FAMILY holidays with young kids are both brilliant fun and a headache.
But there are ways to manage the stress – and save some much-needed cash -with a number of clever travel hacks.
Pack all the snacks
This seems obvious, but a well-fed child is a happy child.
I load up on plenty of Oaty bars, mini breadsticks and raisin packs for flights and long car journeys.
Special mention to apples, which take so long to eat that they're an activity in themselves.
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Bring an onboard buggy
These are not cheap, with the Joie Pact costing around £150, but cabin-sized buggies are a gamechanger. Or you could just borrow from a friend, like I do.
Airlines usually let you take normal-sized buggies up to the plane, but then you have to pick them up from the luggage carousel on arrival at your destination.
That means both the lengthy walk from the gate and the passport control queue are buggy-less.
Onboard buggies fold up small enough that most airlines will let you store them in the overhead cabin, so you have them for every second of the journey.
Invest in a travel car seat
This depends on how often you travel, but we've bought the Joie Elevate car seat (priced from around £75) and have easily made our money back by avoiding paying for one during car hire.
It counts as one of your two free child items in the hold. Just make sure the one you buys complies with car regulations at your destination.
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Buy some new activity books and toys for the plane
Usborne sticker books, card games like Uno and Dobble, mini packs of Lego, Wiki sticks, crayons, they all help to pass the time – both on a flight and while waiting for food in restaurants on holiday.
We have also got an astonishing amount of use out of our mag pad.
Download some age-appropriate activity apps and TV shows on phone / iPad
Download some films and TV shows to keep the little ones occupied, or if you really don't like screentime, some audiobooks on Audible.
It's also worth investing in some decent headphones – my three year old has the BuddyPhones Cosmos+ – they combine Active Noise Cancellation and are volume-limiting, which prevents his ears getting damaged.
Go wild with large ziplock bags
I travel with around five XXL ziplock bags in one piece of hand luggage on flights, which divides up snacks, electronics (for ease at security), spare clothes, toys & activities and then my stuff like a book and headphones.
It makes them a lot easier and quicker to unload once you get on a plane and protects everything from any germs in the seat pocket – which cabin crew have long said are incredibly dirty.
Make use of the soft play / play area at the airport
Most UK airports have some sort of play area once you get past security.
Some are incredible (Heathrow) but even if they aren't it's a useful place for your child to blow off steam before they're sitting down for hours on end.
Ask to sit in the cockpit
This depends on the flight and the captain, but many pilots are happy to have a small passenger take a look around the cockpit.
On a recent delayed easyJet flight from Kefalonia to Gatwick, the brilliant captain let my son sit in his seat, press the red button on the joystick and even encouraged him to speak into the intercom.
It turned a nightmare moment into one of the best parts of our trip.
Make a packed lunch at the hotel breakfast
I often make cheese rolls at the hotel breakfast and take a few apples as well, for an easy, free lunch.
For extra cost saving points, take extra plastic bags for liquids when at airport security and use them to store the rolls.
Don't take the favourite teddy on holiday
Yes, your child will probably miss their favourite teddy but bring a lesser-loved stuffed toy along instead.
I learnt the hard way on a recent trip to Cape Verde, when my son's teddy got swept up with the sheets during a housekeeping clean.
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Yawning helps to ease pressure on the ears
Ear pain during take off and landing can make or break a child's flight experience and it is very difficult to get them to chew gum properly or blow their ears out.
I've found the best way to ease the pressure is to encourage lots of pretend yawns.
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