Travelling with 3 kids, often, 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”
Especially as, I felt, my kids were behaving relatively well, considering the excitement that flying always entails. We were all coping well, getting from point to point with least herding needed. I was actually 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, Try to be a chilled parent and give kids responsibilities
Being chilled for me starts with being organised. Knowing where everything is in my bags and at the airport and having backup plans.
Aged 2 and above I have always given my children the (seeming) responsibility of knowing where I am, instead of me knowing where they are. They are amazing at taking that responsibility and so are they at making sure a younger sibling is ok.
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.
2, Get good rucksacks for kids and yourself
Pull-alongs are great at the start of the trip. Trunkis 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 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.
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 and so on I had in my rucksack.
4, Only essentials go in backpacks
What’s in the backpacks? A change of clothes and a toy, a book and drawing stuff. 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 that with just a couple of toys/things to do in it. My philosophy is KISS…
Remember, the more you pack, the more that can get lost or needs looking after!
5, Always have some snacks at hand
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. My favourites are raisins and other dried fruits.
6, Carry travel cup or water bottles for everyone- with water
Juice or milk go off in the heat. If it must be flavoured try some fruit tea. Works well for us.
We empty these before security and fill them up promptly after security. Saves money and aggravation of a winey 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 you can all squeeze in.)
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.