Mistakes when travelling with young children


Summer is fast approaching, and as families start to prepare for the summer holidays and the potential stress it brings, parents have asked Chat GPT “How can I make traveling with kids less stressful?” approximately 300,000 times, and according to Google trend data, searches for “travel with kids tips” have risen by 2100% in the last month alone. 

Travel expert Justin Chapman at Go2Africa reveals the biggest mistakes people make when travelling with young children, and his top tips for making it less stressful!  


Involve your kids in the planning process, to help build anticipation and excitement, and allow them to have a sense of control which can be helpful with any anxiety they might be feeling about flying, or travelling in general. Look at photos of your destination together, discuss what activities they can get involved in; plan activities like local events, classes, and workshops that you can all participate in together, instead of just ticking landmarks off your list.


Make sure you pack your hand luggage strategically, with everything you need within easy reach. As well as practical things like wipes, nappies, and snacks, pack some familiar things from home that provide a sense of security – their favourite stuffed animal, a blanket, and perhaps their favourite pyjamas to help them get some sleep on the flight. 


Let them pack a carry-on with their favourite toys to keep them entertained on the flight, but make sure you pack some things for when the inevitably get bored with the things they chose. Consider bringing a brand new toy or book that they haven’t seen before, that could keep them busy for longer. Pack some headphones and download their favourite TV shows or films – but choose something calming and soothing, rather than something action-packed. 


If your child is nervous about flying, especially if it’s a new experience, talking openly about the travel process can be very helpful. Explain what they can expect at the airport, or try showing them videos that can familiarise them with the sights and sounds they might encounter. You could even make a game of pretend security checks or boarding the flight, so it’s less overwhelming when you’re there. 


Be prepared to adjust your schedule. Travelling with children can be intense, for them as well as for you, and trying to stick too rigidly to an itinerary can make it more stressful than it needs to be. By forgetting about itineraries and allow yourselves to go with the flow, you have time to explore at your own pace and be able to adjust plans as you need to – like going back to the hotel for a nap if the children are tired, rather than them not enjoying themselves because you feel like you have to stick to your schedule. 


Make sure you allow time to do nothing, and allow yourselves to rest, whether you’ve gone for a trip-of-a-lifetime Kenya safari, or just a few days away closer to home. Prioritise quality family time and shared experiences in a new culture, at a gentler pace, rather than rushing around to make sure you have the “perfect” holiday and all coming home exhausted! 


If you’re travelling long-haul to somewhere with a big time difference, or you’ve got a late night flight and you’re worried about them getting to sleep on the plane, try to gently adjust their sleep schedule in the weeks leading up to travelling. Adjust their bedtime routine to be 10-15 minutes earlier (or later, depending on the time difference), and increase that difference slightly as the trip gets closer, so it’s less of a shock to their circadian rhythm when you get there. 


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