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Traveling with Children

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February 17, 2016 by Polarn O. Pyret

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Polarn O. Pyret marketing director, Petra, describes her family’s Christmas trip to Malaysian Borneo. She shares some tips and tricks on what to think about before, during and after a trip.

 

Our adventure is getting closer – we are going to go to Malaysian Borneo with all our family over Christmas and New Year. I now feel the children are old enough, 7 and 9, for such a long journey. We grown-ups are looking forward to lazy days on the beach and exciting excursions into the rain forest. The children are thinking about what will happen on Christmas Eve. Will they get any presents? What kind of Christmas sweets will there be? And how will Granny and Granddad fare back home? And who is going to look after Plutten (our hamster)?

Traveling with children is absolutely fantastic, you get to experience the world through their curiosity and joy! But it can also be a challenge, not least on long haul flights with young children. It can be difficult for children to imagine the journey and they say that a big part of the pleasure of traveling is the expectations ahead of the trip. I therefore tried to involve the children as much as I possibly could before we left.

ADVICE AHEAD OF THE TRIP
1. Check out images of your travel destination.
2. Explain your travel plans for each day in detail.
3. Investigate if there are any TV programs, or YouTube clips you can watch together.
4. Give your children a travel allowance in the local currency before the trip, foreign money is exciting!
5. Involve your children in the packing, particularly hand baggage.
6. Buying a new book or new game for the journey is a good idea.

Our flight took nearly 24 hours, including three stops. It went surprisingly well, although long haul flights with children are always hard work. They can easily get ants in their pants and want to run around or become overcome with tiredness.

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ADVICE AHEAD OF A FLIGHT
1. Let children decide on their own hand baggage.
2. A backpack as hand baggage is the best choice as there can be long walks between transfers at airports. Make sure they don’t pack too much, otherwise it might be too heavy for a small child to carry.
3. Don’t forget to pack their favorite cuddle toy and books, tablet, maybe a new comic, games and puzzles.
4. Airline food is not always that good, so take some “emergency provisions”.
5. It can be cold onboard the aircraft, not least when you are trying to sleep, we usually take cozy long pants, tops with long sleeves and a hoodie. If you are traveling to a hot country, it can be a great idea to pack shorts and T-shirt to change into before landing, otherwise it can be a bit sweaty.
6. Always pack a change of clothes – bags can go on a walkabout and other incidents can easily occur.
7. Psst… don’t forget to make sure you as a parent also get some sleep during the flight.

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There at last! The sun is shining and the water is glittering.

TIP TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM HEAT AND SUN
1. UV protective clothes are super efficient.
2. Sunscreen with a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
3. Sun hat or cap.
4. Don’t spend too much time in the sun. Take plenty of cooling breaks in the shade. Play games or read a book.
5. A bathrobe can be comfy in hot countries during sun breaks.
6. Make sure your children drink plenty of fluids, one smart idea can be to give them slices of watermelon or cucumber etc., that have a high water content.

A long flight, new environment, new food and plenty of swimming have a tendency to affect us all, not least children. Both my kids suffered a bout of tourist tummy, with vomiting, diarrhea and fever. We were on an island two hours from the nearest town and nowhere near healthcare at the time. Stressful obviously, but the worst of the fever passed after about 24 hours.

ADVICE IF CHILDREN FALL ILL DURING THE TRIP
1. Contact your travel insurance company before you go to check what you should do if someone falls ill.
2. Always take a travel first aid kit with fever medicine, thermometer, rehydration treatments, insect bite and sting relief, nasal spray, skin ointment. Other things that can be worth taking include bandaids, things for simpler dressings such as compression bandages, wound wipes and microtape, tweezers, scissors. We needed all of the above during our trip!

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The food in other countries is often exciting but can also be a bit strange and different to our eyes. I think that you experience a country largely through food and tried to persuade my children to try as much as possible. But naturally, there are limits – congee with duck eggs was a step too far for all of us, as was dried and shredded octopus and chicken congee. You have to accept that eating pasta carbonara three evenings in a row is not the end of the world.

Borneo is 7 hours ahead of Sweden, so we were a big jet lagged. We managed really well in both directions but it was easier going, than coming back.

ADVICE FOR MANAGING JET LAG
1. Explain to children what it entails so they understand what to expect and why e.g. they should not go to bed even though they are exhausted.
2. Make sure you get out in daylight as much as possible.
3. We found physical activities also helped.
4. Try to stick to local meal times.
5. Allow 2 days to adjust in peace and quiet in both directions, you will then be over the worst!

Now we are back home, we are going to make a delightful photo album to remember our trip during the rest of the winter. That’s right, we celebrated Christmas Eve in the rain forest, in our party best albeit in need of ironing, eating broken ginger biscuits and Christmas marshmallows flown all the way from Sweden. Even the kids thought it was fantastic. Plutten the hamster and granny and granddad also had a great Christmas back home.

HERE ARE A FEW MORE TIPS FOR WHEN YOU ARE TRAVELING WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN
1. Take a laundry bag and a change of clothes. Nappies, wipes and a small plastic bag for soiled clothes if an accident happens. Wipes are a parent’s best friend when flying!
2. Feed your baby or let them suck a lollipop when landing and taking off to avoid too much pressure in tiny ears.
3. Give children nasal drops before boarding the aircraft and chewing gum to older children to help them chew away blocked up ears.
4. Take some powdered baby food in a bottle (add water during the flight) or a carton of baby food to top up small tummies during the journey. Also worth offering if children get upset – calming effect.
5. Take small surprises that the children don’t know about. A small pack of plastic animals or a puzzle. Favorite film on the iPad. Teething toy for the very tiniest.
6. Dress them in soft outfits that are easy to change, onesies in wrap-around body with soft seams are easy to remove in a cramped aircraft bathroom.
7. Keep their favorite cuddly toy, blanket and possibly a pacifier close to hand.
8. Take plenty of drawing books or similar with you, they weigh nothing and take up no space.
9. A walk down the aircraft aisle with a 12-month baby that has just started to walk or a 2-year old with bundles of energy is a must. It can take a while and you will make many new acquaintances who want to have a chat on the way.
10. Pack a few extra nappies in your change bag if you don’t expect to be able to find nappies as soon as you arrive. Or make room for half a pack in your suitcase when you check in to be sure you have enough for the first few days.
11. Take corn puffs or small biscuits for “party” snacks for babies.
12. If you are traveling with several adults with small children– make sure you take turns.
13. If it is a lively journey with a cranky child who finds it hard to settle down. Don’t get stressed. All you can do is calm down.
14. When you book your seats on the plane – see if you can book seats with extra leg room so the children can feel a bit more free and have more space to play.

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