Let’s face it – travelling with kids anywhere is an effort. There’s all the paraphernalia required – toys, clothes (always more than required to make sure your kids never go unclothed due to unexpected spoilage – think poo, dirt, food, rain – all in the one day too!), favourite bedtime story and cuddly toy, then there is car seats, port-a-cots, prams etc. Then you need to allow time for food breaks, toilet breaks and of course little steps slowing your travel time.
All of that is hard enough with two sets of adult hands! Yet, time and time again, mums around Australia are making solo trips with their kids. Often, well at least in our case, to travel to meet Dad for a little mini family holiday while Dad works away.
So, here are my top tips for travelling solo with kids:
1. Pack smart
No – I’m not talking about only pack the things you need or how to best fold (or roll) your clothes to make sure everything fits. I am talking about choosing the right bags for you to manage on your own.
Wheelie suitcases are great – wheel with one hand and place a small handbag on top. Remember too weight limits on flights. Sometimes it seems smart to pack one enormous suitcase for ease of transport but, you might find the hefty excess baggage fee a little hard to swallow. Instead think about splitting your luggage between two smaller suitcases. Not only will you avoid the high excess baggage costs, they will be easier for you to lift – especially if you have a babe-in-arms.
If you haven’t already and your kids are age and weight appropriate, invest in a quality baby carrier. I believe for infants who can’t walk this is an absolute must. Not only does it cut down on your luggage – that is, no need to take a pram – it leaves your two arms free to carry luggage, eat, or kid wrangle your other kids.
But a carrier for toddlers or pre-schoolers could be a blessing when little legs tire or it’s naptime. And, you can always have bub on the front, and toddler on the back too. Just make sure you go to the toilet first!
Be aware that almost all airport security check points will require you to not only remove your baby or child from the carrier to be scanned, they will also insist on removing the carrier to go through the x-ray machine. Bear this in mind when choosing your carrier – you might find a structured carrier much easier and quicker to put on and off than a wrap with miles of fabric. There might be a nice security person to hold bub for you, but in my experience they haven’t been so helpful while you put the carrier back on.
3. Hired help
The more you have to cart to the airport, the more things you have to handle and manage while kid-wrangling at the same time. Instead consider borrowing prams, porta-a-cots or car seats from family or friends (if you're lucky enough to have them where you’re visiting), otherwise most capital cities will have several hire companies. Or look at booking accommodation where bedding or other equipment is supplied.
If you can manage with just the baby carrier, you won’t even need a pram when you arrive either.
No need to hire a car to get you around during your holiday? Consider booking yourself a private airport transfer where you can book car seats. Not only will you avoid mucking around with fitting car seats, you have an extra set of hands to help you with luggage.
4. Carry-on bags
Fun kids suitcases are great. There’s the novelty for the younger kids – and since they are nice and small they are excellent to encourage your toddler or preschooler to wheel their own bag around, they are perfect for carry-on luggage. Some suitcases even allow for their little owners to sit on top while they rest their legs and get a ride around the airport.
But make sure you pack the essentials into this bag. An extra set of clothes, some basic toiletries, a few snacks and of course plenty of things to keep the kids entertained both on-board and in the airport terminal.
5. Entertainment ideas
Sure, all travellers, solo or otherwise, young or old, will enjoy some screen time. If your little ones are easily occupied with an ipad or other electronic device, now really is the time to use it.
But, in the interests of keeping screen time low or only while on the plane, or if your kids aren’t yet interested in devices, you will need a few items in your back of entertainment tricks. Some favourites are small books, colouring-in books and pencils/crayons, matchbox cars, small games, like cards for snap or memory, or a new one we love are some story cubes. It is a game of nine dice with different images. You roll all nine dice and then you make up a story using all the images your rolled – great for pre-schoolers.
Like with all things kids – travelling solo with your offspring just requires a little planning and organisation.
Do you have any other tips for travelling solo with kids?