsellor will get to know you and will be available for you at every stage of your holiday experience.”

Cara Hunter