As a parent, I’ve recently been provided with information and travel tips to make travelling simpler (if that is at all possible) with young children. The first lot of info received was at an AA (Automobile Association) breakfast in November and the next was from Pampers in early December. (I am a member of the AA and have only used Pamper for both my kids)
I didn’t plan to blog about this as I deemed the info to be “common sense” then there was the recent news report of a 6-month old who died as a result of being left in a car while the parent went to the store… (and, children and babies dying as a result of being left in motor vehicles is pretty common – you should check it out when you get a chance). Then there are the many accounts of children not being strapped in because “they didn’t want to” – choose Life people! Use duct tape if necessary. So I guess sometimes we just need to be reminded of the goals at hand.
I have a 2 year old and a 7 year old. Both boys. Travelling, by whatever method, can and has been fun for most of the time – if planned. There are generally two areas of consideration when travelling with kids: Logistics & Security. Here are some of the tips from the AA and Pampers along with my own good experiences.
Before you leave:
- Children are prone to car or motion sickness so be prepared for this. Consult your doctor or pharmacist ahead of time and get the right medication according to age and weight. Most of these will need to be administered prior to departure.
- To avoid frustration, confusion and last minute run-around on departure day, start packing a few days before you leave. Discuss with your children what they want to take with and if they are old enough let them pack their own bags; with some guidance of course.
We once arrived at our destination and my oldest son had just packed his swimming costume and toys in his suitcase – now I always check what he has packed! Then I pack what he needs into my own suitcase as I don’t want to detract from his independence.
- Get your car packed and ready the night before if you are planning to leave early in the morning. This includes getting snacks, drinks, a spare set of clothing, first aid kit and other essentials prepared.
We always pack bottles of water and plastic zip-lock bags of healthy snacks for the kids. (The empty bottles come in handy when you are just not going to make it to the next toilet stop with 2 boys in the car too…) The AA gifted me some of those snazzy roll-up water bottles which are also great and will be used on our next journey (you can buy them from any AA Store).
- Toys, books and other things to keep your children occupied should be stored in the car where it is easy for them to reach while not causing any safety concerns.
- If you have a portable DVD player make sure it is charged and the screen set up where it won’t distract the driver – and remember to ensure the screen is securely fastened so that it won’t fall down and cause injury.
- Make sure your home is secured and you have made the necessary arrangement to ensure you can enjoy your holiday with peace of mind.
I am an AA member and keep my AA Membership Card and the AA Emergency Call Centre number (0861 000 234) at hand.
Some serious considerations:
- South African law states that all vehicle passengers must wear a seatbelt at all times and the onus is on the driver to ensure this happens!
- A baby should be in an approved and preferably rear-facing child seat.
- Older children (15-25kgs) should be secured in a booster seat with a seatbelt on, preferably in the rear of the vehicle.
- Never place a child seat in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with airbags unless they have been deactivated.
- Small children (less than 20kg) should not sit in the front passenger seat if the vehicle has a front passenger airbag that has not been deactivated.
- Never allow children to stand on seats or sit on other passengers’ laps!
- Ensure doors are locked and activate the child locks on rear doors to avoid children opening them while the vehicle is moving or in unsafe places.
- Make sure your baby is not exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time while in the vehicle – block the sun with a towel or shade screen.
- Never leave your baby, child, or pets unattended in a vehicle – temperatures can easily reach over 40 degrees Celsius within a very short period of time and this can lead to heat exhaustion and even prove fatal.
- When parking, make sure you have good access to the side of the vehicle that your child’s seat is fitted on
The onboard rules for flying with babies and small children varies from airline to airline. You need to comply. Non-compliance is a serious aviation offence. I found that babies are the easiest to fly with as they don’t have an opinion on how they want to be strapped in. Speak to your kids before you fly about how the flight will “look like” to help prepare them for their exciting adventure.
Travelling with babies:
If you’re travelling by car, Pampers Institute member and leading paediatrician, Dr Hari recommends planning the trip around baby’s routine. “Try driving at night or early in the morning when baby is most likely to sleep. I also suggest sticking colourful pictures of babies or flowers to the back of the seat facing baby. A good baby car seat is essential to ensure safety.”
If you’re travelling by car, Pampers® Institute member and leading paediatrician, Dr Hari recommends planning the trip around baby’s routine. “Try driving at night or early in the morning when baby is most likely to sleep. I also suggest sticking colourful pictures of babies or flowers to the back of the seat facing baby. A good baby car seat is essential to ensure safety.”
Renowned parenting expert and Pampers® Institute representative, Sister Lilian offers the following advice: “Long car journeys need to be broken frequently to take into account the short concentration span of your little ones and their need for movement. Also ensure that baby is not hungry when setting out, and avoid any foods that give unnatural energy highs like sweet or savoury treats and flavoured drinks.”
- Feed during take-off and landing: babies can’t pop their ears, so it’s helpful to offer a bottle to ease this pressure.
