As much as I love family holidays together, travelling with kids can be, well…a bit of a nightmare!
Packing for the whole family can become a full blown military operation ( I start 2 weeks before the holiday, yes really)- while flying with young kids (my own are worse on short than long haul-go figure?) can frankly, induce fine lines and grey hair by arrival.
Thank goodness for Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream pre and during flights, and in-seat yoga (and breathe)!
Seriously though, to avoid the headache, travelling by Eurostar with kids is far less hassle than flying when travelling to mainland Europe.
Eurostar have taken the stress out of preparing to travel, and the actual journey so getting away with all the family can honestly, be a joy!
And what’s more, children under 4 travel for free with Eurostar! Yes you read that correctly, FREE my friends!
I utterly adore the Eurostar, always have, always will.
I have many a sentimental memory of blissful train journeys and visits to Paris for girlie, romantic and of course family breaks in the capital. Touchingly, my Mum and I made several visit to Paris for wedding dress fittings a decade ago with designers Cymbeline at the famous Galleries La Fayette.
Ooh la la indeed!
But back to the brilliance of Eurostar and travelling en famille.
I love that their carriages are far more comfortable and spacious than that of a plane, allowing you and your fidgety little ones the freedom to move around.
A wander up and down the train is an amazing way to nip any temper tantrums in the bud before they begin, (which your fellow passengers will no doubt LOVE you for) and of course your holiday starts the minute you board, as you marvel at new sights and cities through the window.
Another great thing about travelling with Eurostar is that you can literally pack everything – (hello my whole wardrobe, because if you’re heading to Paris, a girl needs choice, right?).
‘How?’ I hear you cry.
There are literally NO weight restrictions on luggage, and each passenger can have 2 suitcases per person, PLUS hand luggage.
Photo by Kirsty Mattsson Photography.
It’s also the perfect mode of transport for family getaways or even if you’re just an indecisive packer cum fashionistas like myself!
As a family, we have been lucky to travel to some incredible countries and along the way I’ve picked up some valuable travel tips. So with the holiday season on the horizon, here are my top ways to make travelling as a family easy-
The early bird catches the…train
As all parents can vouch, everything with kids takes longer. Dinner time, bath time, bed time…and travelling is no exception. To make life easier for you though, Eurostar have check-in times that are just 30 mins before departure meaning more time for toddler melt downs, demands for food and general tardiness that won’t mean you miss your train. PHEW!
Check your passports
Just the two of us!
Unfortunately I had to learn this lesson the hard way when last year, my husband and eldest son Oliver were forced to stay home from a family holiday to Marbella, as we only discovered Oliver’s passport had expired the night before we were due to fly.
Passportgate was certainly not FUN! (Children’s passports are only valid for 5 years unlike adult’s). I still cringe now, thinking back to it and although Oliver and Peter had an amazing boys holiday in Wales, I always, ALWAYS make sure I check our passports’ expiration dates at least 8 weeks before travelling. You live and learn huh!
Start a family travel project
When I would vacay as a kid, I’d create a holiday diary where I would write and draw our journey and holiday (I was always destined to be a blogger!)
I used to love documenting and reliving my travels once home, and this is a tradition I’ve passed down to my sons, Oliver and Alexander.
The diary is a great way to keep kids entertained whilst travelling and allows you to truly capture all those amazing moments of your holiday, in a creative, stimulating way.
Plan for all weather
Here in the UK we’re used to unpredictable weather (shades and umbrella in one bag anyone?), so when we travel to sunnier climes, we pray for clear skies and warm temps. However, the weather across Europe can be equally unpredictable, so make sure you’re not caught out by packing waterproofs and plenty of layers to keep kids warm on the potential cool days and evenings.
If the sun shines, which it hopefully will, got forget the sunscreen and hats too!
Taking a well stocked first aid kit is a holiday essential here. You can either buy a pre-prepared kit or make your own that can be tailored to your holiday. For example, if you’re planning on doing lots of outdoor activities, then pack lots of band aids.
First aid kits basics include antihistamines, kids aspirin and Calpol, re-hydration solution, travel sickness pills, tweezers and support bandages.
Buy a child locator
Even the most-hawk eyed parent worries about their kid running off and in the excitement of going on holiday, children have a tendency to stray off exploring their new surroundings.
Thanks to the wonders of technology (one above is a Filip Wearable Child Smart Locator and Phone), you can now track your kids’ whereabouts with lightweight, wearable devices that set off a sound alarm if your child exceeds a certain distance, allowing you to track them down.
These devices offer peace of mind on your travels.
Make sure you take plenty of blankets in case your babe wants to have a nap. When the kids were younger, we would always try and time nap times around travelling as much as possible, hoping that they would sleep for the duration of the journey. This often meant travelling by night if we could if it fitted with the schedule.
Travel pillows for the whole family are a must and will prevent sore necks too.
