Monday, 7 September 2015

Planning a Holiday With Kids

I have dreaming-of-vacation brain right now. So I will dedicate a post to the topic on my mind. When going on holiday with little ones, there always seems to be about a thousand extra things to think about, not to mention a thousand extra things to lug along with you.

Here are some tips on planning for your journey so that you can actually enjoy your trip when the time finally comes. Yes, this means more work for you before the holiday but it will pay off in the long run.


The age of your children will be a big determining factor in where you spend your vacation. You will need to consider whether your planned destination is child friendly, has enough activity to keep your little ones entertained and whether it has all the facilities that you will need for them (eg. if you need to prepare bottles you may need somewhere to warm and sterilise them etc). Consider safety (for example, you might not want to take your newborn to a malaria area or to a remote jungle area). Websites like or are great for getting reviews on hotels so that you know whether or not it will meet the needs of your little ones and be in close proximity of the destination features that most interest you.

Also consider whether the journey itself is child friendly (I am sure you do not really want to negotiate a twenty hour flight with two stopovers with a screaming baby).


Book hotels and any flights required well in advance so that any specific needs (eg. a bassinet on your flight or a hotel room where you do not need to climb lots of  stairs) can be met.

Check that all your passports are in order (if leaving the country) with an expiry date of more than six months and sort out any visas required. Do not forget that South Africans now need to produce an unabridged birth certificate in order to travel abroad with children. If your child was born before 2013, there is a good chance that they only have abridged birth certificates, in which case you will have to apply for a new one.(The good news- I have recently applied for both passports and birth certificates and the process has become a lot more streamlined than in the past, with everything being logged electronically at the Home Affairs offices. There was just a mad rush recently due to the many people suddenly needing to apply for unabridged passports.)


Travel by car

Here are some things that you should always keep handy for long car rides:

1. I like to prepare a busy bag for each child to keep them occupied when required. I always try to include one or two new toys (something as simple as a new colouring book is perfect). Make sure that the toys included are accessible in the car and will not get lost and roll under seats easily. For your own sanity, omit any toys with annoying repetitive noises that will drive you crazy after a few hours. An old camera phone is also a good one to include- let the little ones take snapshots of interesting scenes passed along the route. Tablets pre-loaded with games and videos are also a good option (don't forget ear phones so that you don't need to listen to it). 
2. Plot your route and plan for frequent breaks. Remind kids to go to the bathroom before leaving. If you have a newly potty trained child, do not forget to make frequent stops (or if you are not in control of stops, consider pull up nappies, just for the day).

3. Wetwipes are always handy to keep in the car for any sticky hand situations.
4. Keep lots of snacks handy. However, try to pack items that are not too messy and for your own sanity, do not pack in too many sweet snacks (or if you do at least hide them from the kids!).
5. Keep a couple of empty bags in your car. One can be used as a dirt bag for any empty food wrappers etc. Keep a couple as barf bags (even children who are not prone to car sickness may feel a bit queasy on long journeys.
6. Keep a basic first aid kit handy. Do not forget to include painkillers and antihistamines. 
7. With younger kids our favourite trick is to dress them into comfortable day clothes the night before and then carry them sleeping to the car and leave just before sunrise. Hopefully, you can be halfway to your destination by the time they wake up!

Travel by plane

The busy bag rule above applies here as well.

If possible, try to book well in advance so that you can get suitable seats (it is a good idea to have isle access so that you can get up easily without disrupting fellow travellers). If you have a baby and are on a long-distance flight, especially overnight, enquire as to whether you  can get a bassinet (you need to book these in advance though and there are usually just a few on each flight).

Little ones often get crabby due to ear pressure issues. Allow older children to chew on some gum or anything else that can be chewed for a long period of time. Younger children should be provided with a bottle (or breast) to alleviate ear pressure (keep a small blanket handy for discreet breastfeeding if needed). If you can, time baby's milk feed around the time of take-off- hopefully they will fall asleep. 

Keep some antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser as planes are germy! Keep a spare set of clothes for you and the kids in your hand luggage. Also, if you have ever had the pleasure of changing a nappy on a plane, you will know that it is a nightmare! Come prepared- bring disposable change mats and pull ups if your little one is old enough.

Check whether you will need a pram or car seat (often, it is an option to rent these at your destination point).

Now that you are 1000% prepared, sit back, relax and enjoy... you've earned it!!!!

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