Some days it can be hard enough just getting the kids dressed and out the door, let alone thinking about taking the little darlings half way across the world with an entourage of suitcases. But with so many families living stress-filled lives, a family holiday could be just what the doctor ordered. This much-needed break gives the whole family a chance to reconnect with each other away from the distractions of work, creating lasting memories and spending uninterrupted time as a unit. Whether it’s a simple beach break to the Costa del Sol with days spent paddling in the sea and tucking into ice cream, or adventuring into the rainforests of Costa Rica to spot wildlife, focused family time exploring a new country doesn’t have to be a stressful affair.
Where to go
Your budget and the ages of your children are going to be a major deciding factor when it comes to picking your ideal holiday destination. While older children may fare well island hopping around Thailand or hiking around the Swiss mountains, younger children may be better suited to somewhere closer to home, with a shorter flight time and plenty of local amenities to keep them occupied.
Discuss your trip with the kids and make planning part of your holiday experience, researching destinations and activities together to see what makes their face light up. Away from the usual suspects, there are plenty of unexpectedly kid-friendly destinations which will provide memorable and experiences for the more adventurous family.
Wherever you decide, book an appointment with your GP at least two months in advance to make sure the whole family are up to date with their vaccinations and have the correct medications.
Package holiday vs DIY
While you may have relished trawling the internet and researching quirky homestays in the back end of beyond pre-children, you want to make your family trip as stress-free as possible. While DIY breaks may be necessary when visiting less popular destinations, or when intent on spending seven nights sleeping in a tree house in the French forest, package deals are not to be scoffed at – especially when focusing on specific resorts.
Package holidays have come a long way since their conception, with many tour operators organising activities and day trips to explore the surrounding area. If you are looking for a high-end package holiday for the family, then First Choice are great for kids. They have tailored their Splashworld range specifically for family travellers, with plush resorts built around waterparks, while Thompson Family Life also boast an assortment of entertainment-laden venues.
Hire a car as part of the package and on top of scoring a great deal on your flights and hotel, you’re free to check out the local culture and points of interest at your leisure. You could take even more of the stress out of the equation with an all-inclusive break, which will basically feel like you’ve acquired a nanny as well as a cook and cleaner. Let your fussy eaters graze at the buffet restaurant and make new friends at the Kids’ Club while you indulge in a spa treatment or simply get lost in a book by the pool.
Packing check list
Things like forgotten sun cream and toothbrushes can easily be picked up at the airport, but with a pre-made packing list on your side, often-forgotten items like formula milk or passports are less likely to do a ‘Home Alone’.
A basic medical kit can be handy including pain relief, antiseptic wipes, antihistamines and plasters and if any of your family take prescribed medication, make sure you have enough for the duration of your trip. In case your luggage goes astray, label each bag with your name, destination address, email and telephone number including international dialling code, and avoid stowing money or important travel documents in your hold luggage.
Travelling paper-free is becoming the norm and with many airlines offering smartphone apps, checking-in online couldn’t be easier. In the name of stress reduction, choose your seats before arriving at the airport so you can avoid lengthy queues with restless youngsters and relax in the knowledge that all the boarding cards are safely stowed in your email inbox.
If you run into any trouble when checking-in online, lose your printed boarding pass or are unable to reserve seats next to each other at the time of booking, speak to a member of staff as quickly as possible – don’t leave it to the last minute, as you may incur an airport check-in fee.
The flight is the moment your dream holiday becomes a reality and you can sit back and watch the excitement on your children’s faces as they buckle in asking a billion and one questions, promptly kicking the chair in front and you wonder what on earth you were thinking. Joking aside, with a little pre-planning flights can be a fun-filled adventure and are an exciting part of your break.
If you’re travelling with a younger child that still naps, try to travel around their sleeping patterns or tweak their daytime sleep to coincide with your flight. Babies can be soothed during take-off and landing by feeding which helps reduce the pressure in their ears, while older children may find sucking a sweet beneficial. Once in the air, aside from the obvious distraction of a gaming device or movie, more traditional activities such as colouring, playdoh and loom bands have been shown to calm restless tots.
While you’re away
When you and the little ones were deciding where to go, you probably factored in all the nearby attractions and battled over what to do and when. It’s always a good idea not to be too strict with your holiday scheduling because Over-Organised Fun can lead to, well, not-so-much fun. Make sure that everyone gets to pick a place to go, thing to see, eat or do, but leave plenty of free space in your plans for family spontaneity too.
The key things to remember when you’re planning a family holiday:
· Get everyone involved in the decision-making
· Keep an eye out for package deals, so you can focus on enjoying yourselves
· Make a packing list and check it over before you set off
· Note down the date that online check-in opens
· Be prepared with in-flight entertainment
And the most important part of planning….
· Leave some time for spontaneity.