- Pack plenty of formula, bottles, food and enough water for bottles and cereal. If you’re nursing, stay well hydrated so that you produce enough milk throughout the flight.
“Flying with baby from a week or two after birth is possible if all is well with mom and baby. With that said, it is often advisable to wait for the first six weeks to give both mom and baby time to get to know each other well and adjust to their new life together, so that mom is quite comfortable handling baby. It is also a good idea to be sure that baby is well which is usually confirmed at the first check-up at 6 weeks.”
“It is important to treat any colds or blocked noses and upper respiratory or ear infections, as excessive mucus can increase the discomfort experienced from pressure in the ears on take-off and landing. Baby should not drink for between one and two hours before take-off, so that there is a strong urge to drink when in the plane to help equalise pressure,” adds Sister Lilian.
Keeping boredom at bay:
- Take regular breaks. Make sure to stop every one and a half to two hours (or every 200kms) to give yourself a break and also give children the opportunity to run around and burn off energy. There are plenty of great child-friendly rest stops along all major routes that cater for both yours and your child’s needs.
- A great way to avoid the inevitable question “are we there yet?” is to give children a map (or even more fun, help them make their own before you leave). You can trace the route together and point out interesting landmarks so that they will have a sense of where they are going.
- “I Spy” and “Car Cricket” are great ways to keep children occupied and entertained on long trips.
We also get the kids to draw the scenes that we pass by if we are driving.
- Use sing-along-songs and CD stories to keep children entertained (and create family traditions along the way).
Safety & Security:
With the festive season around the corner and dreams of a hot summer holiday on all of our minds we cannot help but try and ignore the terrible road statistics that we face each year. These can be even more terrifying for mothers. As mothers there is an inherent need to protect our children but, between the adverts and the mixed messages, sometimes things are just not clear.
Gary Ronald, Head of Public Affairs at the AA shared the following advice if faced with a potential hi-jacking or armed robbery situation while travelling:
- Co-operate: You’re not Batman! Comply with requests and don’t be aggressive.
- Don’t make any sudden movements that will alarm your attackers.
- Avoid eye contact.
- Tell your assailants what to do! They are likely to be confused at the time and will be open to instructions.
This advice applies to travel and home-based security too.
Travel Bag Checklist
Sister Lilian suggests the following essentials for your travel bag for car and plane travels:
- A bag of special little toys that are only used in the car. Make sure the same toy is not given on each journey
- Music that soothes both little ones and their parents
- Mobiles dangled from the roof of the car
- A bunch of keys and a magnet are very useful for fascinating older babies endlessly
- Older children respond well to recorded stories
- A change of clothes for inevitable spills and leaks
- Pampers® nappies and wipes
- Bottles and a non-spill cup
- A security item from home like a blanket (also for warmth as flights can be very cold)
- Rubbish bags
We keep these EVERYWHERE! In my handbag, behind each of the car seats for the kids to be self-sufficient in tidying up the car and in every backpack that we use for day outings.
- Baby food utensils and cups
- Toys that baby hasn’t seen before
- A jacket and cap for small babies
- Healthy snacks like dried or fresh fruit
- A dummy for those who make use of one
If you can, get all the essential bulky items delivered or bought for you at your holiday destination so that you don’t have to pack these in your suitcases. I have always “pre-ordered” nappies, wet wipes, and baby formula when the kids were babies. This really helped me to travel as light as possible and not have to worry about anything other than the children in transit. My family and friends would be roped in to provide things like camp cots, strollers and car seats to prevent a lengthy wait at baggage collection when flying. I’ve also found it essential to only hire a car with aircon especially if travelling during the South African summer.
The key is to PLAN the length of your trip. Be honest about what you and your children can handle in the way of a road trip. While older children might be able to deal with 10 or more hours in the car, younger children simply can’t. Generally speaking, young children should not be subjected to confinement in a car for more than 6 hours a day. This is just as much for your sanity as it is for theirs.
Likewise, the trip home after the holiday is always the least enjoyable part. Ensure not to rush home as this will put you and your family at risk. To ensure your safety all the way home, rather treat the trip home as part of your holiday – so keep your speed down and enjoy the scenery.
Of all the above, the most important tip is to keep your sense of humour and wits about you. A long trip need not be stressful and can be a great opportunity for the whole family to reconnect and talk about plans for the upcoming holiday.
The Automobile Association (AA) has been the trusted champion of the South African motorist and traveller for over 80 years. Along with our AA Accredited Sales Agent stores located countrywide, the AA offers access to 31 Member-only benefits in 1 card as well as other travel and mobility services that extend far beyond 24-hour roadside assistance – from technical and legal advice to emergency rescue services and roadside security. The AA Fleetcare team will take care of your corporate needs. The AA Technical College offers a specialised apprenticeships to help motor industry players build in-house skill, and short skill courses for individuals.