There are many modes of transport and like all things; there are pros and cons to each of them. Here are some tips on how to travel using the different modes of transport and see below on games to play with children while travelling:
There are many airlines out there and often they run amazing specials. If you are planning on travelling, it is always more economical to book your seats far in advance so that you can get reasonably priced flights. It is very important to pack extra nappies and clothes when travelling should your flight be delayed! With children you get different prices according to the kid’s ages. Here are the details on this:
Up until the age of 2, kids are considered to be infants and depending on the policy of the airline that you plan on flying with, they will offer a discount on the fare of the infant. There are types of discounts and this is important to pay attention to as many people don’t know this. When you request an infant fare, it is normally a fare whereby the infant will not have their own seat but sit on your lap for the duration of the trip. This is normally quite a good discount but can be a bit tiring to have the child on your lap the entire time. For safety, you will be given a seatbelt to attach to yours that will be used for the infant for takeoff and landings.
Another fare for an infant with a seat and although this is a discount, it is not as substantial as for the fare without a seat. If you are flying long distances, you can request a bassinet from the airline which is a small cot like bed that is attached to the wall and made up by the air hostesses. It can only take a certain weight and height so it’s important to ask the airline about this and as there are only a limited amount on the plane, keep this in mind if you book your ticket way in advance. You can also order them a baby meal but the airline will not be able to tell you what it consists of beforehand.
Between the ages of 2-11, kids are seen as children and although they receive a discount, it will not be as much as the infant. You can also order them a child meal and many of the airlines will give them something to keep them busy for a while.
From the age of 12 onwards, kids are seen as adults and will pay the full price of a ticket. This is normal standard practise across the airlines.
I am travelling alone and need help with the kids, what can I do?
Some of the airlines can arrange what is called a meet and assist. This has to be arranged in advance with the airline as it is not offered on all their routes. This means that an representative of the airline will meet you at the check-in counter and accompany you all the way to the plane and when you land at your destination, you will be met by someone from the airline who will assist you from the plane to your family/taxi etc.
I need to send my children to their grandparents/father/mother/aunt/uncle in a different province or country but can’t fly with them, what do I do?
If your child is travelling alone, this is called an Unaccompanied Minor and the airlines are very strict about the rules regulating this as once the child is in their care, they are responsible for their wellbeing. In South Africa, the only airlines that will do it are SAA and BA and has to be arranged well in advance with them. They will need to know the name, address, telephone number as well as I.D number of the person that will be dropping them off at their departure airport and the same details of the person who will be fetching them at their arrival destination. At the departure airport, an airline representative will meet them at the check in counter and the person responsible for signing the child over; will have to fill in a form. The rep will accompany the child through the processes until they arrive on the plane. On the plane, an Air Hostess/Host will keep an eye on them and when they land at their destination, what happened at the departure airport, will take place in the reverse order. What is very important to note is that the airline will not release the child into any one else’s care besides the pre-designated people so it is important to choose responsible people to fetch and drop off the child.
What am I going to do with a child for so many hours on a plane?
Before travelling, pack a bag with all their favourite toys, books and whatever it is that normally keeps them busy. If you are travelling on a long-haul route that has many hours of flying time, try to break the trip with a stopover somewhere. It is also easier to take flights that travel during the evening as this is generally when children sleep and you won’t have to entertain them as much. If you are going to take a day flight, bear in mind that your children will get tired of sitting in the seat the entire time and will want to get up and walk, run and play in the aisles and might be a distraction to other people.
A few tips from personal experience:
- If you are going to give them something on the plane to keep them calm, try the medicine on yourself beforehand! I refused to give Bella the medicine I was recommended after trying it as it had a horrible effect on me!
- Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible and wear comfortable clothing, especially for long-haul flights.
- Allow extra time for when you check in and to the boarding gate in case your little one makes a dirty nappy and needs to be changed. Go to the airport earlier that the recommended two hours, you will be amazed at how fast the time files. Some websites recommend letting your partner sit elsewhere and taking turns to change places but I suggest thinking of it from your child’s perspective. It might scare them if they can’t see the other parent and make them harder to control during take-off and landing.
- If you are taking a pram or car seat with, check it through to your final destination or you will have to collect it when disembarking from the plane and this can take up extra time especially if you have a short transit time.
- Let your child run around at the airport and use up as much energy as possible before takeoff.
- If your child is on formula try have two bottles ready for when you are to take off in case of delays as once your bags are in the overhead compartment, it will be hard to get to them.
- Take things for your little one to chew or suck on to stop their ears from hurting. An Air Hostess recommended that chewing sugar can help with any pains should they be arise.
- Wear an interesting bangle that your little one has not seen before, this will keep them entertained during take-off and landing and can save you some tears!
- The Air Hostesses will be your best friends in the air and are there to help you. Explain to them what you need and realise that sometimes warming up food or getting you an extra pillow can take a few minutes. You might even find that they take a liking to your little one and bring them chocolates from business class which moms should definitely try before giving to their children!
- If you have booked a bassinet and your child doesn’t fit, ask for extra pillows so that while they sleep in your arms, you will be comfortable. With new aviation laws, you will not be allowed to make a bed on the floor.
Most importantly, relax! If it is your first time travelling, this will be a new experience for them too and might make them act out a little.
Travelling on the trains has become more and more popular and many of the trains have received good revamps. One such train is the Shosholoza Meryl which has many routes across South Africa. It has been called “The Tourist Train” and there are even compartments where you can sleep on the train. Bear in mind that the train does take longer to get there than by car i.e. from Cape Town to Joburg you are looking at around 24 hours’ worth of travelling. It is also becoming extremely popular as the routes are well priced but can become full quite quickly so it is important to book well in advance. It can be an adventure for children that are an older than 2 as the movement of the train and understanding that they are on a train might be more than that of a toddler.
It will be important to take some of their things that they are familiar with, especially if you are going to be sleeping on the train, to make it easier on the child to sleep in the cabin. Also take as many toys as you can to keep them busy on the train. See below on games to play with children while travelling.
This can be quite stressful for a parent as there is isn’t much room for the children to play in and often the air conditioning does not work in the buses. If you are going to travel with the bus, try to take a trip that travels through the evening so that your child can sleep and not be disturbed by the prospect of playing outside. There are also many different types of buses that you can take and you should receive a discount for the child that will be travelling. Booking at Checkers or at Computicket can give you a variety of the buses to take as well as the prices.
Many a fond memory has been created from road trips and holidays that were spent travelling there and back in a car. The important thing to remember is to always pack extra clothes, nappies, snacks and drinks with you in case any of the above is needed and you are not close to any shops or civilisation. A cooler box that is small enough to fit by your feet is also nice to keep drinks and food nice and cool. Take toys with and age-appropriate to keep your child entertained. For long distances, it is always better to travel at night and you won’t have to entertain your child as much. If you can’t leave at night, leave early in the morning so that you miss a lot of the morning traffic and the road is quieter. If you are travelling through a very warm area and do not have an air conditioner in your car, it is best to leave earlier as some children can become very difficult when they become hot.
Things to entertain your child regardless of the mode of transport:
- Before going on the trip, make an activity book from an exercise or small note book by sticking pictures in it from magazines, old gift bags that you can hide things in and colouring in pictures.
- Buy some cheap toys and wrap them in pretty paper. After every hour or two of travel, give it to your child to open therefore creating excitement and giving them something to do.
Choose the best mode of transport to suit your needs and pocket and remeber to keep an open mind while travelling! Good luck!