Side-step the meltdowns, tears and tantrums (and that’s just the adults) and enjoy a holiday the whole family will remember, with our sanity-saving family holiday tips.
Surviving the journey
No-one, especially a young child, enjoys long journeys. Avoid repetitive cries of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ by giving your child a special ‘holiday pack’ when you set off. Fill it with small snacks, new activities, books, car or plane-friendly games and fun treats for them to discover. Need to bring out the big guns? Electrical devices such as iPads and audio books can keep a child occupied for hours in times of need.
Tip: Preventing hunger rage
Restless children quickly become hungry children, so have plenty of food, drink and child-appeasing snacks to hand throughout your journey. Driving? Plan when you’re going to stop for a leg stretch and consider coinciding it with your child’s meal time to give them ample time away from their car seat.
Do your research
It pays to plan ahead when travelling with kids. Do your research on the accommodation, the area and what’s provided. It may look glorious, but is the beach a doable walk with young kids? How far is the nearest supermarket? What child-friendly essentials does the hotel/accommodation provide? Do you need to bring a buggy or travel cot? Is there a playground? If it’s a hotel, do the rooms separate by a door or does the whole family sleep in one room? Many parents swear by self-catering, where you can relax in peace away from your sleeping child rather than sitting in the darkness of a shared hotel room.
Make a list of places to visit
Before you go, put together a list of child-friendly excursions for when your child needs a change of scenery. It could be a simple walk down the road to watch mini-golf or a get-in-the-car daytrip to a water park – both can be a lifesaver.
Nobody likes to queue in hot weather, especially a toddler. Pre-book everything you reasonably can – travel tickets, seats on the plane, priority boarding, admission to local tourist spots, even meals out if you intend to head somewhere popular.
Have a bad-weather plan
Nothing curtails a family holiday like bad weather you’re unprepared for. Check out rainy day options before you leave and arm yourself with a list of indoor venues such as swimming pools, museums and local aquariums. Pack a selection of warmer clothes, just in case. And get yourself a ‘rainy day’ secret weapon – a special, last-resort toy, game, book, activity or DVD for when you’ve exhausted all other options.
Naps and sleeping
Bedtimes can be more relaxed on holiday, if your child is flexible enough to allow it. If they still need a nap in the day, factor this in when planning your day to avoid fatigue-induced meltdowns.
And don’t forget to think about your child’s bedtime routine when you’re packing. Do they need a baby monitor? Have you packed their favourite can’t-sleep-without-it cuddly toy? Woe betide the parent who forgets it on a two-week holiday.
Food and snacks
In Europe, evening meals with children are generally welcomed (whether you can cope with your fidgety child accompanying you may be another matter!). If your little one is a fussy eater, research the local food options before your trip. Is there anywhere that caters for their fish finger obsession? If not, think about what they’ll eat, when they’ll eat and where they’ll eat it. It also pays to know where your local supermarket is based. Heat can zap young children’s energy levels so factor this into day trips, and pack a bag with snacks and drinks to nip fading blood sugar levels in the bud.
Maximize your pool fun
A holiday isn’t a holiday without a swim in the pool or the sea. Pack swimwear (including your own), beach accessories and everything you need for maximum fun in the water. Hitting the pool? Bring some pool toys for the kids so they can use their goggles and play diving games (Speedo Dive Toys are a great buy). Got a young baby? They’ll love bobbing around upright in the Speedo Swim Seat. For peace of mind for older children, Speedo Sea Squad Float Vests provide added buoyancy for children up to the age of six. Or, if you’re after an all-in-one that works well for perhaps colder beach days, opt for the Speedo Infant Wetsuit – it’s made using neoprene for extra insulation.
Make the most of Mother Nature
Rivers, rock pools, lakes and forests hold a magical allure for children, so seek them out. Encourage your child to get active, building dams, collecting shells, constructing sandcastles and leading imaginary bear hunts.
Holiday safety tips
With so much unknown, holiday safety can fill parents with fear. Find out what you can control and limit the dangers. Worried about the beach? Locate one with lifeguards and take note of what the flag system means. Do your child’s little fingers like to wander? Take plug socket covers in your luggage. Concerned about your child making a dash to the pool away from your side? Pack a Float Vest. Nervous about your child getting lost in busy tourist areas? Invest in a special children’s wristband which stores your mobile phone number for emergencies.
Pack all your family’s usual medications (plus extra) and a first aid kit, as well as a thermometer, children’s paracetamol and bug/bite spray
Enjoy the sun safely
Even when it’s cloudy, children (and adults!) can burn, so pack (and dispense) plenty of sun protection. Use SPF50 for your kids and choose the formula that suits them best (sprays are often a winner with wriggly children). Round the pool, use sun lounger umbrellas to provide much-needed shade, or if you’re at the beach invest in a pop-up UV cover or tent. Keep children covered up between 11am-3pm, when the sun is most intense, and apply sun cream before you leave your accommodation. For added reassurance invest in a sun protection suit for your child. Check out our sun protection tops and shorts.
And if it all goes pear-shaped? Relax, try to have fun and remind yourself that children don’t require perfect weather, 5-star accommodation or Michelin-starred food to have the holiday of a lifetime.