1) Travel with friends and/or family.
The extra pairs of hands and eyes makes such a difference and the kids can rotate their ‘love and attention’ more evenly giving everyone a break. Also, the more of you there are, the less it seems to matter what complete strangers think and the whole experience becomes less stressful. It’s like you have back up. (Of course, it’s irritating as hell when other people start acting like they own the place and they allow their kids to run riot!)
2) Give the kids some responsibility.
Even young children enjoy pulling a bag, that contains their stuff and that they can be responsible for. If it’s packed full of their toys, so much the better. Even better give them something of yours to be responsible for, a job, sa, They have to keep all the family phones, pods and pads charged up. Or they have to keep an eye on the Departure boards. 90 minutes till boarding etc.
3) Start the holiday as soon as you arrive at the airport.
Airports need to be fun places, not torture chambers. Let them pick a new toy, a magazine and some snacks. But pace yourself. Like Santa Claus, these treats need to be used as bribes/incentives/rewards for good behaviour so don’t blow them too soon.
4) Stress is contagious. Reduce your own stress levels.
As you know, kids will catch anything airborne or otherwise and stress is no different. The more stressed you and your partner are, the more wired your kids will get. Do everything in your power to reduce your own stress levels. Be ultra-organised and make sure you start your own holiday at the airport too. Give each other time to shop for a little treat of your own, to start the holiday off with a smile.
5) Pack a decent picnic.
Save your holiday money for treats, not sustenance. As well as sandwiches, pack small fiddly snacks that will keep the children focused and busy for as long as possible. Make sure you all have your own bottles of water.
6) Buy activity or sticker books.
Encourage them to buy themselves books, that will keep them occupied for good lengths of time.
7) Start a holiday journal.
See the Family Travel Journal for great ideas! Or if you must insist on a screen, use them positively. Many gadgets have video and still cameras and voice recorders. Why not have them start a holiday project like a vlog or a video diary, describing or summarizing every place they’ve been? Or buy them a scrapbook so they can keep receipts/tickets etc and write down their thoughts and impressions as they go. Perhaps as a gift for a grandparent or the school? Edit it all together when you get home.
8) Allow the kids some freedom to explore by themselves.
Mark out a territory or a zone, not too far from you, get them to promise to stay within it and let them go. (Then when they get too rowdy you can pretend they’re not yours and carrying on reading your book).
9) Pack lots of wipes. (This should go without saying!)
Also don’t throw away any empty plastic shopping bags you might collect. They will always come in handy.
10) Screens are a must: iPods, iPads, PSP, Nintendo’s DVD players etc.
Make sure you ration battery charges though, as your onward journey may be even harder for the children. So grab all opportunities to keep batteries charged at max. Most airports have coin operated charging stations (little lock boxes) somewhere.