A Guide to Holidaying With Children
What You Need to Know
- When choosing where to go, remember that children are more likely to be concerned with how they’ll spend their time than with what the forecast looks like.
- Flying at night when your kids will (hopefully) want to sleep can be a good way around the boredom and frustration of needing to keep quiet and still for hours.
- Remember that you may need extra travel documentation when travelling with children and that, if the country in question requires it, they’ll need a visa of their own.
- If your holiday will involve a lot of time on the road, be sure to come equipped with in car entertainment. Smart devices can be good distraction and verbal games can provide hours of fun.
- Child locatating devices can help give you added peace of mind when moving through crowded places.
- Booking well in advance can make your trip both cheaper and easier to pay for as, after laying down an initial deposit, you’ll have time to save for the rest.
- If you want the option to be able to spend a little time away from the children, resorts with kid’s clubs could be a good option. Alternatively, teaming up with other families who can take turns to look after the kids can be a good way to secure an evening off.
- Remember that some vaccinations required for travel to various parts of the world cannot be given to very young children.
Choosing a Destination
When you’re travelling as a family, there’s a little more to consider when it comes to deciding where you want to spend your holiday.
Weather: Though you may want to see a part of the world where temperatures are scorching, younger children may find higher temperatures unbearable. Thanks to their smaller bodies and faster metabolisms, kids can easily become dehydrated and also tend to be more prone to sunburn. (By the same token, it’s best not to take on destinations that are uncomfortably cold, beautiful though they may be.)
It’s worth remembering that, thanks to their indomitable spirit, kids tend to find Britain’s grey skies less depressing than their parents and are therefore less obsessed with the prospect of experiencing a short spell of perfect weather. Activities are likely to be far more of a priority.
Distance: It can pay not to be overly ambitious with how far afield you set your sights, as flights of any kind (more on which down the article) can be though going with kids, let alone long haul marathons.
Culture: Though, for the most part, your children are less likely to be enthralled by sampling a new culture than you (theirs is still pretty new to them) it can add another dimension to your holiday. That said, it is best to be realistic about the way your kids are likely to value their experiences. It could be that wherever you go, a particularly good ice cream will end being their most treasured memory of the trip.
If you are particularly keen to them to take something from their surroundings, encouraging a bit of pre-holiday research into the destination that you’re visiting can hep to peak their interest. Whether this centres around wildlife, language or some other area, once they idea of the place has captured their imagination, they’ll equipped to take in as much of the experience as possible.
Make Plans Together: Older children may not find the idea of spending a week or two in the bubble of the family unit all that thrilling. By giving them a say in what you and see and do, you can get them engaged and invested in the trip which is a great way to get them to appreciate it fully. After all, the last thing you want after spending your year’s savings on a trip is to have your teenagers sulking in headphones as if the whole thing is some kind of punishment!
Flying with children can be a slightly traumatic experience so be sure to grab any chance to make things easier. It can be worth asking for seats with some extra legroom and to be sated near to other families (that why you at least know that the people around you are in the same boat). Baby changing facilities are normally located towards the rear of the aircraft and, if you expect bathroom trips will be frequent, it may be better to get an isle seat to avoid having to clamber over other passengers. On the other hand, window seats can be easier for children to sleep in as they have something (aside from their neighbour) to lean on. Needless to say, the window itself can prove an endlessly fascinating diversion.
The low humidity atmosphere in the cabin can make dehydration a problem so it’s a good idea to have some bottled water and some moisturiser on you to make sure this doesn’t cause discomfort. (Remember you can only take 100ml containers of liquid through security, so it might be best to buy these products after you’ve already passed through the checks.)
The timing of your journey can make flights less arduous. Travelling in the week can mean you’ll have smaller crowds to contend with whilst flying at night can be the easiest way to ensure your children won’t find their time in the air dragging as (with a bit of luck) they’ll be sleeping.
In the case of babies that are going to be flying on your lap without a seat, check to see how much you’re being charged for their place on the plane. It may be that it’s enough to justify buying another seat instead and reaping the benefits of the additional space.
Finally, remember to bring something to suck for take off and landing to help prevent ear pain. For babies a bottle feed can have the same equalising effect as boiled sweets or a mint.
You may need additional documentation when travelling with a child, especially if you’re an adoptive parent, you do not share the same surname or you do not look alike.
In the first case you would simply need to take their adoption papers with you. In the second, the birth certificate could be needed and if you are the only parent travelling you might need a marriage certificate and proof of consent from your partner/ex-partner for you to travel with your child.
If you are going to a country where visas are required, your child may well require on of their own. In addition, they could be required to pick it up in person from an embassy so be prepared for both the hassle and expense if this is the case.
It’s a good idea to make sure you’re armed with enough diversions to keep the kids entertained during the stretches of waiting and hanging around that inevitably occur during a holiday, whether in the departure lounge or in a queue for a major attraction. Travel size games, pens and notepads and can be a good choice. Alternately, a pack of cards provides a compact and versatile way for older children to entertain themselves.
