Travelling with 3 kids, regularly, on my own. I, all too often, get told:
You’ve got your hands full!
When you hear that about 20 times within 2 hours you start to believe it … But then if you do believe it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you’re lost!
You’ve got your hands full there! – I can’t tell you how many times I heard that sentence as I went through the airport couple of weeks ago.
At first, though I may have seemed flustered, due to the effort needed to get to the airport on time for our early morning flight, I just smiled and nodded.
Over the following 2 hours we went through the process of getting to our plane and this same sentence was uttered to me again and again. By the end I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream:
“Yes, I do have my hands full… with the crap I over-packed myself but not so much with my kids. They are actually being brilliant considering all the rushing and the excitement.”
We were all coping well, getting from point to point with least herding needed. I was pretty proud of ourselves! At the end of the trip I was patting myself on the back and trying to remember what are my coping tactics for next time, for I felt I had nailed it. So here it goes…
My top tips and tricks for travelling with three -8, 6 and 3 year old- kids, often on my own:
1, Who’s looking out for who?
Being chilled for me starts with being organised. Knowing where everything is in my bags and at the airport and having backup plans.
From a young age, 2 year +, basically as soon as they could understand, I’ve given my children the shared responsibility of knowing where I am, as much as me having to know where they are. That’s not to say I don’t pay attention, but it’s very different than having to keep an eagle eye on all three going in different directions, because they know mummy will run after them.
Kids are amazing at taking that responsibility and so are they at making sure a younger sibling is ok.
If one wanders off, I will say, after we caught up: “Oh I see you lost me! Sorry I wandered off.”
(If you haven’t used this before don’t start it with kids under 5-6 years old at the airport! Especially younger ones need to learn this in a less busy, safe environment.)
2, Get good rucksacks for everyone older than 18 months
Pull-alongs are great at the start of the trip (and if you have at least as many adults as kids): Trunkis, and similar, are brilliant and I LOVE them, but they are bulky and a pain to carry if you end up carrying a child and then dragging along another sleepy child with a third lagging somewhere behind, too tired to even pull Trunki.
My kids wear their own backpacks sleeping or not and I don’t need extra hands or to balance something else on my shoulder.
The kids have been great at packing their rucksacks and looking after them too.
Same goes for adults: a good backpack will give you 2 spare hands… a compromise is a rucksack with wheels.
3, Pack all fluids and electronics into ONE carry-on
This saves a LOT of aggravation at the security checks. For us this has meant that one or the other child got some of my stuff in their backpack- a book, a tshirt, etc.- in lieu of all the gadgets and creams, medicine I have in my rucksack.
4, Only essentials go in backpacks
What is in our backpacks?
If we have checked in luggage…. our rucksacks have a change of clothes and a toy, a book, a game and drawing material. Having had bags lost or delayed I always have a spare set of clothes for each child (and for myself). Each carry their own little bag.
If you are travelling with carry-on only…. each of us have a smaller daysack, like when we have checked luggage, and we have 2-3 large carry-ons between the 4 of us for clothes and shoes.
Remember, the more you pack, the more that can get lost, needs carrying and looking after!
5, Always have some snacks at hand
My favourite snack to have are raisins and other dried fruits. Muesli bars are also great!
Just don’t overdo it! The child does not need food shoved in his or her mouth every 5 minutes, so not too much and nothing messy or too sugary… you really don’t want kids on a sugar high either then coming crashing down.
6, Carry travel cup or water bottles for everyone
Travelling, we can get dehydrated so easily and that tends to make most of us ratty. Have water at hand.
Juice or milk go off in the heat. If it must be flavoured try some fruit tea… Works well for us.
We empty our water bottles before security and fill them up promptly after security- either from the tap if the water is safe to drink or divide up a large bottle of water between us. Saves money and the aggravation of a whiney child nagging “I’m thirsty!” just as you are queuing for boarding.
7, Schedule in loo breaks
…and make sure everyone goes at the same time!
This one is a constant battle for us with my daughter having a huge bladder of steel and sons having to go every 5 minutes. If disabled toilets are available aim for those, as you’ll all fit in. (Though some airports are now creating family toilets, where we can all squeeze in too. Some even have a kids toilet and an adult toilet side by side.)
8, Help the kids enjoy the experience
I explain each step we are doing to the kids beforehand and the ins and outs of the why we are doing it too. I’ve found this approach has tempered the pure excitement of flying and turned it into a learning opportunity.
Previously, I have thought of maybe even making a little map or scavenger hunt with the different steps of passing through the airport, but never quite got the time.
Have I missed anything? Add your own suggestions in the comments!
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