Travelling with children can be full of special memories and happy family times, but for those faced with long haul flights and jetlag, it can also introduce its own set of challenges. Fortunately, families will be well cared for at The Chesterfield Mayfair, which has a thoughtful range of family-friendly services, whether you require a travel cot, a colouring book or would like to make use of The Hotel Nanny. Here, travel expert
Cass Chapman, founder and director luxury family travel website kodomo.com, shares her tips on how to make travelling with the kids as stress free and smooth as possible.
Can you tell us about your first experience of travelling with children, and what you learnt from it?
“In all honesty, Lola (now six) was a delightful but unplanned surprise. I was working diligently as a travel writer and away about four times a month when I found out I was pregnant. Our first experience of travelling with her was our honeymoon, when she was 14 weeks old and I was determined that parenthood wouldn’t stop us travelling as we had always done. We wanted her to come away with us and flew to Mallorca. Looking back now, it was clear we had absolutely no clue. I didn’t even think to call ahead and check with the airline what we could bring on board, so we decided to leave her buggy behind; lugging her through Gatwick quickly got very heavy and, not realising how long things like airport security took with formula, we missed our flight. We quickly learnt to do things properly, though, and now we’re a tight ship. We get to the airport early, we plan way ahead and before Lola turned one she had been on 25 flights. They’ve not all been smooth sailing, but we now have another daughter, Maya, and seem to know a little more about what we’re doing.”
What are your packing essentials to help ensure a smooth journey for all?
“You can never have enough wet wipes! I always bring a change of clothes for me and the baby, and if we are flying long haul, I bring little gifts for the kids. They can open one on the hour, every hour, and they are always things that can be used on board so it really breaks the journey up – things like crayons, pads and sticker books. With babies, I don’t move without Calpol – love the stuff or hate it, you don’t want to get stuck at 36,000 feet with a screaming baby who has ear ache. Oh, and those Bose noise-cancelling earphones are amazing – Lola used to hate loud noises so take off was difficult – we popped those on and she was oblivious to the roar of the engine.”
And how do parents keep their cool while travelling?
“I think kids, especially small babies, feed off their parents vibes, so if you feel stressed they will quickly pick up on that and get stressed too. I really believe that if you’re privileged enough to travel with your kids then you shouldn’t be put off by flights and jetlag – it’s so worth it for the memories you have as a family and the interest children naturally develop in travel as a result. Just think of the destination and the journey won’t be so bad, but being prepared for bored, tired or hungry children will make things easier – that reminds me, bring snacks and water because plane food, despite the day and age we’re in, is still generally dreadful for kids. If you can manage it, I’s also recommend bringing a blanket and pillow so they can get really comfortable and sleep.”
What are your favourite ways to keep children occupied during long journeys?
“The gifts on the hour every hour definitely help, and when we’re on board all bets are off – they can watch as many movies as they want, so long as they don’t annoy the other passengers!”
Are there any requests that guests travelling with children should make to their hotel pre arrival?
“Absolutely. A lot of hotels claim to be family-friendly and they aren’t always (or they may be but they have limited gear), so call ahead and reserve high chairs in the restaurants, cribs in the bedrooms – anything you’ll need. Also, if you’re going somewhere with sitters or a kids’ club, call and see if you need to book them in ahead, especially if you’re going at popular time, such as New Year. On the other side of the spectrum, there are some amazing family-friendly hotels and resorts that think of everything but, again, if you’re traveling with young children, call ahead and see what they have because the more they have (such as baby monitors, bottle warmers and sterilisers, for example) the less you need to pack. Unless you’re heading to rural Siberia, you don’t need to bring a million wet wipes and nappies – just bring enough for the first day or two.”
How does travelling with children change as they get older?
“It definitely gets easier and the excitement levels go through the roof! Lola, particularly, has an innate interest now in other cultures and countries that I really believe comes from having travelled so much. Of course, with that comes an opinion on where we are going and she now has an allegiance to a beach holiday in America with friends – she is more interested in the familiar than exploring new places at the moment, but we understand that. The bigger they get, the easier it gets, though you can’t buck jetlag no matter what age they are.”
What are your suggestions for making the most of precious holiday time with your children?
“Avoid being glued to your mobile phone, take a break from social media and just enjoy being present in the moment, relishing it for what it is.”
What’s been your most memorable trip as a family and why?
“There have been so many and all have been different but wonderful in their on way. We drove up Route One from Los Angeles through San Francisco and all the way to Oregon when Lola was about six months old. She doesn’t remember it, but it was just magical and the first time we really felt like a family of three. Then, Maya came along last year and we took her to Croatia when she was six weeks old. It was stunning, breathtaking, and she slept in the shade on the beach while we ate mussels for lunch and practiced swimming with Lola. I also really recommend Asia with kids. We’ve had amazing trips there – they love children, it’s so exciting, and though it’s a long way, it’s so worth it when you get there.”
The Chesterfield Mayfair is delighted to offer parents baby kits, including moisturising cream and wipes, as well as child-size bathrobes and slippers.
Image Credits: Lead image © iStock/Cecilie_Arcurs. Cass Chapman portrait © Cass Chapman. At the airport with a child © iStock/RyanJLane. Children swimming underwater © iStock/Denis Moskvinov. Family on the beach © iStock/Cecilie_Arcurs.