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Planning Travel – how long is too long for your kids

We’ve travelled some very tough routes over time and learned early on about how much ours kids can take before they start to lose the plot!

This post deals with a few really important points to consider about the length of your travel time when planning a trip with your children.

I could give you countless stories and examples that will illustrate what is written below but we have done travel that many would consider extreme virtually without incident, simply because we planned well.

One of the most arduous trips was taking our (then) 3 children (5,3,1) from Tanzania to Australia by myself.  This involved:

  • 6 hours by bus, including the border crossing into Kenya

    Travelling hours by bus

    Travelling hours by bus

  • Nairobi Airport and 5 hour flight to Dubai
  • Overnight in Dubai
  • Fly Dubai to Perth, Australia
  • Overnight Perth
  • 13 hour delay in Perth Airport due to weather and Qantas work-to-rule industrial action
  • All night flight to Melbourne
  • 4 hours in Melbourne Airport
  • 1 hour flight to Mildura, Victoria, Australia

    Flying

    Flying

= 5 days, Planes, buses, Taxis, hotels – you get the idea – and no major meltdowns or tantrums!

Here are some keys to successful travel on long trips:

Know what your children can handle

We had travelled a lot and learned from our own children and observing other families what our children could handle in terms of time door to door and the number / type of transits.

We set a maximum door to door time of 27 hours before our kids (and us) needed some Rest & Relaxation.

Know Your Time Limit!

Know Your Time Limit!

I remember observing 2 families who were on a flight to London with us – they had come direct from Sydney.  We had joined the flight in Dubai.  The kids were getting more and more restless as we got close to London and then the drama unfolded.  Heathrow was closed due to extreme flooding and we had to circle for 1 hour in bad turbulence waiting for permission to land.  Unfortunately it was just too much and the kids lost the plot.  They also got sick and the stress on the parents made them sick.  It was just pure chaos and totally awful – we felt so sorry for the parents.

In the midst of all this, our kids were fine as they had not just flown from Sydney (14.5 hours) plus Dubai stop-over (approx 4.5 hours) to London (7.,5 hours + 1) = 27.5 hours plus transit / airport time etc, so more than 30 hours.

The parents and children were beyond their ability to cope with the stress.

The key point here is – set your maximum time DOOR to DOOR!

Ensure you account for Airport Time

When you are organising your trip, add in sufficient time for travel from your accommodation to the airport and then the time at the airport – with kids for international travel, we used to allow about 3 hours if possible.

Remember: everything takes longer in the airport when you have children.

Busy Airports

Busy Airports

  • Check-in – you have more bags, more passports, more boarding passes and more chance of having to sort out seating issues.
  • Security will take a lot longer with more bags and perhaps one of you doing the 4+ bags and the other taking care of the kids.
  • They can’t walk as fast to the Gate
  • There is the stop to change nappies or take your young one to the toilet

Plan your travel breaks / transits well

The first priority is rest, not activity.  6-8 hours of good sleep in a comfortable bed we found did

City Transit

City Transit

wonders for our kids.  We generally bokked hotels at the airport or close to the airport when we had shorter transits – less than a day.

If time allows, try to do one or two activities so the children enjoy this exotic, new place.  Remember though not to be rushed and too full, otherwise they will be tired for the next travel leg.

We often travelled on a fairly tight budget as we were doing voluntary work in Africa but still managed to enjoy some good activity in most places we transited.

We were prodigious  uses of sites such as booking.com to find the best available accommodation deals – we stayed in some amazing places at great rates :).

 

Price is not the only factor when you book your travel

The route and flight timing were more important to us than the price when planning and booking our travel.  Price was still vital as we did not have a lot of spare cash but we quickly learned that a ‘saving’ in an airfare can quickly be spent in other ways as you embark on your travel.

Route, Flight Times and Price involves compromise – think through it very carefully

A few things to consider:

  1. Length of various flights
  2. Transit times
  3. Do you have to change airlines?
  4. Luggage allowances and handling – can you check your luggage all the way through?
  5. Nature of the transit city / location
  6. Accommodation options – including distance from the airport, transit transport options and closeness to any activities
  7. You can easily spend your ‘savings’ on cheaper flights by
    1. Excess baggage – for every flight you take
    2. Extra transit costs in transport and accommodation when flights do not connect well
    3. Problems happening with one airline affecting the next airliner and no recourse as they are not the same carrier.  You may only have insurance to help you financially later!

Pack sufficient for your travel time

The longer your trip, the more stuff you need to take.  Consider some of the following key items:

Pack to match your distance

Pack to match your distance

  • Enough Nappies for door to door travel time
  • Enough snack food – quantity, quality and variety
  • Entertainment for the plane and airports – books, ipad, drawing, games etc.  See my page on what to pack for more ideas.
  • Sufficient changes of clothes, including multiple climates and sleeping
  • Medicines

 

 

Travelling with young children can be very rewarding and also really challenging.  However, with careful planning and implementing a few simple guideline you can make your travel experiences something you will cherish and even look forward to.

I trust you found this post really helpful if you are considering a long journey with your children.

 

Feel free to leave any comments, ask any questions or share your stories – what experiences have you had or what have you found really helpful for long journeys?

 

Thanks again

Richard

 

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Richard

owner and creator of the website

2 Comments

  1. Richard,
    The article was great!
    You seem to have all the bases covered. I will look forward to reading more as time passes. And I’ll be sure to share with my family members, some of whom live half-way around the globe. They’ll be in for a 14-17 hours trip when they come to visit next summer.
    Cheers!

    • Thanks so much for the comment. I hope the information is useful and hopefully your family members will find it useful! Traveling is far less stressful if you are well prepared.
      Regards and all the best.
      Richard

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