We’ve been travelling with 2 kids for a while now. Indie is nearly 7 and Brook will be 5 in the summer and with a few holidays and road trips under our belt we have definitely worked out what makes our life easier. I don’t think there is a family travel blog out there that would say travelling with children is easy, but the rewards are so worth it. We 3 Travel blog sums it up so well in her post about planning the best Mother and Daughter trips I think. It’s definitely worth a read. Children learn so much from visiting new places and the quality time you have together as a family is just the best as far as we are concerned.
I’ve pulled together all the tips and tricks that help us out when travelling with 2 children. I recently travelled solo with the 2 kids to the Monica Isabel Beach Club in Albufeira and I’ve done lots of road trips with the girls single handed too. It hasn’t always been plain sailing (far too many puns there!), so as a wise man once said, a wise man learns from his own mistakes but a wiser one learns from someone else’s. Read on to avoid the family travel mistakes we made for a stress free vacation.
Tips for Travelling with 2+ Kids
General Family Travel Tips
1 Whether you are flying, travelling by car or taking a ferry crossing my first tip is to think about the ways you can minimise the moments your children only have each other to focus on. Whilst all siblings get along at some point, if your children are anything like our 6 and 4 year old, when they clash it can make travelling with them a challenge for us and everyone around us. Travelling with kids can be stressful at the best of times but when kids start to fight, it really can push everyone to the limit.
2 Before you take a trip or go on holiday with your kids, get them involved with what is going on. This is a tip The Ana Mum Diary blog strongly agrees with. Talk to them about potential activities and days out and see what they’d like to do. Including some of their reasonable requests in your travel plans will help get them excited about going on holiday. The conversation might involve some negotiation and compromise so that everyone gets to do something they want to do, but these are great skills for your kids to be developing anyway.
3 Have a pep talk with your children before you start your trip and set expectations for the behaviour you would like from them while you are travelling. Set up a reward system if you think this might encourage good behaviour or help the kids understand what they need to do at each stage of the trip. A simple rewards app on your phone could do the trick and might just help get your two children through airport security without any meltdowns.
4 If you can, start your journey as early in the day as possible. It can prevent lots of problems arising when travelling with 2 kids. For flights that take less than 6 hours, picking family friendly flight times that depart early to mid morning can make your travel experience much easier, but these flights tend to be more expensive. For road trips, set off as early as you can, either straight after breakfast or pack a breakfast bag for the car if you have a long way to travel and get on the road as soon as you wake up. The same approach applies for train travel times too. Excited kids generally don’t like hanging around waiting for a journey to start, especially when it comes to going on holiday.
5 If, for any reason you have to travel later in the day you might find that your two children become over excited with waiting. In our experience that leads to getting into mischief if plans aren’t in place to keep them busy. Save the children a job to do to fill in the time before you can leave. It could be packing their backpack or activity bags, or other holiday prep like making beds and tidying before you leave the house. If they love crafts etc perhaps have a simple activity to keep them busy while you finish getting organised for your trip would work too. Leaving them to their own devices while you are waiting to leave could be stressful for everyone, speaks the voice of experience.
6 Whilst we try and balance the use of tablets and screen time at home, we find that having the tablets with us when we travel makes life so much easier. Before we fly or get in the car, it is someones job to download a selection of their favourite shows onto their tablets for the trip.
7 Someone is also responsible for making sure all the tablets we are taking with us are fully charged for taking on the trip. Nothing makes me more nervous than having low battery on the Amazon Fire for Kids when we are going on holiday with two kids.
8 If you find tablets or devices help with long car journeys or air travel, then it’s also worth putting on your packing list to have all the leads, plugs and adaptors you might need in your hand luggage or carry on. We also take fully charged battery packs with us too, which can be used for the tablets or phones if battery is ever running low.
9 The other thing I would never travel without with 2 or more kids is headphones. They each have a pair and they always go in their backpack along with their tablet. At the moment we don’t have bluetooth headphones, but we can definitely see these being a benefit. The kids kept forgetting they were attached to something and tablets have crashed on the floor numerous times. Thank goodness the Amazon Fire for Kids is pretty sturdy.
10 As well as the tablets, we also pack each bag with a variety of activities for the trip. While tablets are great, if your child likes books, colouring or toys no doubt they will want to have access to these too. Our favourite travel activity pack at the moment is Carddies colour and play sets. They are themed colouring boxes with characters, colouring pencils and a scene that kids can colour and play with and we have been taking them everywhere.
11 We get the kids involved in packing their backpacks but we are mindful to keep the contents more or less the same. At the moment their packing list includes a the tablet, headphones, pencil case, a teddy, an activity book and our Carddies play sets. If your children are same sex and similar in age keeping the bags the same or as similar as possible to minimise squabbles about fairness and who wants to play with what will really help you when travelling with kids.
