Hajj with Children: a survival guide for families!

Is Hajj for kids? From packing and preparation to advice for navigating the challenging journey, here’s what you need to know prior to performing Hajj with the family.

Before setting off on a trip to Makkah with the family it’s important to understand what to bring, safeguards to take and ways to engage children on the sacred pilgrimage.

Find Child-Friendly Hajj Packages

Search for organizers with services that cater to kids. For example, some packages offer to have guides supervise children while you perform Hajj rituals.

Essential Items for Makkah with Kids

The desert sun can be harsh on both you and your children. Bring an ample supply of sunscreen and a hat for each member of the family. You’ll also want to travel with plenty of water bottles as dehydration will be a concern for much of the journey. Consider snacks that can withstand heat such as dried fruit, granola bars and individually wrapped hummus tortillas. A travel pillow will be indispensable when your child wants to sleep.

There are pros and cons to bringing a stroller. It’s useful to have one while shopping in Makkah and traveling from hotel to mosque. A stroller that reclines to a flat position is also great for sleeping. However, strollers are not allowed in or around the Grand Mosque during Hajj. Also, keep in mind you can hire a wheelchair to ferry children around Makkah. So it might not be necessary to lug a stroller around for the entire trip.

Clothing for Hot Days and Cool Nights

Children should dress for hot weather in Makkah. While kids are not required to wear Ihram clothing, the loose lightweight garment is still a good idea. It’s also a good opportunity to teach them that simple clothing is worn to express that all are equal before Allah. Evening temperatures drop in the desert climate so you should also have clothing for cool weather. It’s a good idea to bring blankets or sleeping bags for your night under the stars at Muzdalifah and Mina.

Document Hajj Steps in a Family Diary

Keeping an account of one’s pilgrimage is a time-honored tradition in Makkah’s heritage that’s almost as old as Hajj itself. It’s also a wonderful way to bring the family together to recount shared experiences, discuss each day’s events and record how they impacted members of the family. Let the older kids write about the activities in their own words and have a parent write for younger children. Encourage them to draw pictures depicting what they witnessed each day. The diary will be a memento that’s cherished for generations.

Educate and Entertain with Digital Devices

Your smartphone or tablet can be an invaluable tool that both educates and occupies young minds on the journey. Online stores have lots of Hajj-related apps that will come in handy on long rides. Check out Learn Hajj Games and Salah for Kids. You can also download e-books such as Tell Me About Hajj and Muslim Child to teach about the importance of Hajj in inspiring and interactive ways. If you have a reliable Internet connection, watch any number of kid-friendly YouTube videos that illustrate the significance of the pilgrimage. Feeling retro? Buy some animated Hajj DVDs from Amazon to play on your laptop.

Make a Hajj Map

Visuals are a great way to engage children. You can download and print an online map of the Hajj steps or create your own. Make the map in black and white and have the kids color each step as they’re performed. Let children draw the hill of Mount Arafat as you explain the importance of the site where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) preached his final sermon. Fill the sky over Muzdalifah with stars as you teach your children why pilgrims spend a night in the open. The map will also make a wonderful keepsake your family will treasure for years.

Consider a Safety Plan

Getting separated from a child is one of every parent’s greatest concerns. An identification bracelet for your child can give you peace of mind. You can order one online. YouTube videos can help you make a fun and fashionable wristband. Include the names of both the child and parents, your hotel and a local phone number in both English and Arabic. Keep in mind that Hajj locations can get crowded and chaotic. So it’s a good idea to always agree on a meeting point in the event of separation.

A pilgrimage during childhood doesn’t free one from the obligation of Hajj during adulthood. But the journey can be an inspiring spiritual experience that helps children gain a deeper understanding of their faith.

The best stress-free ways to travel to Makkah

Looking forward to your trip to Makkah? Of course – there’s nothing more awe-inspiring for Muslims than visiting the holy city. If you are traveling to Saudi Arabia independently, there are several options for how to get to Makkah.

Most direct route: Jeddah to Makkah

Makkah has no airport, so most people fly into the huge King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Jeddah. South Terminal serves mainly domestic flights and Saudi Arabia’s national airline, Saudia. Most other international flights arrive at North Terminal, 19 km away.

The most convenient option for the 104 km journey from Jeddah Airport to Makkah is a private limousine arranged by your hotel in Makkah.

