Travelling with children can be a bit like taking a herd of wild goats on  holiday. Whether they’re your own or someone else’s, factoring a child’s needs  into your travels involves a lot more than sticking on a CD full of pop music  and making toilet stops.

Here two Rough Guides writers share their hard-won wisdom. First up, mum  of two Hayley Spurway offers advice on travelling with toddlers, then Ross  McGovern reveals how he manages to travel with older children.

Take your time
The greatest thing you can take – whether at the airport, sightseeing or  getting from A to B – is extra time. Toddlers love to explore and don’t care for  the time pressures of travel, so you’re more likely to all retain your cool if  you factor the faffing, gawping, stalling, toilet stops and tantrums into your  timeframe.
Book ahead
Whether you’re camping or staying in hotels, it pays to book ahead. Trying to  retain the spontaneity of travel BC (Before Children) doesn’t pay off if you  arrive at your destination to find you can’t bag a bed or pitch and have to hit  the road again with tired, hungry toddlers melting down in the backseat.
Give them a camera
Giving toddlers their own (robust, child-friendly) camera encourages them to  observe their surroundings and focus on what interests them. You might be  surprised at the results from their knee-high view. Amongst pictures of feet and  wheels, my three-year-old has shot flowers, animals, helicopters, boats, rocks  and rabbit poo.
Be prepared for the climate
It’s simple advice, but children dressed comfortably for the weather and  terrain will be happier in a new environment. With all the gear available,  there’s no excuse for dressing toddlers in ski-suits four sizes too big,  forgetting their gloves, or leaving them barefoot on a beach where sea urchins  lurk.
Pack Pull-Ups for potty training
Planes and public transport during the potty training days can be a  nightmare. As if you didn’t have enough in your hand luggage, now you’re  expected to add a potty, three changes of clothes and bags of wet, stinky pants.  Potty-training gurus may disagree, but if toddlers are still having lots of  little accidents then I’m all for putting them back into Pull-Ups on the  plane.
Be app-y
Thanks to toddler-friendly apps, there’s no need to cram a toy box into your  hand luggage when travelling by plane. By all means take a book and a magic  scribbler (crayons just get lost down the side of seats), but the most compact  form of entertainment is a device loaded with apps and games.
Use public transport
Most toddlers love the novelty of travelling by train, bus and boat, so ditch  the hire car and use public transport where possible. In Switzerland, my  two-year-old would repeat the names of the metro stops as they were announced – provoking ripples of laughter and making him even more excited about boarding  the train each day.
Keep bugs at bay
Whether you’re travelling to Paignton or Peru, antibacterial wipes and hand  sanitizer are handbag essentials. A wipe of the cutlery in restaurants where  you’re unsure of hygiene, or a squirt of hand sanitizer when there’s no washing  facilities, can zap a few germs and prevent toddlers catching some common  bugs.

Don’t forget the medicine

Whether they’re out of routine, jet-lagged, or eating less healthily, kids  always seem to get ill on holiday. Dampen the impact of broken nights, frayed  temperaments and fevers by packing an easy-to-swallow medicine such as Calpol or Panado. Other basic ingredients in your first aid kit should include antiseptic  wipes, plasters, sting treatment and a thermometer.

Don’t let the children pack their own rucksacks
We once went on a trip with our eight-year-old, who complained incessantly  that her backpack was too heavy. The reason why? She’d brought along her entire  collection of fossils “just in case”. Do let the children have input but  remember to edit this heavily before departure.
Keep the activities coming
If you’re heading out on a long journey have a collection of toys to be  handed out once an hour. Handheld puzzles, tiny colouring books, stickers,  wordsearches and even tiny packs of Plasticine will pass the time on a long  flight or car journey.
Have a number of family games ready in case of delay.
Punch-buggy and padiddle are popular, if violent, favourites  for car journeys, whereas more cerebral ones like the Alphabet  game are safer for air travel.
Avoid sweets
Resist the temptation to keep them going on a long journey by feeding them  sweets. Pack a mixture of savoury snacks like cheese cubes, breadsticks, fruit  and bagels – anything to avoid arriving in a strange city with children in the  middle of a sugar rush.
Encourage them to keep a travel journal
Get your kids drawing and listing things they’ve seen and interesting foods  they’ve tried. Who knows, this might also encourage them to try different foods.  Collecting postcards from places you visit and asking them to write themselves a  message on the back means they can reach adulthood with a library of memories  all their own.
Remember the medicine

It should already be on your travelling list, but having kids along means  carrying a small first aid kit is all the more vital: plasters, antihistamines  and sachets of painkilling syrup can save a lot of stress later on.  Antimalarials are also available in liquid form.

Brand them

If you’re going to be travelling through busy, crowded airports or transport  hubs, write your mobile number on your child’s arm in permanent marker in case they get  lost.

Check your passports

Children’s passports only last five years and they have a habit of running  out when you’re not looking. Allow at least four weeks to renew one. The cost of  a last-minute passport is astronomical, and particularly galling if you only  realise it’s necessary when already in the ferry queue at Calais. Don’t ask us  how we know this. We just do.

Remember the baby wipes

Even if all your children are long out of nappies, don’t forget the baby  wipes. They’re useful for washing hands, cleaning toilet seats, and wiping down  restaurant tables. In the same spirit, little bottles of hand cleanser can be a  lifesaver in some countries, but check the travel regulations for liquids well  in advance.

Engage and involve older children

The best way to avoid a soul-destroying sulk from your teenager is to involve  them in the planning of the holiday and ask them for input on what they’d like  to do. You might be surprised to hear it’s not spending all day on the  internet

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