Booking family travel by plane, train or bus
If you’re booking family travel by plane, train or bus, here are things to consider:
- Timing: if you can, it’s good to book flights or train or bus trips for times when your child is likely to be well rested.
- Seating arrangements: check whether you can book seats with more room for babies and children. On planes, you might be able to book bassinettes for babies. Choose aisle seats so it’s easier for your child to get to the toilet.
- Toilets and change rooms: check whether there are child-friendly toilets and change rooms on board, and whether you can book seats near them.
- Food: for plane travel you might be able to pre-order children’s meals. For bus and train travel, check whether you can buy food on board.
Packing for family travel on planes, trains or buses
If you’re travelling by plane, bus or train, it’s a good idea to pack things for the trip in a bag with plenty of pockets and compartments. This can make it easier to find things when you need them. It’s also good to involve your children in packing. This can get them interested and excited about the trip.
What your children need depends on how old they are and where you’re going.
For older children, it can be good to pack:
- spare clothes, in case of spills, accidents or delays
- disposable or cloth wipes
- disposable bags – handy for rubbish, vomit or soiled clothes
- refillable water or drink bottles
- healthy snacks
- books, toys and games – ask your child to help you choose
- medicine if your child needs it
- hand sanitiser
- a first aid kit.
For babies and younger children, it can be good to pack everything on the list above and add:
- nappies or pull-ups
- a travel change mat that’s lightweight and easy to store
- your child’s favourite cuddly toy, if they have one
- blankets or wraps – muslin wraps are great because they’re lightweight and take up little room
- a pram or child car seat, if they’re needed and not available where you’re going.
Preparing children for family travel by plane, train or bus
It’s a good idea to prepare your child before you set off on your plane, bus or train trip. For example:
- Explain where you’re going, how you’re travelling, and how long it will take in language your child can understand.
- Talk with your child about things that might worry or confuse them, like going through security at airports. Explain that they might have to take off their shoes or anything that has metal in it, like a watch, and walk through by themselves if they can. And explain that they won’t be able to carry their toy or backpack through the security gates.
Getting help at the airport or bus or train station
If you’re travelling with children, and especially if you’re by yourself with children, you might be able to get some help at the airport or bus or train station. For example, you might be able to get:
- a stroller at airports
- priority boarding
- staff assistance with getting on and off buses and trains.
If you can’t get help from the airline or bus or train company, a family member or friend might be able to take you to the station or meet you at your destination and help you.
If you’re travelling with children with additional needs, you might need to give extra thought to things like packing your child’s medicines and equipment, preparing your child for travel, getting help at your departure and destination, and so on.
Entertaining children during family travel on planes, buses and trains
Long trips can be challenging for children. Family travel is more fun for children and easier for you if your children are entertained. Just be mindful of other travellers. For example, have some headphones handy if your child is old enough, and encourage them to talk and play quietly.
Here are ideas to entertain children during family travel.
Babies and toddlers
- Take books that you can wipe clean.
- Pack toys that are age-appropriate, safe to use, lightweight, easily stored and easily cleaned. Avoid packing toys with a lot of separate pieces.
- Keep toys in a bag and give them to your child as you travel, rather than all at once.
- Borrow some ‘talking books’ from your local library before you leave home, or download audio files.
- Play ‘I spy’, alphabet search or guessing games like ‘I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 10’.
- If you have a screen or tablet device, make sure it’s fully charged and you have plenty of movies loaded onto it.
- Take some music that your child enjoys, or make a playlist with your child before you go.
- Take some games – for example, checkers with magnetic pieces or card games.
- Use sticker books or blank books and coloured pencils to keep your child’s imagination and hands busy.
- If you’ve got more than one child, pack toys and books for each child. This can help to keep everyone happy.
The change in air pressure on planes can give children sore ears, especially during take-off and landing. Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding babies can help with this problem. If you can, time your baby’s feeds for take-off and landing. For older children, a drink of water in a spill-free cup or bottle can help.