Travelling with children can strike fear into the hearts of even the most cool, calm and collected parents. But holidays can be fun, exciting and educational experiences for the whole family. Rather than avoiding travel altogether, there are a few things you can do to help minimise hassle and maximise enjoyment…
The first thing to forget from your child-free touring days is booking a last-minute deal to save a bit of cash. All you’ll get for your money is a one-way ticket to stress. To find the right kind of accommodation to suit your family, especially if your kids are very young, Wendy Shand from the specialist holiday company, Tots to Travel, advises booking a family summer holiday by the Valentine’s Day before you plan to travel – at the very latest.
Where to stay
Forget the swanky hotel. And don’t even bother clicking on the budget hostel. As a family, you’ll spend a lot more time in your accommodation than you did before you had kids.
Space, safety and functionality will become your main priorities. Booking with a baby-friendly holiday specialist like Tots to Travel means someone else goes through all the safety and suitability checks on your destination and accommodation, so you don’t have to. With a villa holiday, you get the added luxury of putting the kids to bed in their own room and the chance of catching a few precious moments to yourselves in the evenings.
What to pack
It’s unlikely you’re going to be able to sling a small rucksack on your back when you travel with kids in tow. Be sure to pack the essentials, such as clothes, sun protection, first aid and comforters. But family travel can be challenging enough without weighing yourselves down with everything but the kitchen sink. If you’re travelling with a baby, there are a few lightweight and portable gadgets on the market that are worth investing in, such as Milton‘s Solo Travel Steriliser. Giving you peace of mind, it rids your baby’s bottle, teether, small plastic toy or weaning item of harmful germs.
Getting to the airport
Once you’re zipped up and ready to roll, getting out of the door is the next thing to consider. If you have an early flight to catch, it’s worth booking an airport hotel for the night before you fly. FHR‘s website lets you choose from a range of hotels to suit your budget, at over 20 UK airports, as well as parking for the duration of your holiday. Spending a little extra here is worth it for the huge saving on hassle and extra precious sleep time.
Parking the car
Struggling to get your kids and luggage aboard a transfer bus from the car park to the airport can really set you off on the wrong foot. Pre-arranging a meet-and-greet airport parking service with FHR cuts out this awkward step. Keeping things nice and simple, a driver collects your car from you at the airport, parks it for you and brings it back for you on your return.
At the airport
Booking an airport lounge is a great way of keeping the whole family in one place and out of harm’s way. FHR can book you into one of a range of family-friendly lounges located at airports around the UK. Facilities include free WiFi – perfect for the games and apps you’ll have pre-loaded onto your tablet or laptop – games consoles and kids’ movies.
During the flight
Takeoff and landing can be tough on little ears, so take sweets for them to suck on to relieve the pressure. It’s also a good idea to carry a supply of healthy snacks, such as raisins or carrot sticks, to keep energy levels high and the chances of a meltdown low. Travel writer and Tales of a Twin Mum blogger, Karen Bleakley, recommends packing a change of clothes for everyone, in your hand luggage, in case of spills or accidents. To keep the kids content, Karen’s advice is:
“Take some new and exciting toys for the kids to open at stages on the flight. Wipe clean puzzle books, stickers, hand held games and drawing kits are all great.”
Disruption to your routine
However far-flung or close to home your destination, a holiday is bound to bring about a bit of disruption to your kids’ routine. Helen Packham, The Family Sleep Coach, offers some advice on how to soothe the symptoms:
“Allow a day for everyone to acclimatise before a fairly strict return to your regular schedule on day two. Sticking to normal bedtimes, meal times and nap times makes for well-rested mums, dads and kids and a happier family holiday for everyone.”
While you’re away, get the kids to keep a scrapbook filled with postcards, pictures, sweet wrappers and anything else that will remind them of their holiday highlights. Giving them a camera so they can document the trip through their own eyes is a great way to keep them occupied and interested in your destination.
Don’t forget the fun part
Holidaying with the kids, especially if it’s your first trip as a family, can be a daunting prospect. But if you stay calm, plan ahead and tackle it one stage at a time, there’s no reason you and the kids can’t enjoy some quality family time away together with some great stories to tell when you get back.
Lauren Hellicar is a travel writer for FHR, a leading provider of UK airport hotels, parking and lounges.