So, you have decided to take the family on a holiday, and you have never traveled with your children before. Packing for adults is pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Just lay everything out as you decide what to take, choose a bag, throw it all in, and you are GA_googleFillSlot("minti_advice_island_logged_out_300x250"); on your way.
On the other hand, traveling with kids can be something akin to a small-scale military operation, and not planning accordingly can even ruin a perfectly good holiday. It is best to have all bases covered and you really must account for every possible eventuality, no matter how remote, in addition to the daily requirements of a child.
Fear not! With a few small considerations made when planning your holiday, you will find your time away easier, stress-free and more enjoyable for everyone.
Beginning with your hotel or accommodation, check to see whether they are a “child friendly” establishment:
– Do they have a Kids’ Club and for what ages does it cater? What are the qualifications of the staff running it, and do they have first aid training?
– Is there a childrens’ pool suitable for your child/ren to paddle in?
– Is there a suitable outdoor play area?
– Does their menu cater to childrens’ tastes?
– Are cribs provided free of charge, or is there a cost for this?
– Is there a refrigerator in your room in which to store snacks and prepared formula?
– How many children are permitted to share a room with parents? Is there an extra cost or it is an inclusion. This varies in different countries and some allow just one, some allow two and on rare occasions, some will allow three.
– Alternatively, ask about booking two connecting rooms or if a family room is available. Family rooms often provide a game console and if there are no games in the room, you can usually hire these for a nominal fee.
– Do they have a babysitting service? How much notice is required? Most hotels require 24 hours notice, but some will have them in-house on standby. If you have children who don’t warm to strangers quickly, try and let them meet the babysitter during the day time so they feel comfortable when you won’t be there.
Now move onto your travel arrangements. Your method of travel to your destination will encompass different considerations; driving or flying. Regardless of the method used to arrive at your destination, and I can’t stress this enough, ALWAYS take a small assortment of toys to keep the children busy. If they are old enough to talk and they become bored, your ears will reverberate with the words “Are we there yet”, “How long now”, “I’m bored” etc, long after you arrive and settle in! Infants and toddlers are likely to become bored quickly if there is nothing familiar to keep them busy, and start whining long before you arrive. The first bar you sight is probably NOT the best way to begin a family holiday in order for Mom and Dad to calm their frayed nerves!
If you are driving or hiring a car along the way:
- Check to see if baby seats are provided and at what cost, or whether you must provide this.
- Pack a small ‘entertainment’ bag containing age appropriate toys, games, reading material, electronic toys, snacks, a cuddle rug or cuddly toy
- For infants, remember that pacifiers, bottles and diapers must be within easy reach for emergencies.
- Consider renting a car with on-board DVD player and screens for the children and take along a few of their favorite movies or soothing music.
- If your children are not the best travelers it might even be wise to purchase something new to surprise them with along the way. Keep this for emergencies when nothing else is calming them or keeping them happy and if you don’t need to produce it, save it for the hotel or return trip – just in case!
- On long drives, plan some rest stops so everyone can take a walk and enjoy some fresh air. Check with your auto club about stops along the way that may have play equipment. Not only will your children enjoy their stops, little ones are more likely to tire themselves out and sleep once back on the road.
If you are flying:
- If your child is an infant then you must usually request a bulk head seat with baby bassinette. You would assume this would be an automatic consideration with all airlines, but some airlines provide them only on request.
- Infants and children sometimes cry when the pressure builds up in their ears on-take off and landing, so have something ready for them to suck on such as pacifier, bottle, lollies, etc.
- Check with the airline that they will provide ‘children friendly’ meals and snacks. Confirm that these have been noted on your booking, and don’t just assume they will be provided, only to board the flight and find they were not ordered.
- Confirm with the airline their policy on taking prepared formula on board. You may discover that you are allowed only to take the formula powder and that they will be happy to provide the boiled, cooled water to prepare it with. Similarly with prepared baby food, it pays to check what they have onboard and what you will be permitted to take.
- Ask if they provide childrens in-flight entertainment, and activity packs. Some airlines do and some won’t provide them unless you ask, whilst others do not carry them.
- If you are transiting at another airport, check online to see what facilities they have for children. Many large international airports have childrens’ play areas, movies, game consoles and more.
When you arrive at your destination:
- Depending on how long you have been traveling, your children may be tired and irritable. Organize the childrens’ sleeping arrangements and their play things before you unpack your own things. This will help keep them quiet and give you a little time to catch your breath.
- If you only have a few hours until their regular bed time, try and keep them awake so they get a good nights’ sleep and awake happy and calm the following morning.
- Planning on sight seeing? Alternate a day out with a quiet day by the pool. Not only will the children enjoy their days out more, but you will feel more relaxed and calm!
This is my checklist for the children when I travel with them:
- Small healthy snacks – nothing too sugary in case they start acting up
- a reading book.
- small packet of pencils, eraser and sharpener, coloring or drawing book.
- The all important travel pack of baby wipes to keep everyone clean and cool.
- If older children are taking electronic hand-held games - ensure they are charged and take some batteries in case they don’t make the distance.
I know this is bribery, but with my older children I play the “let’s see who can stay quiet the longest” and offer them $1 each and an extra dollar for the winner. Hey, we’re going on holidays, so whatever works to keep everyone happy and calm is okay by me!!
So, take a deep breath, make some lists a week or two before hand, ticking off each item as you cover it, and your holiday should be smooth sailing and enjoyable for everyone.