Travelling with children doesn't need to be stressful. Preparation is the key to a stress-free holiday with your kids, but there are a few ways to minimise the chaos. Booking travel insurance for children is always our first recommendation, knowing little ones are covered for medical treatment abroad (or the loss of those beloved stuffed friends) is great for peace of mind. If you are travelling with a baby, our tips for flying with a baby may be especially useful, and if you're planning to travel in the school holidays, check out our page on UK school holidays so you can make sure to travel on the best days. Now read on for our five tips for travelling with children that will help you make the most of your family trip!
Before You Go: Get Them Excited About the Destination
As adults we certainly look forward to our holidays, but there is nothing quite like the excitement of a child who is visiting a new place for the first time. Make the most of their natural curiosity by spending some time educating them about the destination you'll be visiting - teaching them about the history, the food, the plants and animals they can expect to see when you arrive, and remember that children pick up languages far more easily than we do.
With this in mind, you might want to stock up with some age-appropriate phrase books and download an app or audio guide such as the Studycat series, which is suitable for kids from pre-school age. This will help your kids to speak confidently in another language in its native environment, and will give them a head start when it comes to learning it in school.
On the Journey: Travel on Wheels
Toddlers and young children bring a lot of paraphernalia with them, and you will certainly find you're travelling with a lot more luggage than you're used to if this is your first trip with a child. For this reason we recommend bringing a buggy, even if your toddler doesn't normally need one at home, as it can double up as an additional piece of luggage, allowing you to store bulky items that your child may need on the journey. It will also serve as a handy makeshift bed if your child needs to nap en route, or if you find yourself having to stop off somewhere that isn't entirely geared-up for children, for example in the event of a delay.
It helps to pack everything else in wheeled luggage as well (both for yourself and for your children; check out the wonderful Trunki ride-on luggage for some inspiration), as this will reduce the amount of heavy baggage you have to carry, to help your transfers go more smoothly.
Time to Eat: Plan Meal Breaks Carefully
A hungry child is not a happy child, as you and your fellow travellers will quickly discover! For older children, make sure you have a steady supply of snacks to hand, and that there are enough to go around for the duration of the journey. Hydration is particularly important when travelling somewhere hotter than what's normal for your family, so make sure you have plenty of liquids that your kids will willingly drink available at all times. Many children don't drink until they are thirsty, so you may need to remind them to do so while travelling.
If you are travelling with babies who are still breastfeeding, you will also need to consider your own hydration levels carefully and make sure you take on enough water. It's also important to remember that attitudes towards breastfeeding in public vary wildly around the world, so be sure you research the customs both at your destination and on any layover points before you leave. You may find these tips from Female Traveller helpful.
On Your Holiday: Build Childcare Into Your Break
If the main purpose of your holiday is for you to take a well-earned rest, you might want to consider a resort where childcare is available on site. This might be in the form of kids' clubs, or of resident childminders, and there may be offers available as part of a package. You'll want to ensure that the experience is fun and diverting for your children, so do some research before you leave to find out what type of supervised activities are on offer, and what age groups they are suited to - if you have school aged children, for example, you won't simply want to leave them in a glorified creche.
Self-contained resorts such as holiday parks and well-equipped campsites can be particularly well suited to families with young children, and operators such as Eurocamp and Canvas Holidays run organised activities for children and their families on site, taking a bit of the pressure of parents as they wind down for their summer break. There are plenty of ways you can encourage your children to stay busy and to be independent within safe boundaries on your trip: be sure to pack plenty of games and sports items that they'll want to spend time playing, and encourage them to get creative with pens, paper and other art materials for kids.
A good way to keep children busy while forming a lasting record of your holiday is to encourage them to create a holiday scrapbook: a simple blank paper book is all you need to get started, in which they can collect wrappers from new foods they've tried, photos, flowers, tickets, stickers and anything else associated with the trip.
Remember What You Enjoyed as a KidImage by © Abi Silvester Kids club on a beach in France.
Childhood holidays can form some of our fondest memories, so one of the best ways to ensure your kids stay happy and occupied throughout your trip is to remember what you enjoyed doing at their age. Did you develop a life-long love of skiing or another activity on a family holiday, or did you used to sing campfire songs or play particular games when getting together as a family for holidays? Maybe there was a particular place that particularly captured your imagination as a kid that you could re-visit with your own children? If inspiration fails, take a look back over old holiday snaps and those memories will soon come flooding back.
Do you travel often with small children? Leave us your tips in the comments below!
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Written by Abi Silvester, a London-based writer and editor with a passion for great food, fine wine, coffee and cats; always planning my next trip! Follow her on Twitter.Top