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The 'must-haves' when travelling with children, by Kirsty McCabe

Our columnist escapes to South Africa for some winter sunshine, and shares her rules for making journeys 'en famille' that bit easier




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Kirsty McCabe holiday Preparation + distraction = satisfaction

"Arriving back home in London on a cold December morning after a few weeks in hot and sunny South Africa was a shock to the system. Luckily, I haven't felt too gloomy as we've been busy putting up the Christmas tree with the children (then rearranging the baubles to some of the higher branches as they slept), opening up Christmas cards from friends and family and enjoying some festive nights out.

The reason for our trip to South Africa was to visit my in-laws and, most importantly, to celebrate my husband's grandmother's 100th birthday! Otherwise I'm not sure I'd willingly take two small children on a 12-hour flight. And since most of our friends have asked us how we coped, I thought I'd share my top tips."

Before you go

Take some mummy time and book yourself in for pre-holiday pampering. Yes, you can DIY these things but somehow you never find the time. Instead you will be busy trying to organise and pack for everybody in the family while your husband casually throws a few items in a bag and declares himself ready. This will be followed by him borrowing all your toiletries ("But why would I pack toothpaste when I know you will have some?") and a quick trip to the shops to get a pair of swim shorts.

So before you go crazy in the packing stage, book a pedicure and go over your to-do lists while you enjoy the fancy massage chair. For the first time ever I even had my eyelashes tinted and curled at my local salon so I didn't need to bother with mascara. It really was an eye-opener (pun intended) and no more panda eyes in the morning!

On the go

While you don't need to use child seats in UK taxis, or at all when in South Africa, I feel safer using them plus it keeps the children from roaming around the back seat. We already had one child seat we'd left with the in-laws last year for Logan to use. And as for Ethan, we brought our own in the form of the brilliant Trunki BoostApak. Not only does this work as a booster seat in the car but it is also a hand-luggage sized backpack. Granted I ended up wearing it while he rode round the airport on his other Trunki favourite, a fire engine, but in years to come it will be firmly on his shoulders!

Rein them in

Keeping control of children can be tough at the best of times, let alone at a busy airport. Logan is quite strong-minded these days and likes to explore. When it was time to rein him in, we popped on the extra cute toddler daysack from LittleLife. Big enough to hold a few snacks, or an emergency nappy supply, Logan was quite taken by his dinosaur bag even though his big brother wanted to walk him like a doggy.

Buggy love

You don't appreciate what you've got til it's gone and that was certainly the case when our buggy (the amazingly compact Nuna Pepp) got left behind in Johannesburg when we moved on to Cape Town. A long story, the short version of which is that my husband forgot to put it in the right car before we went to the airport, but luckily his sister brought it when she joined us a few days later. Both Logan and I were delighted to be reunited with our Nuna. Carting around changing bags and tired toddlers in 30 degree heat wasn't much fun, plus, we had to go home or drive around in the car during nap times.

Distraction

My main secret to travelling with little ones – apart from packing more nappies than you need along with plenty of snacks – is distraction. The aim (other than getting them to sleep) is to keep them quietly entertained and therefore not annoying your fellow passengers. Books, magazines, stickers, paper and crayons, toys, gifts for good behaviour, whatever works on your little monsters. These days you can get various apps on your phone (Lego and CBeebies are great), or even better get a kid-friendly tablet like the Kurio.

So, as my tan fades faster than my mozzie bites, all that's left to do is to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Hogmanay. See you in 2015!

Kirsty McCabe writes her weekly column here on www.juniormagazine.co.uk. Follow us on Twitter: @juniormagazine and watch out for the hashtag #somethingfortheweekend every Friday to join in with the conversation

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