The thought of travelling with young children, whether by car or train, can be nerve-wracking. But if you are prepared, it can go quite smoothly.
- Pack Wisely – Packing essentials are important. Yes, you need clothes and shoes, but don’t forget medicine (Calpol/Nurofen, Piriton), sunscreen/aftersun, mosquito repellent and a first aid kit. Let your child pick one or two favourite books and a stuffed animal/comfort blanket.
- Keep Them Entertained – In the car, we mostly let our children watch DVD players for long car journeys (we bought a in-car system off eBay for about £100). We also play a game where everyone picks one colour and whoever sees the most cars of that colour in an allotted time, is the winner. I-Spy is another good game, and it can be played in a car or train. Colouring books, activity/puzzles books and travel board games are also great on trains. My children love stickers, so sometimes big, easy-to-peel stickers and blank paper is better than anything. Modern ways to keep entertained on trains include, portable DVD players (with headphones), iPads/tablets and kids’ apps on smartphones (though Mummy/Daddy might want the use of their smartphone).
- Give Your Child a Gift – All children love gifts. You don’t even need to wrap it up (though that would make it up more exciting). Get them something new (and quiet), maybe a sticker book, Lego or notebook with gen pens. My seven year old is always excited when she is given a new book (or those stupid Shopkins toys). If you’re driving, give the kids a new DVD or a car-friendly travel game like Guess Who.
- Pack Plenty of Snacks – My children eat constantly. For a two hour trip, I bring two portions of fruit, one sandwich and a cereal bar for each child. For longer trips I add crisps/oat cakes/crackers, raw vegetable sticks and raisins/bear fruit. Hungry children get angry and grumpy. And no one needs that. I also bring plastic bags to put our rubbish in to keep things tidy. Messy cars and dirty bags make mummies grumpy. And no one wants that.
- Take It Easy On Sugar – Yes, chocolate and sweets/candy are yummy. But you do not need your children to be on a sugar-high when in an enclosed space. You could always save that chocolate bar or bag of sweets as a treat for good behaviour at the end of the the car/train ride (yes, I use sugar as a bribe, don’t judge me).
- Don’t Travel at Peak Times – Obviously, sometimes you cannot choose when to travel. But if you can, try not to drive/take a train during busy hours. Last summer, we accidentally went on holiday on the busiest travel day of the year. The traffic was so bad that it took us 10 hours to drive to the Lake District rather than six. We ran out of food by the eighth hour, and it got ugly. Though you can’t carry as much when travelling by train, it does mean that you won’t have to worry about traffic. We’re planning a a mini-break to York during the May half-term, and we’ll be taking Virgin Trains East Coast so we can all relax for once. And if you’ve pre-booked a seat, then that makes life easier too.
- Plan Your Route – Know where you are going. If driving, don’t wait until you get in the car. Research routes ahead of time. If taking the train, make sure you note down train stations and times; figure out how far it is from the train station to your accommodation and whether you can walk or need public transport or a taxi.
- Don’t Stress – Worry if something bad happens, but don’t worry unnecessarily. You’re about to go on holiday with your family. It won’t be perfect, but you will be together and the children will be happy. That’s all that matters.