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Travelling with grandchildren

travelling with children

Now the summer holidays are looming, many of us are eagerly packing our bags in preparation for that much needed getaway. But whether you're travelling by train, plane or automobile (or coach, or boat...), if you've got the grandchildren in tow you may be bracing yourself for the journey ahead. But panic not. Here's how to be prepared and keep your grandkids busy on the trip so that can you can unwind, kick back and relax*. 

*term used lightly



1. Give yourself enough time

No matter how long the journey, make sure you give yourself enough time when travelling with grandchildren. As grandparents with very young grandkids will know, it's at the most inopportune moments when a child needs the loo or decides to have a tantrum in the middle of a busy train station.

When you have to catch a train or plane in particular, leave masses of time to get to the station or airport - for your own sanity if nothing else. Children can get just as agitated as grown-ups about catching a different form of transport than they're used to. Nothing is so infectious as panic, and if you think you are cutting it too fine, your anxiety will communicate itself to your grandchild.



2. Preload the iPad 

On short journeys of half an hour or less, just being on a train, plane or in a car will provide enough amusement for most children, but on longer trips additional entertainment will no doubt be needed.

Small and compact, an iPad or a similar tablet device is perfect for keeping the little ones entertained on a long journey. Make sure you preload it with fun games, creative apps and their favourite films and progammes - you can download them from BBC iPlayer for free. It will keep them amused for hours, and you, when they finally zonk out.

"My two-year-old granddaughter would watch Peppa Pig for hours on the laptop if we did not hide it."

 child on a plane



3. The gift that keeps on giving

You may not agree with spoiling children with gifts, but it's definitely worth making an exception when you're planning a long journey. Even the simplest of gifts will do the trick...and they don't have to be expensive.

"The stickers kept him quiet for two hours!"

"My daughter bought small bits and bobs from the Poundshop and wrapped them up for the kids. My grandson was given a small parcel as required and had lots of fun opening them up and playing with the contents." 

"Little new presents at regular intervals are a good idea. The novelty value works for ages."



4. Consider all eventualities

It's just as well to take colouring books and crayons (they'll probably be part of the pick-it-up-throw-it-back-on-the-floor game if anything) to bring out with a flourish when boredom sets in, a great children's book to read, drinks and snacks to be doled out at intervals, and perhaps even a change of clothes in your hand luggage (following consumption of said drinks and snacks).

As The New Granny's Survival Guide suggests, "There's a great selection of children's magazines on the market and these can be a perfect treat for the journey. Some of the activities within them may need your help (depending on the ages of the children), but even browsing should keep them happily occupied for a while." 

And one gransnetters has been particularly helpful with a tip to minimise the number of times you have to scavenge around under seats for crayons... 

"When you get crayons for the colouring books try to get triangular ones, not round ones, otherwise you will spend most of the time on the floor picking them up." 

 child travelling



5. Get creative and get them talking (quietly)

Whether it's drawing, scrap booking or even a game of good ol' I Spy, getting creative is a great conversation starter. And while it might be limiting as to what you can find on a plane, if you're travelling on the road or on a train, there are great games you can play just by looking out of the window. 

"I used to make my grandson little scrap books to look at with pictures I cut out of magazines. It gave him things to chat about."


Fun travel games to play with your grandchildren:


  • Looking out of the window to spot cows, sheep and horses helps to pass the time, and you can play games like 'guess the animal' - one person thinks of an animal and the others ask questions until they guess it.  
  • I Spy - an oldie but goodie, and a chance for you to use your surroundings to your advantage.
  • Not finishing a word (for older children) - each person in turn says a letter, the object is not to spell a complete word, eg 'c, r, u, s', and if the next person says 't' he loses a point. Warning: this can be a maddening game.
  • Number plate anagrams (if you're in a car) - choose a number plate on another car, and then it is the first person to make a word using the letters in the right order. So if the letters on the plate are PHP, you might say 'PERHAPS'.
  • Download a map or make do with a road atlas. When your grandchildren are not studying the map, encourage them to look for signposts. "Are we on the A420 yet?" is a slight improvement on "Are we nearly there?"
  • Making the journey fly - if you’re travelling on a frequently stopping train, draw a chart showing the various stations, and you can cross each one off as you arrive at it.

 travelling with grandchildren



6. Make sure teddy/dummy/blankey are ready at hand

Settling a small child or baby on the plane may be a challenge, but even more so if you don't have their favourite blanket or cuddly toy. One gransnetter warns, having learned the hard way, "Don't forget their comfort object, whatever it is."

Being on a plane can be uncomfortable at the best of times, especially if you have to tackle a toddler's fear of flying or a baby experiencing pressure difference.

"Have a bottle of something for the baby to suck on during take-off and landing (if he/she is still awake) to alleviate the pressure difference in the ears."


7. Space...and lots of it

On a plane or on a train it's a good idea to find out if there are any spare seats up for grabs to give your grandchildren more room to play (also an excuse for you to stretch out your legs).

"Ask the cabin crew when you board if the flight is full. If it isn't you could ask to move seats so that you have more room. An empty seat gives a lot more space for a child to play." 

travelling with children


8. If all else fails, wear them out and schedule in some Zzzs

If you're flying long haul with a baby or a toddler, it may be worth finding out if there are cots available for that crucial nap time - or use up their energy before you board that flight. With any luck they'll be asleep for most of the flight!

"My granddaughter had a skycot last time and it was super!" 

"Spend time at the airport walking/running around so that by the time you board she is very tired and ready for a nap." 










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