12 I cannot stress enough how important it is to pack plenty of snacks and a lunch bag to keep little tummies happy while you are travelling. The less hangry moments you have either in the car or on the plane the better. It will also save you some money too.
13 We only let the kids drink water when we are travelling to avoid excess sugar intake from juices and it prevents them from guzzling it. These tips seem to keep the number of times we have to go to the toilet under control as well.
14 When you are travelling with 2 kids it’s far better to answer any questions they pose honestly. The favourite is ‘are we nearly there yet’, and there are times we are asked this when we left the house 2 minutes ago. If your children can’t relate to time, perhaps use episodes of their favourite show or films. We often say it will take 3 episodes of My Little Pony or the time it takes to watch the film on your tablet to get to our final destination.
15 We have found that one of the best ways to minimise arguments and clashes between our two children when they are travelling is to keep sweet treats to a minimum. Our 2 kids really seem to become hyperactive with sugar and completely lose control of their emotions. Both of these situations can create lots of stress when travelling with kids so low sugar or sugar free snacks work best.
16 Another family travel tip that I think helps stop squabbles is to give them both some responsibility while we are travelling. We encourage both kids to carry their own bags now, be responsible for their own belongings and they hold their passports and boarding passes when needed. It helps them to understand that travelling together is a team effort.
18 You are definitely going to know your kids better than me, but I find that sticking to their routine as best we can while we are travelling helps during any kind of holiday. It’s particularly relevant to younger children, but even at 6 and 4 years old my children need to eat at their regular meal times and go to bed as close to their bedtime as possible. Tired and hungry moments generally lead to disaster for us on holiday and can really effect things like planned activities and days out.
19 As I mentioned before, when we go on holiday with the kids we talk about the types of activities we all want to do. We also talk to them each day about what the plans are so they know what is happening. We find that setting these expectations helps prevent any squabbles about choices having to be made throughout the day. They always want to do something different when they are put on the spot.
20 Kids need to burn off steam even when they are on holiday, perhaps even more so when they are travelling. Getting them tired out also helps prevent any unnecessary arguments in the family too. We normally plan an active morning or it could even be a whole day out. The afternoon could be for cooling off in the pool or some beach time. We would then have some quiet time before dinner reading books, colouring or watching TV. This approach works for us at the moment but I can see that downtime will be less crucial when we are travelling as the kids get older.
21 Even if you don’t use a pushchair or stroller at home any more, you might still benefit from one on holiday. Pushchairs work really well on city breaks or on any trips where you think little legs might end up doing more walking than they are used too. Vacations can be tiring for children anyway, and they might also nap when they wouldn’t do at home anymore. We took a stroller to Hamburg and found it helped out no end. As well as having somewhere that Brook could sit when needed, it also meant that we had somewhere to put things we needed throughout the day too.
22 Everyone in our family uses backpacks when they travel now. We have learnt through experience that backpacks are so much easier to manage. They are perfect for keeping all your travel essentials in during your trip and on any days out you might have planned. The other bonus to travelling with a backpack is that you have your hands free to help with anything the kids might need. When you travel with two kids it means you can hold both their hands when you need too, which can also save some conversations about fairness as well as being safer for all.
23 There is a huge amount of value in looking after yourself before, during your trip and of course after your vacation. Do your best to make sure you sleep and eat well so you don’t get too tired and cranky during your trip. I know most parents will probably have had at least one experience of being woken up by the kids the night before a big trip and all you can do at that point is drink the coffee, bring your ‘can do’ attitude to the table and hope all the travel plans pan out.
24 Getting the holiday accommodation right for a family is a big deal. When you are travelling with kids there are so many ways to look at this and it’s really down to personal preference and budget. Self catering accommodation will give you more space and flexibility which some families really value. All inclusive accommodation helps with keeping your budget under control without a doubt, but it can really tie you to your accommodation as well. When you have 2 or more kids space and comfort are definitely worth prioritising but budget is going to be a huge factor as well.
25 It’s not just important to have activities and toys ready for when you are flying or on a road trip. It’s also important to have a stock of things for the kids to do when you are going to restaurants or are out and about. Because we let the kids have screen time when they travel and sometimes in the evening, we don’t use the tablets when we go to restaurants. We find they are quite happy with their Carddies or an activity book of some kind. Kids often finish eating first, and as soon as they do the colouring pens come out. They aren’t given a minute to get bored or start fighting.
Flying with 2 or More Kids
26 Depending on the age of the kids you are travelling with you may want to consider which suitcases and backpacks to take wisely. If you are flying maybe navigating one large suitcase and 2 kids through an airport might be easier than a number of cabin sized bags. Backpacks are a lot easier for kids to carry in some respects and it’s important not to over pack them so that they complain they are too heavy for them to manage.
27 When you are planning what luggage to take do make sure you think about all the bags you are carrying and that anything not checked in will have to got through airport security with you. This could make your time at the airport more cumbersome. My 6 year old finds security quite stressful and on occasion my 4 year old has become quite distressed as well about going through the scanners or having to be checked by staff. The less bags you are dealing with at this point the better if this is something that could happen to you.
