Family holidays suggest and mean different things to the different members of the family. For the kids it represents fun times, spoiling and exciting new experiences and places: A different bed and a picnic lunch eaten together on a beach. For parents on the other hand it can easily swing into an exhausting exercise that can’t end soon enough.
Family breaks should be a break for everyone though. A time of coming together and reuniting, resting and playing. The key factor to success here lies in planning and preparation.
- Choose your lodgings according to how kid-friendly it is and its distance from places you want to visit.
- Ask the hotel / accommodation establishment about cots, kiddies meals and other relevant matters before you book.
- Depending on the needs of your child’s age-group, make sure your bathroom has a bath / shower as showering a baby is not the easiest option.
- Enquire about age-discounts: Children under certain ages often stay or eat for free.
- Bag toiletries separately and pour shampoos and lotions into smaller bottles (and remember to label them!). Take a bottle of bath-gel in stead of a bar of soap (which is always a nightmare to pack wet).
- Pack other ‘wet’ items such as toothbrushes and valuables (such as identity documents and passports) in zip lock bags.
- Remember to include a favorite activities book and toy plus a new toy for your child (to be ‘discovered’ at the first bored moment). Do not choose noisy toys or squeaky shoes, however popular they might be with your child!
- Clothing should be those your child loves, comfortable and weather-specific. Pack less and rather get them washed.
- Remember to pack medication, nappies and/or other items that might not be readily available when you need them.
- Pack enough sun block.
- Also include a basic medical bag with pain killers, band aids and sterilizing alcohol, gauze and tape, thermometer and rescue remedy.
- All you need is a box full of new, inexpensive toys (such as puzzles and coloring-in pictures) plus a bag full of snacks. These you have to keep with you and only dig into now and then, thus stretching ‘the finds’ for the whole journey.
- On the road it is a good idea to give your child a simplified map with recognizable landmarks and ask him or her to highlight them along the trip.
- For those planning to fly, make sure your hand luggage is minimum. Getting on or off a plane with a child and 10 bags creates avoidable stress. Also make sure to have a lollipop or dummy for take-off.
- Get phone numbers of taxi’s, hospitals and police printed beforehand.
- Work out a rough itinerary for each day, amounting to a third of every day taken care of.
- Get information off the internet, visit a library (or a Tourism Information Office upon arrival) and get informed. The family can study these at night and make plans for the following day. Compile a daily selection of 3 and let your children choose one activity for each day.
- Aim to keep routines the same for small children and plan ahead for traveling time.
- Your child, depending on age, can enjoy an outing for a certain amount of time. If you push the activity passed his or her coping duration, you will end up with unhappy faces!
Activities kids love include steam train rides and bicycle tours, fun / water parks, beaches and hiking. These are often enjoyed by the parents too and create memorable moments.
Mom and dad should also agree to parent alone each day for an hour, in order for both to get quiet time for recuperation. If everyone gets to enjoy themselves every day, no matter how long or short, the holiday will be successful.
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Sam Smith is a mom, expert traveller and contributing writer at Family Holidays – a website making family holidays so much easier for parents and children.
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