Take plenty of snacks and drinks
The fabulous thing about travelling by Eurostar is that you can take your own food and drink on board – this is especially great if anyone in your family has allergies or dietary requirements, and is also perfect for tiny fussy eaters too (and those like Xander who likes to eat with chopsticks)!
Keep kids hydrated with plenty of water, and satisfied with healthy sandwiches and snacks that provide slow releasing energy. My boys love a little pack lunch box and I always carry bananas in my bag.
Do avoid sugary snacks and drinks like the plague – hyped-up kids in a confined environment is a recipe for disaster. Full kids equals happy kids.
Take plenty of nappies, travel nappy changing kit and swimming nappies
Changing your little one’s nappy whilst travelling is not a pleasant experience. Changing facilities on most airlines are pretty basic – if they even exist at all- and changing a nappy in public is not going to make you the most popular with fellow passengers.
Eurostar trains have dedicated baby changing facilities that are private.
For longer journeys, make sure you have plenty of nappies easily to hand, and a nappy changing kit including a mat, baby wipes and nappy rash cream.
If you’re potty training your kid, make sure you stock up on plenty of pull-up nappies, and don’t forget swimming nappies if where you are heading has a pool or beach.
Take a buggy
Even if you wouldn’t use a pram/buggy at home, I recommend taking one on holidays where you might be out and about exploring for long periods of time. That way, tour tot can rest their weary legs while the whole family is still on the move.
If you are heading to a rural or beach destination it might be worth investing in an all terrain buggy too.
I love this shot below, from a few years ago with both kids fast asleep on holiday!
Invest in a Trunki suitcase, and Enchanted Forest & Friends rucksack
Make travelling fun for your kids with a Trunki suitcase. These super cute suitcases also double up as a fun ride and ensure that the ‘journey is as enjoyable as the destination’.
They are the perfect way to keep kids entertained whilst travelling and they will love the sweet, vibrant animal designs.
Oliver loves a rucksack too. This one is from Enchanted Forest & Friends and is the ideal rucksack for storing a Jurassic Park style herd of toy dinosaurs in which *just have to come everywhere with us!
Take extra batteries, chargers and adapters
As a blogger/vlogger, I’m forever snapping away and filming our family holidays. I always take extra batteries, and to keep costs down, invest in rechargeable batteries.
Don’t forget your laptop, tablet and phone chargers too, and make sure, that you have an adapter for the country you are travelling to.
There’s an app for that
Beyond traditional travel games such as ‘Eye Spy’, apps for your phone or tablet are an ideal way to keep kids entertained during journeys.
There are so many brilliant apps at the press of a button so research and download pre-journey.
Entertain kids with games and DVDs
Stop the relentless ‘are we there yet?’ questions by keeping your kids entertained with DVDs.
It’s a good idea to invest in a robust, portable DVD player too, or you could alternatively use your own laptop.
We always carry headphones to keep the noise down for passengers.
I personally love playing traditional board and card games. You can also buy travel and pocket sized board games which make for excellent family fun.
Don’t forget to take books
Both my children are bookworms and not only does taking books away with us mean the kids are occupied, but my eldest, Oliver, aged 6, can also practice his reading.
We love to read pre-bedtime too, so packing some favourites means keeping up with bedtime rituals while in our new surroundings.
Pack a change of clothes for the kids
Spillages happen and are more likely to, when on the move. Make sure you take a change of clothes for your kids, as well extra layers, to hand. If you are travelling with a baby, then make sure you also take a spare outfit for yourself as well as them as nobody wants to travel with baby sick down them! Been there, done it and (sadly) worn the T-shirt!
Keep kids cool
We love a handheld fan, particularly as my eldest son is so seemingly hot-blooded. That kid is always warm, even when it snows?! Fans are of course useful in warmer climates and we always pack two on our travels. Xander insists we take the ‘fan’ above with us everywhere (I suppose it does the job)!
Keep it clean
Make sure you pack plenty of baby wipes for sticky fingers, spillages and foodie faces. Hand sanitiser is also a must to keep bugs at bay too.
Parents, do you remember life before baby wipes?! I literally use them for everything-cleaning jewellery, shoes, wiping down tables and of course my kids!
Buy an extra seat
It always amazes me how such tiny beings can take up so much space, but kids need room and if you’re travelling with 2 or more kids (if budget allows) I would recommend buying an extra seat, where you can store toys and extra clothes.
And don’t forget yourself!
Photo by Kirsty Mattsson Photography.
When packing and planning for a whole family it can be easy to forget about yourself. Make sure you take plenty of your own books, magazines and music to keep yourself entertained on the journey – especially for when the kids are occupied and napping. Hello Beyoncé! Dancing in your seat (considerately) is allowed you know! Ha!
…I always take my laptop with me too as I find that travelling leaves me feeling most inspired, so it’s a great time for me to write.
I hope you’ve found my tips useful, I’d love to read yours in the comments.
I am a spokesperson for Eurostar and this is a commissioned post. As always, all opinions are my own and honest.