Frequent European Travellers

Vanessa Layton is the founder of Hello, Charlie! and a happy Totseat retailer. She is also is a frequent traveller to Europe with her English husband and her two sons. Vanessa was kind enough to share some of her travel tips and experiences with us:

My husband is English, and my eldest son was born in England. We moved to Australia when our eldest son was almost two, and he’d been to Australia twice already by then. We’ve done a LOT of travelling back and forth with very young children.

Now that our children are seven and four, travelling in some ways is very different. Last month we did a trip back to Europe with them for the first time in two years, and in some ways it was a lot easier. The plane journey is definitely easier, no nappy changes in the tiny bathroom and the boredom factor is taken care of with seat-back videos and constant entertainment on tap.

In some ways, though, there are some things you need to do when you travel with children, no matter what their age is. Organisation is the key! I can already hear the groans, but trust me, as the veteran of at least half a dozen long haul flights with two children and innumerable short haul flights, I’m telling you - get organised!

Write yourself a list of everything that you’re likely to need with baby, and then try and pare it back to essentials. Take favourite things, comfortable things, and most of all, take things that you know you’re going to use. Personally, I hate travelling with too much gear, and I would rather handwash a few things every evening than take stuff that we don’t wear or use.

When you’re travelling with a baby, make sure you have at least two days worth of gear - nappies, clothes, wipes - with your carry on luggage. This was the only thing that saved us when British Airways lost our luggage after travelling for thirty hours from Melbourne to Frankfurt. They had complimentary packs for adults, but nothing for children ...

Be prepared to change your baby anywhere - I have changed mine in their prams, on tables, on floors, on beds, on train seats, in the boot of the car ... you name it, we’ve done it. Take a wipe clean change mat, and you’re ready to go anywhere.

I’ve also found that a portable highchair, wipe clean bib and your own baby cutlery is essential. Many places don’t cater for toddlers, making mealtimes stressful and not very enjoyable. Carry a few snacks and toys with you, and you’ll be well armed to distract small children while you’re waiting for meals to be ready.

Plan your day around your little ones, and stick to their routine as much as possible. If you have breakfast every day at 7.30, try to have breakfast at the same time on your holiday. Likewise, if your baby has a sleep in the afternoon, head back to the hotel for a nap, or perhaps plan to have a long walk with your little one in a darkened pram. I know from experience that my boys lose the plot when they’re tired, and when they’re hungry. Staying with your routine even on holiday will help avoid those screaming, stressful meltdowns!

Travelling with children is a great way to meet people. Be open minded and friendly, and you’ll be amazed at how people will help you out if you need it. We once had a lovely three course lunch in a restaurant outside of Madrid where there was no highchair. Seeing us juggling our 18 month old on our laps, a couple of friendly Spanish ladies took him from us and entertained him for an hour while we ate our lunch on the other side of the room!

On a bullet train in Japan, an elderly couple fed one of our children sweet rice cakes when he decided that he didn’t like the contents of the delicious looking bento box. In Germany, we were given an impromptu ice-skating lesson on an outdoor ice rink at a Christmas market when we mentioned we were Australian. In Kuala Lumpur, our children played with dozens of local children in an enormous playground in the centre of the city, while we chatted to other parents.

We’ve had such great experiences that wouldn’t have come our way if we hadn’t stepped out of our comfort zone and been willing to take the children somewhere new. The children are already planning our next trip!

Vanessa, it sure sounds like you have had some amazing experiences travelling with your kids. For more information on the Totseat, please visit Hello, Charlie! at www.hellocharlie.com.au

Continent: