After long months at the daily grind, we all look forward to our summer holidays… sometimes through rose coloured sunglasses! Travel can be stressful and holidays with children brings a whole new dimension to the journey.  Being thoughtful, organised, flexible and realistic is the way to make sure the trip of a lifetime doesn’t become a holiday in hell?

Top Tips

  • Plan ahead and make lists
  • Plan around children’s routines
  • Children don’t have to travel far to find novelty
  • Prepare children, involve them in packing and planning
  • Take things to keep children entertained
  • Build in breaks to the journey
  • Dress in layers and have changes of clothes to hand
  • Have a good medical kit
  • Carry snacks and water
  • Slow down and give yourselves time!

Make lists and plan ahead

Advance planning is key, research your destination to find out how child friendly it may be and what amenities there are on offer.  As part of preparation make lists! Are all passports up to date and are visa’s required? What kind of insurance should you get? It may be that vaccinations are needed and you will need time to organise these. 

Planning ahead of time can also mean that you get better deals on flights and accommodation. Family tickets for attractions that you can purchase in advance, may save you money.  What type of accommodation might suit your family?  Often self-catering enables you to be flexible when the children are hungry or tired or maybe all inclusive holidays might suit you better?

Through the eyes of a child

Holidays provide a wealth of new and exciting experiences for us all but especially for young children.  Looking at the world through the eyes of a child might make us rethink our holiday priorities and reconsider what is important.  Many a parent has said “If the children are happy then we are happy”.  Long journeys to foreign climes in high summer, only to find that the sand is too hot to make sandcastles, might mean that beaches nearer home are just as much fun for children?  There are two schools of thought: get children used to travelling early; or don’t get too ambitious as young children won’t remember it anyway! In the end, the choice is yours, depending on what you think you and your children can deal with; not to mention your budget and what you all want from a holiday.

Young children have simple expectations, they just want the freedom to play and to have their parents spend time with them. Any new experience is exotic to a child; a campsite in Cornwall is as good for a child as an infinity pool in Ibiza. If they are old enough, research your destination with your child to give them a positive view of the place you will visit. Get an idea of the things they might like to do when they are there. Whatever decisions you make, be realistic as adjustments and compromises will be needed so that children can cope and you can cope too.  

Look forward to the holiday together

A holiday is a big change to a child’s routine. As the packing process begins it is worth explaining to a child what is going to happen, so that they begin to understand.  Involve them. Give them a little bag that they can carry and get them to think about the items they might want to take.  Prioritise things that will make the journey more manageable for children.  It is useful for parents to carry a good stash of snacks; children may not be interested in service station or airline food.  If you are flying, research baggage allowances and restrictions (liquids, feeds, creams etc.).

Travel as light as you can but remember that some additional items to help a child feel comfortable and pass the time, are worth more than gold! Pack a favourite book, game or charge up a tablet so that children can be kept entertained. Have some surprises that can be given to children on the way; small wrapped items are even more exciting for them.  You will be going to unfamiliar public places and the possibility of getting split up is always there, so consider making little identity tags, bracelets or simply write your phone number on their arm.

Keep everyone comfortable

Make sure everyone wears comfortable shoes and layers; an air-conditioned bus might be followed by a walk in the hot sun! Make sure you have a change of clothes to hand for them as well as yourself, as children might get sick on the journey.  Pack a decent medical kit – at least enough to last you until you can get to a pharmacy.  However, not all familiar brands will be available and directions may be in another language, so pack enough of the important things. 

Children are not designed to sit still for great lengths of time. Build in breaks to the journey where possible, so they get a chance to move about. Don’t forget to look into transfer times between the airport and the final destination. Think about the timing of journeys around when children might sleep as that will minimise the number of hours where they might get bored and frustrated.

Flying is exciting

Children love the anticipation of getting on a big plane! The novelty of the airport can wane quickly if they have to queue for a long time, so check in online and apply for speedy boarding. Look to see which seats have the most leg room and choose those. On the plane, sit children away from the aisles as trolleys with hot food and liquids can cause accidents. Remember that cabin pressure changes can be difficult for children, so get them to suck on a sweet or a bottle during take off or landing. With babies a gentle tug on the ear lobe or massaging behind their ears can also help.   We can all get dehydrated on flights so ensure everyone drinks plenty of water.

At your destination

Safety standards differ across the world and not all accommodation is child friendly. Once at your destination make yourself aware of potential risks and hazards.  Be especially vigilant around water as children are keen to explore the sea or the pool and life guards may not always be on hand.  It is an unfamiliar environment but if you spot the hazards you can deal with them so that they are less of an issue.

…And relax? 

Well, a change is as good as a rest and whilst being with children has demands, there is enjoyment to be had and lifelong memories to be made. Take things slowly, don’t try to pack too much in and go at the children’s pace. If you can see the world anew as they do, then everyday will be an adventure.

Most importantly… prioritise fun!

Travel Aware – Staying safe and healthy abroad

Staying safe on holiday – RoSPA