28 I’m the first to admit I can get into a flap when I reach airport security, but it is far better to stay calm when you are travelling with kids. It’s worth remembering that most airport staff and passengers are pretty understanding at this point. I always explain to the kids what’s happening and focus on reassuring them there is nothing to worry about. I have always found that airport staff are helpful and accommodating when kids are upset, which tends to be more often than not when we are travelling.
29 If you’re concerned that your children might get anxious, explore getting fast track option for you and the kids so you can move through security as quickly as possible. I have found that if we are waiting in the queue for airport security too long, the kids are more likely to become upset at the thought of going through the scanners.
30 When we are flying with kids we deliberately don’t join the boarding line until it gets towards the end. Even priority queues seem so long now that I see very little benefit in them. Given that everyone has an allocated seat it makes more sense to me to allow people to board in the order of rows, but that’s just me and people like Ryanair seem to see it differently. Kids are not known for their ability to stand in queues and with boredom often comes mischief. We walk up at the end and we can get on the plane when the other passengers are mostly seated and it seems to work much better with kids.
31 We try and get the kids to focus on what is happening when we are travelling. This is really helpful when we are at an airport for example. We talk to them about each stage of travelling and what is going to happen next. This is really helpful at airport security and passport control. As they are 6 and 4 years old they still find these conversations helpful and become interested in what is happening while we are travelling.
32 Adapting to the new time zone as quickly as possible really helps keep kids stay happy when travelling too. If there is a big time zone difference we set our watches to the new time as soon as we start to travel. This is the one time you might want to encourage them to stay awake a little longer with an inflight movie or change their meal times a little so their body clocks start to adapt.
33 There is no doubt that flying with a baby and a toddler or child can be really hard. We have had the experience of a baby screaming pretty much for the entire flight and sometimes they are just inconsolable no matter what you have to distract them. That being said, the way to minimise these challenges is to travel with their regular medication for pain relief in an accessible place and have plenty of travel toys and books at your disposal for entertainment. The tablet or even your phone might come in handy if they enjoy watching certain cartoons or playing with apps. Having food, snacks and drinks they like will also help get you through your trip.
34 When it comes to booking flights for any of your holidays or vacations my advice to you if you have 2 or more kids is to book as far in advance as you can. This will help no end when it comes to getting the best seats for your family. Ideally you will all want to sit together and avoid the very back of the plane where there tends to be a lot of traffic either from the flight attendants or other passengers going to the toilet. If you are hoping your child will sleep on the plane these things are worth considering.
35 If you are flying long haul with kids, and your travel budget allows it, look for deals on direct flights to your travel destination. If a layover is unavoidable try and get an overnight stop so you can book a hotel room and get some sleep before the next flight.
36 There might be times when you are flying single handed with a baby and a toddler. If that’s the case you might want to book an extra seat so that you have a row of three to yourselves. This will stop you being disturbed by another passenger during the flight and give you all some valuable extra space during the flight.
37 One question you might be considering is whether to hire a car from the airport or use a transfer service. Sometimes, if you know you are going to be tired it’s probably worth getting an airport transfer to your final destination. Book a hire car for the following day when you have all got a good night’s sleep and feeling a bit more refreshed.
38 When you are flying with kids, do not worry about other passengers reactions. Focus on dealing with your children and keeping them comfortable and entertained. If a problem does arise all you can do is try your best. The majority of people are understanding, and those that aren’t are not worth worrying about.
39 Before you fly, investigate if the airport has a play area the kids can use. When you get through airport security head straight there and let them play as long as you can. Whether you have one, two or more kids, by the time the get on the plane they will be pleased to sit down and have a rest.
40 When you are flying with kids, try and give yourself plenty of time at every stage from getting to the airport, getting through security and boarding your flight. There is nothing worse than trying to rush through an airport with 2 or more kids to get to the boarding gate on time.
Road Trips with 2 Kids or More
41 Having things to do when you are travelling with 2 kids in the car is super important. As soon as my kids could reach each other in the car they became a bit of a liability on road trips. The problem is if they get bored and the only focus they have is each other things can go down hill very quickly. Without something to do or some guidance then they will probably start hitting each other. Activities in car that will keep journey peaceful and safe for all are essential. Think tablets with headphones, books, toys and a well stocked toy tray.
42 Plan for your breaks ahead of any car journey as you will all need a comfort stop. The younger the children the more stops you will need. With a baby it will be at least every 1 hour 30 minutes, and with older children you might need to stop every two hours. Getting out of the car and stretching everyones legs will help prevent boredom and frustration while you are travelling.
I hope you enjoyed these essential tips for travelling with 2 or more kids. Did I miss anything? Please do leave a comment below with your tips and tricks for travelling with kids.
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