Travelling with children can be both fun and frustrating in equal measures. Here are a few of the things I’ve found that help us get the most out of our trips and make our travels as stress-free as possible.
- DO be flexible. It’s good to plan lots of things to do but don’t be too strict with your list. If you’re open to possibilities you might discover some wonderful place you haven’t read about. It’s these chance discoveries that can be the highlight of your trip.
- DO prepare for hunger, boredom, cuts and bruises by having supplies of snacks, activity books and first-aid essentials handy.
- DON’T underestimate the sheer amount of noise children make on the first couple of days by the hotel pool. While you’re trying to pretend they’re not yours, remember they will calm down.
- DO treat the trip like an adventure. Things will go wrong but that’s part of the experience. Go with the flow and everyone will be happier.
- DON’T plan a holiday just for the kids or as if you don’t have children at all. It’s a good idea to take your children’s personalities into account when choosing a destination but remember that it’s your holiday too. Why not have a family discussion about where to go and what to do?
- DO learn the basics of the language of the country you’re visiting. It’s fun for children to say “Good morning” and “Thank you” to the people they come into contact with. And the locals will love them for it.
- DO slow down. You don’t have to do endless activities to keep children entertained. Kids need to chill out too. Children can be just as happy crabbing for an afternoon or on a beach building sandcastles and splashing about in the sea as charging around from water park to zoo.
- DON’T just follow the guidebook. Often the best way to get to know a place is to listen to the locals. Where do they eat? Where is their favourite place to visit?
- DO get your children to reflect about what they’ve done each day. Mealtimes are a great time to chat as a family about what you’ve seen. Ask them questions like “What was the best thing you did today?” or “What was your favourite part of the walk?” You could even encourage them to make a travel journal or scrapbook of their holiday.
- DON’T try to do too much. It’s better to see one or two things well with engaged and interested kids than rush around all the sights with tired, crotchety children. You won’t see anything properly and everyone will be miserable.
- DO try what I call ‘Travel One-to-Ones’. One parent takes one child and does something special together like a trip to a castle they’ve always wanted to visit or a weekend away. This is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with just one child and is a wonderful bonding experience.
- DON’T travel without wet wipes. You can clean almost anything with them: dirty hands, mucky faces, excess sand and suncream stains.
- DO eat lots of ice-cream. Eating ice-creams on holiday is the best kind of treat and they’re great for bribing good behaviour.
- DON’T expect holidays to be the same as they were before having children. They won’t be. They might even be better.
What about you? Do you have any great tips for travelling with children?