Sunday 23 October 2016

How to keep children happy when coping with travelling this Easter

When it comes to travelling with children, mums know best

Arlene Harris
Arlene Harris
Ali Coghlan loves to travel with her children
Simon Cowell and baby Eric

He may be a multi-millionaire used to living life in the lap of luxury but as a parent, even Simon Cowell has had to endure the stress of travelling with small children. On a recent trans-Atlantic flight, the music mogul was annoyed that his infant son Eric was the cause of discomfort to fellow passengers.

Like most 13-month-old babies, Eric found it difficult to stay quiet and calm for the entire journey and doting dad Simon tweeted his irritation as the occupant of a neighbouring seat (in first class no doubt) showed his own displeasure at the disruption by tutting and eventually asking to move to another part of the aircraft.

Anyone with children will be familiar with the combined effort of trying to keep your youngsters happy as you embark on what should be a stress-free family break.

We spoke to parents and experts to find out how to ensure everyone has an easy ride whether it's a long car journey or an epic trip around the world - surely there must be some way of making sure little people are kept busy and tempers are kept in check.

•Ali Coghlan lives in Wicklow with her husband Stuart and her children Harry (5) and Nicole (1). As the owner of her own party business called the mother of two is well-placed to offer advice on how to keep little ones amused while you ferry them safely from A to B.

"We drove to Rosslare last year and then took the ferry to France, where we had booked two different campsites for our stay there. We stayed in one for a week and then travelled further south for the second week.

"It was the first time we had travelled by car and boat with the children and I was a bit worried about how to keep them occupied during the journey, so I put a bit of effort into planning ways to keep them busy.


"I packed two small travel bags for each of them with some small things for them to play with along the way such as colouring books, colouring pencils, stickers, small toys and balloons. I also made a rocket out of a cereal box to store books on the back of the car-seat for my son.

"I covered the cereal box with tinfoil and gave him a sheet of stickers so he could decorate it on the journey.

"This was a big hit. It was also handy for him to have his books within reach inside the rocket. I find having a good supply of snacks at hand also works a treat, particularly small food that can be easily eaten while on the go. Raisins are great - especially as it takes ages for the kids to eat them.

"All-in-all, my preparations definitely worked but like all children, mine also have their moments so when all else fails I think a good old fashioned game of I Spy always does the trick.

"Luckily I've never been in the position where other passengers were irritated with our kids as we always choose family-friendly holidays.

"But if someone was cross with my children I would just smile and kill them with kindness as there is no other way to deal with a situation like that and I wouldn't want to waste any energy on them."

•Jacinta Leigh lives in Dublin with her husband Cormac and children Quinn and Fay, seven-year-old twins. She runs her own textile company called specialising in personalised soft toys and like Ali, says planning is crucial when it comes to going away with children.

"The longest journey we did with the children was when they were four and we went on the ferry to Holyhead and then on to Manchester. We tend to holiday in Ireland and so far we have been to Waterford, Cork City, Rosscarbery, Bantry, Kenmare and Camp.

"When the children were younger, travelling was more difficult as something would always happen at the last minute but it has got easier. I always make sure I have an organiser for the back of the seat with their books and pens in. I also make a check list about a week beforehand and stick it on the fridge so I can tick off what needs to be done.

"We don't have TV monitors for the back of the car as instead we get audio books from the library.

"I like the fact that the children can look out at their surroundings while at the same time be carried away in their imagination through the story being told.

"I always have a cooler bag with drinks and snacks and a new book or toy for them to play with. Simple word or memory games are also a good way of passing time as is some music that we can all sing along to.

"Most of the time my preparations are enough to ensure a stress-free trip but when we came back from the UK on the ferry, the weather was really bad and there were a lot of people being sick - so that wasn't a pleasant journey.

"We also had a hairy moment on the way to Rosscarbery when Fay woke up screaming and then vomited. Cormac and I got really worked up as we thought that something was seriously wrong. As it turned out, she was fine and so was the rest of the holiday."

•Child psychologist, Peadar Maxwell (inset right) says while travelling with children can be a hassle, it can also be a magical opportunity to teach them about different parts of both our country and the world. So he advises parents to look on the journey as a mini-adventure and make sure to plan in advance.

"Long journeys require planning as children of just about any age will get bored or restless and that can result in crankiness and misbehaviour which takes from the trip," he says.


"Parents should explore with their children what needs to happen to make the trip go well. That could mean books, toy and games as well as drinks and snacks to help delay sugar lows and pangs. Some families may also need to have some agreed rules for particularly restless children such as 'this is your budget for the airport' or 'let me know when you are getting restless and we can go on a walk.'

"Try not to think of their boredom and misbehaviour as something personal against you or that it means they don't appreciate the value of the trip: Bored children seek entertainment even of that means making trouble."

The Wexford-based psychologist says we all know children are likely to become fractious on long trips so rather than just waiting for it to happen and then having a big family bust-up in public, we should anticipate the possibility and plan for it.

"Think ahead about what entertainment is available on the ferry or plane," he advises.

If the trip is about visiting relatives then talk about how important the trip is to you so that your child realises that although they are not going to Disney their cooperation is required and they can still have fun - whatever trip you are taking, just make sure you think ahead as this is the key to keeping stress levels down."

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