Half-term is just around the corner (how did that happen? We just had Christmas. Honestly, these kids have got it easy) which means parents all over the country are planning activities. Fun days out, play dates and holidays. Whether you’re planning a family break for February half term or just day trips, you need to be armed and ready to survive the journeys.
Flying from Glasgow to London, following our Christmas break, a few weeks back, I very nearly opened a can of whoopass on a gentleman sitting in the row in front. My toddler was screaming in a particularly spectacular fashion because she was tired and wanted her dummy. We wouldn’t give it to her, because we knew she wouldn’t sleep, she would just grin at us in a ‘ha! Gotcha!’ way, like she’d done at the start of the flight. The gentleman kept turning around to glare at us – helpful, sir! Just what I need when I have a screaming child next to me. But we stuck to our guns, I bit my tongue and rather than doing the easy thing and giving toddler her dummy, we distracted her and she calmed down. Phew!
But this episode got me thinking… there are definitely things us parents can do to make journeys go as smoothly as possible…
1. Break up the journey into lots of small parts. If you’re driving, make a few stops (check which service stations have play areas if the weather is dry) and if you’re flying somewhere, treat each section (drive to airport, bus to terminal, check-in, departures, plane) as a mini adventure, with activities for each part.
2. Pack a mini cool bag with snacks and drinks. It’s amazing how much of a happy distraction an apple or some rice cakes can provide if produced at the right moment. Equally, you’re giving yourself a headstart if you avoid one of The Big Two causes of a tantrum (hunger and tiredness, as if you didn’t already know).
3. Time your journey well. Speaking of The Big Two, try to avoid the other one: tiredness. Got a toddler who naps well in the car? Time your journey so that you leave at nap time. Got a child who sleeps best while lying on you? Get on your train/plane at nap time. Just be prepared for nap time not to happen at all, which leads us onto…
4. Produce small distractions at regular intervals. I usually have a Peppa Pig magazine, the free toy that comes with it, some small books, colouring pencils and a toy figurine. Rather than give them all to my toddler at the start of the trip, I hand them over one by one, with an excited ‘Wow! Look what I have!’ production each time.
5. If all else fails, reach for the iPad. You can get some pretty cool headphones designed especially for young children, and thanks to BBC iPlayer’s download feature, you can load it up with some CBeebies programmes like Woolly & Tig or Numtums, that you can watch without any 3G or wifi connection.
If all else fails, stay calm and bite your lip. Whether you’re on a daytrip to a theme park or a longer journey to a holiday park, the journey won’t last forever…
Do you have any more tips for travelling with a toddler?