You can also take a licensed taxi from the terminal, or book a ride with Uber or Careem. Be ready for a long wait during busy times. There are regular SAPTCO buses from Jeddah Airport to Makkah. Since the bus station is 7 km from Makkah city center, this option is stressful if you’re traveling with heavy luggage.

Coming soon: When fully operational in late 2018 or early 2019, the Haramain high-speed train will offer fast, comfortable travel between Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah.

Alternative route: Madinah to Makkah

The other main entry point for Umrah and Hajj pilgrims is the smaller, usually quieter airport of Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Airport (MED) in Madinah.

For the 456 km journey from Madinah to Makkah along Route 15, many choose to travel by VIP SAPTCO bus. The air-conditioned service offers several direct trips per day, stopping at a miqat point before entering Makkah. It has a shorter travel time and greater comfort, including WiFi and refreshments, than regular buses. VIP tickets sell out quickly, so book well in advance.

Your hotel concierge can advise on a private hotel-to-hotel transfer between Madinah and Makkah. This is advisable if you are traveling as a family or have lots of luggage.

Travel to Makkah – questions to ask

  • What are my visa restrictions? Most pilgrims must arrange their trip via an agent certified by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. Hajj and Umrah visa holders are restricted to travel between Jeddah, Madinah and Makkah. Those with another type of visa may consider flying to the quieter Ta’if International Airport (TIF), 70 km from Makkah.
  • When am I traveling to Makkah? Airport formalities can take many hours during busy holiday periods such as Ramadan. Consider traveling to Makkah at quieter times of the year and arranging private transfers to skip long queues for taxis and buses.
  • Where else am I going in Saudi Arabia? It may be possible to save travel time by flying into Madinah, for example, and departing via Jeddah.
  • Am I traveling with children or elderly relatives? To make the journey easier, travel with hand luggage only and book hotel-to-hotel transfers. Also avoid late-night flights.

Visiting Makkah is a trip of a lifetime. For a stress-free experience, consider your travel options carefully and make sure you have the most up-to-date visa information.

Related information

Hajj and Umrah visa information
How to get around in Makkah: the best transport options for you

Essential Umrah or Hajj packing list

Your pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so don’t ruin it by forgetting an essential item! To help you pack for your Hajj or Umrah experience, here is a quick guide of things you’ll need.

Clothes for traveling and ihram

Take enough clothes for the length of your journey, bearing in mind that you may need to change several times in one day. The weather in Makkah is extremely hot and the rituals often require great physical exertion. Loose clothes are recommended.

Be sure to pack your ihram clothing in your hand luggage, along with pins to fasten it. Again, you may need to change your ihram clothes if they become dirty or torn. A small bag to hang around your neck will be useful for storing your money, phone and documents.

Stay clean and healthy

Cleanliness is extremely important, so carry enough wash towels for the duration of your stay in Makkah. Check you have your toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb and nail clippers. Remember, antiperspirant should not contain perfume. Women should take a small pair of scissors to cut off some hair after leaving the state of ihram.

It is a good idea to take simple medicines such as painkillers and tablets for stomach problems and colds. A small first aid kit is useful and sunscreen is extremely important.

If you have a specific condition such as diabetes or a heart problem, pack a sufficient supply of medicine, along with any devices you use to measure blood pressure and sugar.

Don’t forget your documents!

When your mind is focused on the spiritual side of the pilgrimage, it’s easy to forget important documents: passport, flight tickets, flight schedule, hotel address in Makkah or Madinah, etc.

Last-minute items that are often forgotten include your phone and charger, glasses and contact lenses, sunglasses and a small notebook. Of course, remember to pack a Koran and a booklet of the adhkaar (invocations), plus a guide to Hajj or a guide to Umrah.

It’s a good idea to take sandwiches or other snacks with you in case of a flight delay. Carry anything essential in your hand luggage in case your suitcase is lost or delayed.

How to change into ihram on the plane

Remember that you have to enter ihram before entering the miqat area, even in the air. If you are traveling in normal clothes, keep your ihram clothes in your hand luggage and check at what time you will enter the miqat zone. Plan to change into your ihram clothes at least half an hour before this.

If you forget something…

If you are staying at a 5-star hotel in Makkah and realize you have forgotten something, please ask at reception. With their local knowledge and experience, the staff will help you find a replacement.

Arabic businessman walking with a suitcase

Pack carefully to enjoy stress-free travel to Makkah


Arabic Muslim holy book Koran background

Carry valuable items with you in your hand luggage

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