12 ways to make family holidays easy (well, easier)
The family holiday. Those three little words are enough to inspire trepidation in even the most capable of mums and dads. But it doesn’t all have to be tantrums in the airport, ice creams upended in sand and trips to foreign doctors. So fret not, parents. Just follow this 12-point plan and you’ll be fine:
First stop: Travelzoo
Shameless self-promotion alert! Even if we do say so ourselves, the Travelzoo family-friendly page is a pretty good place to start your search – here, you’ll find all the best up-to-the-minute deals, from camping and caravanning to all-inclusive long-haul getaways and kids-go-free theatre tickets. We’re constantly on the lookout for the best deals out there so you don’t have to spend time searching. There, that’s one less job already.
Choose a holiday that suits your family
Selecting the right family holiday is not just about going for the best bargain; it’s about choosing the one that’s right for you and your brood. If your kids are on the energetic side, make sure you’re going somewhere where there are plenty of activities you can do together, or kids’ clubs they can join in with. Similarly, if you’ve never taken the kids camping, you might want to try a weekend warm-up before you commit to a week-long expedition in the back of beyond.
Factor in some “family time”
The younger your kids are, the more you should expect them to delay you. Avoid last-minute bumps in the road by factoring extra time into your schedule. If you have to be at the airport at midday, and usually you start moving at 11am, try to be ready by 10.30am. Do yourself a favour -- don’t start the holiday stressed out.
For parents of babies - enjoy the last holiday where it’s all about you!
Babies under the age of 18 months will not be allowed in kids' clubs and will not appreciate children’s entertainment in the form of adults dressed as dancing chickens or pirates. Toddlers and young children will, and you may find that after your child turns two, your holiday "down time" will coincide with the children going crazy at the resort’s kiddy disco. Until that time, be savvy; take advantage of the fact that you can travel outside of peak season and stay in destinations and hotels that cater for adults but also accept babies.
For parents of toddlers - choose your room wisely!
Family holidays with toddlers means sleeping in a family room so you can be sure your child is nearby and safe. What the term family room means varies from hotel to hotel. In some instances, it means having the whole family crammed into one room after 7pm, while the parents find themselves whispering to each other in the dark over a bottle of the local wine. For a holiday that doesn’t end at 7pm every night, ask for a room with a little separate space such as a small lounge area or a (safe) balcony.
Get your facts right about airline baggage allowances
Some airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic, offer as much as 23kg of checked baggage for infants, but most offer around 10kg as well as the option to check in a collapsible pushchair/car seat. However, some low-cost carriers offer no baggage allowance for infants at all, so you’ll either have to pack light and share your suitcase or pay extra to check in a bag for your child.
If you’re flying, request the bulkhead seats well ahead of time
Opting for bulkhead seats (the ones in the front with the wall in front), can be advantageous as they’re far easier to get in to and out of; the extra space allows you to avoid the embarrassing situation of you/your child knocking into the seats in front each time you get up. Some airlines (BA for example), reserve bulkhead seats for families in advance (if they're available), but they're often oversubscribed.
Consider buying access to airport lounges
Some families may not be aware that airport lounges at most UK airports sell access from £10-£15 for each child, while adults pay up to £40 each. Airport lounge access can often work out cheaper than a family lunch at an airport restaurant and the facilities are far superior, with space to relax before boarding -- all without the stress of stopping your baby trying to crawl off across a dirty airport floor.
Take a travel scrapbook
Before you go, buy a scrapbook and some glue, then fill it with stuff along the way -- postcards, ticket stubs, boarding cards etc. Encourage the kids to draw in it and write about the holiday. This is a great way of getting them to take an interest and keeping them occupied (for a minute or two at least), and makes a perfect memento.
Plan, plan, and plan some more…
Get your kids excited about the destination before you go -- show them maps, look at photos, maybe even watch a film set in your holiday destination if possible. And ask them to help you plan a few activities beforehand -- have something up your sleeve for those days when the weather lets you down.
…But be prepared to throw the plan out of the window
Things will go wrong and kids will scupper your plans somehow. They're programmed to do that. If you’re heading from A to B with the kids in tow, you should probably expect to go via C, D, Q and Z. That’s just how it is -- the more accepting you are of that, the more fun you're likely to have.
Before you head off, collect up any emergency phone numbers and information about local hospitals/doctors that you might need -- just in case. You probably won’t need any of it, but you’ll feel a lot better knowing that you’re prepared should some unforeseen disaster befall you.