Have kids? Do travel! These adventures will be transformative experiences for you and your family, the topic of dinner table discussions and memories for years to come. All it takes is a little planning, a family-sized helping of adventurous spirit and some help from the experts!
BEFORE YOU GO
Providing your children are old enough to be involved, our experts believe the best family holidays happen when everyone plays a part in creating it. Sit down and discuss what each one of you wants to get out of the trip and make decisions accordingly. Mum and dad might want to delve into the local culture while all the kids can think about is splashing around in the sea!
Prep with a Packing List
Consider what’s right for where you are going but heaven forbid you leave a favourite toy or clothing item behind! Try as you might to pack in advance, most parents will be all too aware that kids live in the moment and there will always be a load of laundry at some stage of completion. Avoid last minute packing panic by creating a list of what you need, even if it can’t get thrown in until you’re about to head out the door. A packing list will also help you focus on what you really need, and what is – literally, excess baggage.”
In case you’re wondering if that gigantic beast of a 100L trolley bag is too big, the answer is: no, it’s not. Even using a packing list (see above), it may still come as a shock just how much stuff you need travelling as a family (those accustomed to travelling footloose and fancy-free with a light rucksack or cabin bag will find this especially galling). Don’t be weighed down by the prospect, but do focus on the essentials and remember to check airline baggage limits.
Oh and don’t skimp on luggage quality – a broken zipper or wobbly suitcase wheel will cause you a whole world of pain, especially if you’re moving from place to place during your trip. If you have older kids, make them responsible for packing their own bag of “essentials”.
“Giving each of your children their own bag to be responsible for will give them a sense of responsibility and importance, and show you trust them enough to look after their own possessions.”
Although you don’t want to be carting around half the toy box on holiday, it is nice for young children to take one or two of their favourite items with them, be it a treasured teddy, beloved t-shirt or dog-eared books. If nothing else, having a couple of home comforts will certainly help settle little ones on long flights and at bedtime in unfamiliar surrounds.
For older kids, let them take their MP3 player, iPad or Nintendo 3DS but probably restrict them to one electronic device each. You’ll really only need these things on the flights and on any long road journeys perhaps.
Prepare for Landing
Getting there is half the battle, but also consider your arrival, departure and transfer times. For example: you probably don’t want to be arriving late with an early start the next morning. Where you sleep and what you eat also top the list of concerns for most families so know before you go.
“Sounds like a cliché but preparation is key: pack smart and make sure that after a long flight, you don’t have an equally long transfer. Know who is picking you up and at what time.”
READY FOR THE OFF
With or without kids in tow, airports can be stressful places. They’re busy, expensive and incredibly restrictive, especially from a child’s point of view. The worst parts will be getting through check-in and security but here’s where your meticulous organisation will pay dividends.
If you are able to, check-in online and print off your boarding cards in advance, that way you only need to drop your bags off when you arrive at the airport. Keep all passports and boarding cards together in one document wallet to minimise the risk of loss and wasting time rummaging through all the hand luggage to locate them. Before heading to security double check your kids’ bags for liquids or anything else that could delay the process. If travelling with young children, it’s a good idea to put them in Velcro shoes on travel days to make getting through security quicker.
Also take your own supply of healthy snack to ensure your kids get something the love whilst saving you money on over-priced airport food.
Up & Away
If taking a long haul flight, try to book night flights as these will fit in with your kids’ normal sleeping patterns and minimise restlessness on board.
Sasha Reid – Marketing Manager and mum of two says:
“Now is not the time to stress about screen time! By all means play “I spy” or try the colouring books, toys and stories but the fact is you need a back-up plan when your kids inevitably lose interest and you’re hours off reaching your destination. Now is the time to embrace technology – there will be plenty of time to enjoy swims at the beach, nature trails, cultural anecdotes and the like when you get where you’re going.”
“I’m not really a believer in plonking kids in front of the iPad for hours on end, but if you’re facing a long flight a tablet device will be a godsend. Though, perhaps leave Frozen at home to avoid tuneless renditions of “Let It Be” ringing out on board!”
“A headphone splitter in an invaluable accessory if you are travelling with more than one child but only one electronic device – it significantly reduces the risk of sibling squabbles!”
LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN
Family travel can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Careful budget management is crucial to family holiday harmony. Choose your itinerary carefully taking note of exactly what is included in the price (meals, entrance fees, excursions etc.) and factor in any additional excursions you might like to do, as well as extra costs like tips and souvenirs.
If your children are old enough to be carrying their own spending money, decide on a daily budget with them before departure to minimise any potential arguments on holiday! Also, letting them handle their own cash will give them a sense of responsibility and freedom.
Budgets and planning aside, family holidays are all about sharing once in a lifetime experiences that bring you closer together. If you can stretch to it, a spontaneity budget is a great idea; although paragliding may have been the last thing on your mind as your departed London Gatwick, in the moment it might be the number one thing you and the kids want to do!
Ensure each family member takes a reusable water bottle that can be refilled in airports, hotels, service stations etc. Reusable bottles are not only better for the environment but they will also save you money on buying bottles of mineral water throughout the trip.
Stay Clean & Healthy
We all know how mucky kids can get when they’re having fun so don’t leave home without the a couple of bottles of the obligatory anti-bacterial hand gel. Wet wipes are also a great way to clean up on the move, although make sure you’re using the eco-friendly biodegradable wipes.
“Be prepared for the possibility of travel sickness – nobody needs that on a minibus! The motion sickness bands really work a treat for my kids. It’s also a good idea to take some basic first aid items too like plasters and a few Calpol sachets just as a precaution.”
As with any travel, solo, self-guided backpacking or family adventures, a flexible attitude goes a long way. There will always be a couple of hiccups along the way – a flight delay, a language barrier faux pas or perhaps a tree blocking the way – but with a bit of patience and creativity, these issues rarely mar the adventure. In fact, it is the unexpected event that often becomes a main talking point of the trip!
Capture the Moment
As well as taking plenty of photos and videos of your far-flung adventures, encourage your children to keep a journal of the trip. Reading their daily accounts and looking at their drawings of the places you’ve visited together is a lovely way to see the holiday through their eyes. It could also come in handy for a back to school Show & Tell!
Let your hair down!
As much as your holiday is about quality time and sharing new experiences together, both parents and children need some time to themselves. Kids, especially teenagers, will always need to burn off energy in the company of others their own age, so relax and let them socialise with other kids on the trip, and while they play football or look for lizards in the hotel gardens, you can enjoy some precious child-free time and a well-earned glass of vino!
If you’re feeling inspired and would like more information on our adventure travel packages, please call 01730 711010 to speak to one of our experts or contact us online