Choosing the right family travel destination can be incredibly stressful as a parent, the exact opposite of how a holiday should make you feel. However with the right preparation and attitude parents can confidently plan travel for the whole family, making precious memories and inspiring their children to get out and see the world.
Who is going?
Now this seems obvious but is easily overlooked. A family with a baby will often travel differently to a family with toddlers or teenagers. Finding the balance between adult and child friendly activities is important to make sure everyone is happy and their needs are being met. Have a family planning meeting in the early stages and let everyone choose one activity they want to include in the trip. Identify if the aim of the holiday is relaxation or exploration, slow paced or jam packed with adventures.
The second step is to be realistic. On our round the world trip we saw frequently how easy it can be for parents to underestimate the changes to plans that children can bring while holidaying. While every family is different, a realistic approach to the time and capabilities of family members will help plan activities and ensure they run smoothly. Think about the personality of your children. Do they enjoy change? Do they settle well in new environments? These factors can impact a child’s behaviour and alter the family mood while on holiday together. In addition try not to make promises you may not be able to keep before arriving at a destination. This can lead to disappointment. Instead adopt a “let’s wait and see till we arrive” response for older kids.
Family friendly operators
Personally we do not use a lot of tour operators when travelling but if we need to, we always head for tour operators that specialise in family tours. While these may cost more the tours are often more flexible, the guides are experienced with accommodating children and they tend to provide fantastic advice.
Be health and safety smart
Attention to health and safety details can prevent many of the nasty surprises that can spoil a family holiday. As soon as you start planning overseas travel, arrange passports and child visas. Consult with your GP or travel clinic to check whether your child needs vaccinations. Discuss illness prevention techniques. Take out a family travel insurance policy. Do your research, ask your travel agent or destination embassy about health care facilities and how you access medical services in an emergency. Confirm this with your accommodation. Check whether water is drinkable for adults and children (this can differ). Carry first aid supplies within reach and remember any prescription medication your children may need.
Travelling with children can be tiring so minimise the equipment you need to bring with you. Many items such as strollers, cots and highchairs can be included if requested in advance or hired for a small fee. This saves parental energy for more important holiday activities.
Allow extra time
Travelling with children just takes longer. It is a fact. Whether it is extra time checking in and getting through security at the airport or making frequent stops on a road trip. Stress levels can be reduced by allowing extra time and not having to rush the younger members of the family. In addition remember to schedule in down time for everyone if your family tends to jam pack their schedule.
The “family room”
Having stayed in rooms described as family rooms in many different countries I have learnt that asking some specific questions about what this means exactly can really pay off. The term family room can vary dramatically from meaning two adjoining rooms through to your younger children sleeping on the fold out sofa or even worse everyone sharing the same room. Sitting in the dark whispering to your partner while your children sleep is no fun and guaranteed to annoy you when you have spent your hard earned money on the holiday. Clarify details early and if possible get written confirmation of accommodation details before arriving.
Enter hotel rooms and accommodation before children
The final tip, most relevant when travelling internationally, is to inspect hotel rooms and accommodation before entering with children. Kids can’t wait to run through accommodation and claim their beds. However on several occasions we have been glad we did a spot check first. We have personally had the experience of glass being left on the floor, medication being left on a kitchen bench and a room with a very low balcony height. All of these things could have ended our holiday before it even started had we not checked first. If you have a toddler check that the TV is secure and any small cords are out of reach from small hands.
Travelling with children can be a fantastic family experience with a little destination preparation!
Michelle is a travel loving, bike riding, mum to two who loves holidaying in a tent and can be found sharing stories at Gee You’re Brave about living life and parenting with an adventurous spirit. Michelle has a Masters in Special Education, currently works at an Art Teacher for children with an intellectual disability and is passionate about helping children express themselves and reach their full potential.