For mother’s day this year we’ve teamed up with Nika Kai Travels, our favourite lifestyle and travel journal for modern families, to bring you a compilation of tips for parents travelling with kids. Created by former financier and fashion entrepreneur Tania Reinert, Nika Kai Travels offers useful, reliable and honest tips for parents travelling the world with tots in tow. Our favourite features are the candid interviews with mums in Asia who share useful tips and anecdotes about motherhood. We rounded up some of our favourite travel tips from five modern mums who make juggling careers, family and their own wellbeing seem easy – hopefully they help you on your next flight.
Tania Reinert, Founder of Nika Kai Travels, and mum to Nika and Kai
- Be smart with your flight bookings. Fly at night. Especially long haul. If you need to have a connection, one connection is more than enough. Two connections will drive your children feral and exhaust the hell out of you.
- Bring snacks – the more the better! But make sure they are light coloured. White Grapes, edamame, cucumbers, carrots, celery (but take out the stringy bits to prevent choking), white rice crackers and small Annie’s Crackers, mini pretzels, lollipops (ideally homeopathic ones but anything goes when traveling), a few raisins and fruit pouches – although careful with the latter, as hyper toddlers and babies have a tendency of squeezing them all over themselves. My children love fresh bread, so I sometimes even bring half a baguette. Bananas (too mushy), strawberries (high stain potential), crackers that crumble, and boiled eggs (too smelly) should be avoided.
- Take a BabyZen Yoyo stroller and an I-Love I-Angel hip carrier. The carrier is useful when the baby gets restless on the plane and you need to walk up and down the aisle. The pram acts like a trolley and is great for bigger toddler and kids up to five.
- Take toys, preferably new and interesting ones. I like to make surprise boxes that change their contents as kids get older. From sensory wooden spoons, post-it notes, to cars, rattles, small figures, and stickers). Whatever it is, novelty, variety and age appropriateness is key. An iPad with cool apps is also good for bigger kids (we love Yatatoy and Peppa Pig World apps). Plus make sure to bring a headset that’s kids appropriate.
- If your kids are loud and rowdy, as mine can be, then the best place for you is economy class. Business class is better catered to solo businessmen, the ones who give you death stares when your kids cry. Premium economy is a better option if you really don’t want to fly economy. Seriously though, my fave flying is in economy front row with my inflatable Plane pal. You get double the room, no one cares if your kids are screaming and you can put a blanket on the floor for babies who like to crawl.
Joleen Soo, founder of social impact agency Catalysta, and mum to Gabriel and Olympia
- Always have a stock of gummy bears.
- Throw out your belief that TV shows and iPads will rot your kid’s brain, because it will save your sanity.
- Having a washer/dryer in the apartment at your destination is key.
- Ask the hotel to stock what you need before you arrive: they’re always talking about excellent service so let them prove it to you (and most of the time they will as long as you are not too demanding).
- Bring a very compact foldable stroller like the BabyZen Yoyo or Pockit.
Jane Michael, Editor of Luxe City Guides and mum to Teddy and Colt
- Minimise luggage and wear a backpack – if you can get it there, don’t pack it. Cots, car seats, and prams are often available via hotels, villas and even Air BnB. The exception is the BabyZen Yoyo pram. This is worth owning/bringing as it collapses to fit in almost all airline overhead storage bins so it’s handy for navigating through airports and it won’t get lost en route. Being handsfree is also essential, so wear a backpack and get toddlers their own little wheely suitcase. They love having their own bag to push along and it means you’re not carting absolutely everything for everyone on your back.
- Make sure everyone is wearing comfortable and ‘easy’ clothing. Buckles, clips, laces etc are fiddly, frustrating time wasters. Pack several changes for everyone stored in ziplock bags.
- Bring plenty of distractions and bribery – snacks, toys, screen time. Ignore all the rules. Do whatever it takes.
- Ask for and accept help – you don’t need to be a hero. It takes a village, or sometimes a whole cabin/taxi queue/ferry/rickshaw. And if all else fails, call in the big guns (aka Grandma).
- Do your research. Download any relevant local transport apps, book fast track tickets, locate the nearest park, know the opening hours. Don’t wait to get caught out somewhere before scrambling for this info.
Norbyah Nolasco, teacher, blogger, activist, and mum to three
- Ignore others on the plane who might get grumpy with you for travelling with kids. Your children have the same right to travel and see the world as they do. You’ll only stress yourself out if you worry about what they say. And none of that ‘making little packs of nice things’ for the people sitting around you – that trend is just ridiculous.
- Pack snacks. We make sure to have enough on hand to keep tummies from getting too empty. Kids meals on aeroplanes are not that kid friendly. I’m convinced that people who create kids meals on planes don’t actually have children. They should keep it simple.
- When they’re old enough, have them carry their own backpack. For us, that was at about 18 months old and we had them carry small little backpacks with a few of their things inside. It gets them to be independent and responsible. As they grow older, they’ll carry all their things and even pack those bags by themselves (with a little guidance so that you don’t get stopped by security). I love that my kiddos know how to make decisions about what they need.
- Book long-haul flights thoughtfully. When our kiddos were very small, it was worth the extra money to fly direct. Now, we usually have a layover, so it’s nice to choose a good airport with plenty of things to keep kids occupied. One of our favourites is Seoul Incheon because they have plenty of kids areas and the whole Korean culture centre with activities for all. The other thing to take into consideration is the time of day. If we have an option, we always choose to land between midday and afternoon so that there is time for them to get out and play before going to bed at night.
- Buy them their own kid-sized headphones. We learnt the hard way after many frustrating flights trying to fiddle with the ones the airline provided, that we were better off buying the kids their own pair that fit. If they were content, so were we.
Sabrina Sikora, model, photographer, blogger, and mum to Adam and Eivor
- Bring a roll of duct tape with you. Not for keeping your kid in their seat on the plane (tempting!), but for childproofing the hotel room. You can close drawers, cover outlets, and pad corners in seconds flat.
- There are no screen-time limits on planes (with the exception of scheduled sleep times). He is now at an age when he can “plug-in” and zone out and his attention span is long enough for a movie. I also add a few new apps to the iPad the day or two before we leave and surprise him with these on the plane. “Beck and Bo” and “Bugs and Buttons” are two house faves that keep him busy the longest. We also love the “Endless Alphabet” and “Endless Reading” apps by Originator Inc.
- Use a backpack and check everything else. This keeps your hands free to multitask. I may look like a pack mule with a kid on the front and the backpack on the back, but it makes everything easier! Use snappy straps and carabiners to keep sippy cups attached to the stroller and toys and pacifiers to the carrier. This minimises things getting thrown or lost along the way.
- Zipper pouches from Muji making packing and unpacking loads easier. The top is mesh so I can see what each pouch contains. Adam and Eivor each get their own pouch with the small accessories in another. I pack a larger empty one for dirty laundry to keep it all straight. When we get to the hotel I can just throw the pouches in the drawers and not have to rummage through a huge suitcase to find a tiny onesie.
- An endless supply of snacks (nothing sugary) and more clothes, diapers, and formula than you think you need. I pack about three days worth of diapers in my bags as I find it so annoying to have to run out immediately and restock as soon as you land. This allows us to settle into the hotel for the night and enjoy our morning and then leisurely pick up what we need as we are out and about the next day. There is no scarier feeling than when you realise you only have one diaper left and hours before you arrive.