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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
A to Z

26 parenting hacks to make travelling with young kids a whole lot easier

You might think holidays are for relaxing, but under 5s don’t agree, writes Sheena McGinley.

TRAVELLING WITH BABIES and young kids can be a mammoth task.

On top of juggling small humans, you must also manage buggies, boarding passes, repeated toilet requests and endless begging for snacks.

But fear not. As a mum of two I’ve been through my fair share of family holidays and have come out the other end relatively unscathed. I’ve also picked up a few practical pieces of advice along the way.

Here’s my parenting A – Z for your next holiday with little ones in tow…

A is for… AIRPORT

It won’t be as bad as you think – if you’re properly prepped. For starters, bring mess-free toys like a travel-sized magnetic drawing board for doodling. A godsend if there’s a delay to your departure and you’d rather not go down the device route before you’ve even boarded.

B is for… BUGGY

A lightweight buggy that can be opened and closed with one hand is a must. Airlines usually let you bring a buggy for free regardless of weight, but simply from a handling perspective, the lighter the better. That said, try not to load it up like a mule. We’ve had the entire thing tip over with the child inside more times than I’d like to admit.

C is for… CAR

If you’re driving to the airport, remember to book long-term parking in advance. If it’s Dublin Airport, for example, the Red Car Park is infinitely better than the Blue Car Park. The difference between five minutes and 15 minutes is a chasm when time is short. 

Whatever time you think you should leave for the airport, add another hour. You’re travelling with young kids; you know how long it takes to find their other shoe.

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E is for… EYE MASK

Perfect for catching some shut-eye yourself while the kids are napping too.

F is for… FREEDOM

Part of being on holidays is ditching the routine. Trying to rigidly stick to naptimes and snack times will cause stress. It’s only for a week or two and they’ll return to their rhythm once they’re back home.

G is for… GIN

There’s no hack here, just a reminder that you’re on your holidays.

H is for… HOTEL ROOM

So you’re sharing a room with toddlers, and don’t quite fancy hitting the hay at 7.30pm like they are. In the past, we have resorted to sitting in the bathroom until the kids have nodded off. Recently, however, I devised something only a sleep deficient mammy would think of. On a family trip to Cork, I brought utility rope and a large sheet. Et voila, a DIY room divider. If they can’t see you, they’ll go to sleep more quickly, too.

I is for… ICE CUBES

If you’re running out of things to occupy young kids on a plane journey, you’ll be surprised just how much mileage they’ll get out of a cup and some ice cubes.

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J is for… JAUNTS

Holidays are for relaxing, but under-fives aren’t fans of that. Try to plan an outing/excursion every other day and be sure to take lots of pictures to remind them “Lookit! We took you places!” Also, it’s best to go in the morning, then you can chill for the afternoon.

K is for… KIT

From sleep sacks to lightweight ‘bubble cots’ (with inbuilt mosquito net), the internet is awash with items designed to make holidaying with kids easier. A particular favourite of mine for well-made products is Koo-Di. Consider potential purchases as investments in your future sanity. If the funds aren’t available, there are equipment rental sites such as that can make things easier.

L is for… LILOS

Your child will see an inflatable flamingo or blow-up watermelon slice and will want it. Avoid them. Not only are they dangerous in the sea, there’s usually a gaggle of discarded flamingos in the hotel pool left by previous guests.


Save yourselves from potential crumb-aggedon by placing a cloth on your toddler’s lap or on their plane tray table. Then you just have to gather it up to tidy the mess. You know, assuming they’ve not flung the cloth up in the air for entertainment during the journey.

N is for… NO PANIC

A nappy explosion in the airport, a tantrum in the middle of a restaurant… this too shall pass. Just breathe deeply and remember that you’re not the first parent to go through any of this, and you won’t be the last.


By way of example; let your bank know you’re going on holidays and save them phoning at some ungodly hour to see if your card’s been cloned in Spain. Also, if you don’t fancy racking up a phone bill while trying to navigate, there are apps (like MAPS.ME) that let you pre-load car journey routes and run them through your GPS for offline navigation.

P is for… POP-UP TENTS

Annoyingly, travel cots are usually quite heavy. Whether it’s for snoozing or seeking shade on the beach, you can’t beat a pop-up tent. Just be sure to do a test run at home; trying to wrestle a pop-up tent on a windy beach is only fun for onlookers.

Q is for… QUEUING

Having kids can sometimes be an advantage in airport queues, because if you’re pushing a buggy, you’ll be whisked through wheelchair access, speeding up the process. However the wait to have baby foods or other liquid products double checked by airport security can add time – if you’re flying out of Dublin it’s worth splashing out on the airport fast track service if you have the budget.


In the past, we’ve hired cars and asked for a baby seat to be included, but – to be honest – they were as gross as they were frightening. The plus side to bringing your own car seat is, believe it or not, extra room. Car seat travel bags are available and you can shove so much more in there than just the seat. Nappies, bedding, spare clothes – so much extra room!


Forget messing about with buggy parasols. What you need is complete coverage – especially if you want your child to sleep on the go. There are a number of sleep shades on the market, and some even block out noise as well as light. Imagine, you could enjoy a leisurely beverage while your child is snoozing away next to you.


We’re not suggesting plumes of the stuff, just a little talc-free baby powder to help shimmy your little clammy ones out of damp shorts without the drama.

U is for… UV

Set a timer on your phone to remind you to reapply sunscreen. It’s easy to forget.

V is for… VARIETY

Nothing says ‘Yer on yer holliers!’ quite like a Kellogg’s Variety Pack of cereal. If your kids are a little older, getting to choose a little box is a good motivator to make their own breakfast. That means slightly more snoozy time for you.

W is for… WIFI
Self-explanatory this one.

Just one of the many, MANY noisy toys you don’t have to listen to while you’re away. Be careful which toys you bring with you, as they’ll be the ones you’ll be faced with every single day for the next 7 – 14 days.

Y is for… SAYING ‘YES’

Do yourself a favour, and just say yes. Yes, you can have pizza for the fourth day in a row. Yes, you can have cake for breakfast… It’s everyone’s holiday, so relax if you can. My five-year-old had ice-cream every day for two weeks and her teeth didn’t explode, things will go back to normal once you return home.

Keeping things chilled while travelling (stick ice cubes in them alongside bottles etc), storing beach-sodden clothes before the flight home; and the humble saviour of the impromptu poonami, you can’t quantify the merits of the humble ziploc bag.

Fancy winning one of four Pokémon Detective Pikachu goodie bags for the mini-movie fans in your house? Enter here! And have you subscribed to our Family Magazine Newsletter yet? You can do so in the box below.

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