Top tips for smooth sailing (or flying, or driving) on your next family getaway! Some find the term ‘family vacation’ to be an oxymoron – is it really a holiday if you’re still up at the crack of dawn? Or coping with a tantrum in the middle of a busy airport? Well, I can’t help much with your little one’s sleeping habits, but I can suggest 5 easy tips to a more harmonious holiday – from beginning to middle to end. If you adopt the Scouts’ motto of ‘be prepared’ – you truly will be

Timing… As they say, timing is everything – and that applies to every level of your getaway. From your journeys to and from, to how you plan your days, good timing can make all the difference. Try to arrange your flights (or drive times) based on two things – when your child is the most cheerful and when they are likely to sleep. Some mums swear by overnight flights, but others say first thing in the morning is the only time to go. You know your child best so try to make arrangements accordingly. While at your destination, try not to over-schedule your days. If your child is still napping, don’t look at that as an inconvenience or being trapped in your room. Why don’t you take the opportunity to rest – hang out with a book on the balcony or luxuriate in a nap yourself… you’re on holiday!

Toiletries… You’re no longer traveling light anyway, so why skimp on the things that keep you clean and comfortable along the way? Wipes, wipes and more wipes will never go to waste (even if your child is out of diapers). Great for taking care of sticky faces and fingers, they are great to have on hand to clean up spills (on yourself, your clothes, your belongings) and to use as a cloth to clean up public areas (remember not to flush them!) Travel-size hand sanitizer, as well as moisturizer, toothpaste, mouthwash, and soap can come in handy. For your tot, don’t forget to bring Benadryl, acetaminophen, oral re-hydration mix, and antibiotic ointment. Having these items in your carry-on is a must. If your luggage gets lost or your child gets sick in the middle of the night, you won’t have the stress of finding a drugstore. All the liquid items in travel-sizes should fit in a one-litre size Ziplock, which is what airport security will allow through. If you’re driving instead of flying, try to have these items close at hand or at least where you can easily find them.

Toys… Regardless of the age of your child, you must stock your bag with enough distractions to keep them busy for the duration of your journey. For babies this could mean little board books or soft toys with lots of ‘bits’ attached. For older kids, this could mean a portable game device or DVD player. New stuff will hold attention for longer but you needn’t spend a fortune. The dollar store is great for trinket-y toys, and if they’re lost or broken it’s not a big deal. Another trick is to stash away a few favourites for a month or so before your trip, and re-introduce along the way. Wrapping the toys can mean an extra few minutes of dedication as well.

Things that your child normally only enjoys at parties or on special occasions can be brought out when necessary – after all, what is a vacation if not a special occasion? Can you tell that I’m justifying giving my daughter chips and cookies to keep her quiet on our last flight? Well, it worked. If your child is past breastfeeding, bottles or pacifiers, things like lollipops (sugar-free if you must) are good to keep them sucking during landing. But a treat doesn’t have to be food. Now can be the time when Junior finally gets to check out your coveted cell phone or fancy watch. Just make sure you supervise closely – but you’ll probably be picking it up off the floor a million times anyway.

Temperament… This ‘T’ may be last but it certainly isn’t least, and it applies to both you and your child. It means you’ll have to schedule and plan according to your child’s temperament, and you’ll also have to keep yours in check. If your 3-year-old is introverted, or easily over-stimulated, perhaps save Mickey Mouse for next year… If the guy at the check-in counter gives you a hard time, or your flight is delayed, stressing out about it or losing your cool doesn’t help anyone – least of all your child. Traveling can fray your nerves; people are rude, flights get delayed, luggage gets lost, and drinks get spilled. If you’re organized AND mentally prepared to chill out and go with the flow, your child(ren) will follow your cues – or at least you’ll be ready to cope when they don’t! Let’s face it, your life has changed dramatically since you had kids – why would the way you travel stay the same? Vacations give you the opportunity to explore together, and re-connect as a family away from the busy-ness of your daily lives. Whether it’s 2 weeks in a tropical destination or a night away in a country inn, getting away from it all does everybody good!

Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel– your online guide to traveling with babies and toddlers. For more information please visit or send a message to