Child friendly apps can provide another great space-saving way to prevent boredom and the bad moods it can bring about. If you have a smart device with you it can provide an easy way to ensure you always have something diverting on offer without the need for a backpack laden down with toys.
It’s also a good idea to have a good collection of verbal travel games at the ready, especially if the holiday you're planning involves spending a good chunk of time on the road. From ‘I spy’ to word association, these activities invite creativity and help time pass. To keep things varied, you can find a good list of different in car games here.
Bear in mind that tiredness and hunger can be just as disruptive as boredom. Make sure you have pillows, water and snacks at the ready (although using sweets as a bargaining chip can backfire: a sugar rush in a confined space isn’t going to be fun for anyone.)
Leave Plenty of Time
However you are travelling and whatever sort of rigmarole it requires you can be sure of one things: it won’t be any quicker when kids are involved. Be sure to factor in enough time for delays, from misplaced toys to multiple toilet breaks. Ensuring you have sizable margins to play with when it comes to where you need be by a certain time can make things much less stressful.
Make Them Findable
It may not be something you’d like to think about, but the combination of large crowds, unfamiliar surroundings and a child’s insatiable desire to wander off and explore could mean they end up getting separated from you.
There are a number of ways you can make them easier to recover should they get out of your sight. There are various child location devices you could consider purchasing. In the main these work by having a device, which basically amounts to an alarm, attached to your child which you can activate if need be to follow the sound.
If you want to things low tech, simply dress them in bright, easy to spot t-shirts when you know you will be around crowds. Writing your phone number on their hand in biro can also be prudent, or for a slightly more lasting solution you can by temporary tattoo sheets you can use to ensure anyone who might find your child will have contact details and other important information.
Though, obviously you’ll only be considering hotels that describe themselves as child friendly it’s worth finding out exactly what facilities they have to back up their claims. For instance, is there a secure pool for toddlers? Is there are a kids club where you might be able to leave the kids for a few hours at some point so as to go and enjoy a little bit of time alone? If so, you’ll have the opportunity to strike a balance between experiencing your get away as a family and letting the adults and children pursue their own interests for a little while (which is equally as important for both parties.)
You’ll find that there are many international hotel franchises that offer good deals for families. Keep an eye out for sweeteners such as free meals for kids or discounted rates.
Even if you want to retain some flexibility it’s much safer to pre-book at least for the first few nights of your holiday. This way, after a tiring day of travel you know you all have beds to go to.
Click With Other Families
There’s nothing quite as apt to keep kids entertained as other kids. If you’re in a resort geared towards families the likelihood is that there’ll be ample opportunity for your kids to make friends their own age, which, as well as being a great chance for them to work on their social skills, can also help to take some weight off your shoulders.
Indeed, if you find yourself getting on with another family very well you may be able to come to arrangement whereby you take it turns to mind the children whilst they all hang out for an evening each, giving you a chance to go an explore some of the sights your children might be less interested in.
Booking early can lead to huge savings. You can save on flights, hotels, excursions and if you’re buying them all together you can also get the best prices for package deals too. Often, if you make the booking 12 weeks in advance or more you can secure the deal with a fairly minimal deposit, making it easier to organise your cash flow so as to be able to pay for the holiday without the extra expense that you’ll incur by using credit. To find the best offers on holidays and hotels, get online and start searching early. On top of everything else, it’ll mean you have something to look forward to.
Go During Term Time
Travelling with children can be much cheaper if you go before they reach school age as it will give you the opportunity to travel outside of the high season. This can lead to some real savings and is especially astute for certain destinations. For example, the Mediterranean still enjoys beautiful weather as early as May and as late as September.
If your children are older, you should be wary of the temptation to pull them out of school for the sake of your holiday. From September 2013 the rules governing this area are being changed. Whereas in the past a head teacher could authorise up to days absence form school for (amongst other things) family holidays, they will no longer have this power. As such, if you are responsible for taking your kids from the classroom you could end being hit with a fine.
Vaccinations and Medicines
If you’re going somewhere a little more off the beaten track check as to whether any vaccinations will be necessary. It’s possible that your children may not be old enough to receive the necessary jabs, so look into this before making plans to avoid disappointment.
In some locations you may need to take ongoing medication, such as anti-malarial tablets, and you may need to begin the course some time before travelling for it to be effective.
If your children has any medical conditions, as well as bringing a sufficient supply of medicine, you’ll also need to think about how your trip will effect their health needs. For instance, hot weather can make diabetes more difficult to manage, and different countries will have different levels of care available should it be needed. Whatever the situation, it’s definitely worth investing in travel insurance; if nothing else, children tend to be accident prone and foreign hospital stays can be expensive.
Wherever you’re going, having some basic medicines with you can save having to search out a pharmacy just to obtain something as simple as a plaster or some anti-septic wipes.
If you are spending any length of time in an area, designate a meeting point in case anyone gets lost.
- You can find out more about any jabs you might need to get with our guide to vaccinations for going abroad.
- If you’re going on a road trip, read our guide to car rental.
- Want to stay closer to home? Check out some of Blighty’s best beaches for kids.