For the uninitiated, the phrase ‘travelling with kids’ strikes as much fear as the prospect of root canal surgery. We’ve all experienced screaming kids, angry kids and sulky kids.
Whether or not your kids are holy terrors, following these travel tips will ensure you return relaxed, refreshed, with a host of beautiful memories to delve into.
Talk it through
Get them involved from day one. Sit down as a family and chat about each one’s expectations of a holiday. Discuss how everyone could compromise between seemingly conflicting places, activities and interests. Such conversations are invaluable for learning about each other’s needs, and finding destinations and activities to suit the whole family.
Check it out
Hotel vs apartment vs cabana. Most hotel rooms are not built for families with young kids and usually have minimal floor space and thin walls through which every tantrum penetrates clearly.
An apartment gives you more space and most of the basic amenities of home. Several seaside resorts offer villas and cabanas that could work out to cheaper rates. Check out all-inclusive deals - these are especially available for locals. They include buffets and activities that appeal to every generation, and could eliminate daily decision making that can cause conflicts.
International travel websites sometimes offer better local deals than you could access from home.
Phone before you go
Many international chains offer family deals. Ask about the room layout. If you need a child’s bed, is that available? If you need two rooms are they inter-connected?
Do they have a kids’ menu? Do they provide meals not on the menu? In- house entertainment. Do they offer familyoriented cable stations? Is there a movie library with kids’ movies?
Check out locks on doors and windows to ensure the room is secured. Check the sturdiness of fittings - wobbly balconies and railings are unsafe and you should relocate right away. Cover exposed wires or sockets or block them off with furniture that’s too heavy for your children to move. Check the temperature of the water.
Pack as light as you can but pack the essentials. Encourage kids to choose their own clothes to minimise complaints. Pack in layers, with what is needed first on the top, including a change of clothing in case of a mishap. Choose comfortable clothes and colorcoordinated separates so that if an item gets dirty you have only to change part of the outfit.
Carry some non-prescription antihistamines for sneezing, streaming noses or itchy eyes; a hydrocortisone cream for skin allergies and insect bites; children’s paracetamol for pain and fever, if that’s what they are used to.
Take frequent breaks if travelling by car
Children have short attention spans, so find interesting spots to picnic in, and let the kids run around.
Stay safe. Pack plenty of drinking water, a firstaid kit and a torch. Keep your phone charged.
Don’t assume you could buy snacks along the way. In an unfamiliar part of the country, food on the wayside could be unsuitable, expensive or unhealthy.
Take it slow
Be realistic about how much you can cover with little ones in tow. Set the pace for a good part of the trip to what your youngest child can handle.
Always have a plan B. Be it for lost, stolen or forgotten luggage, vehicle breakdowns or for delays, missed trains and buses, botched up bookings, sudden illnesses. Holidays can never be planned to a ‘T’. Your children will learn important life lessons from watching how you take things in your stride on this trip. So treat any mishaps as small obstacles to overcome.
Do something new together
Impress your kids with your sense of adventure and curiosity. Learn to kayak, snorkel, follow a yoga class and identify fauna and flora in their natural surroundings. Share the joy of learning together.
The best things in life are free
Catch a magnificent sunset together, take a walk or bike ride down a scenic path, climb a mountain, swim in the sea or lake, but be sure to take all safety precautions.
Capture the moment
See your trip through their eyes. Make memories by encouraging your children to draw or write about the things they see, eat and experience. Give them a cheap camera. Help them collect autographs from people they meet as well as ticket stubs, labels and maps. They could collect seashells, leaves, flowers that you can help preserve. Place their collections in scrapbooks or help make a montage for their bedroom wall or for ‘show and tell’ time in school.
Go with the flow
Children need to burn off energy and enjoy the company of kids their own age, and parents need rest and times for adult company. If you and your children find something you’d rather do on your own, be spontaneous.
Walk in their shoes
Recall those carefree days of childhood when the world was yours to conquer. That’s the litmus test to a memorable holiday with the kids. And now you’re good to go!