The end of year break is quickly approaching and with it the opportunity to enjoy some quality time off with your family. While the excitement in the lead-up to a much-deserved break is one thing, executing the actual holiday itself with little ones in tow is often a completely different story.
Whether you're planning a road trip to the Sunshine Coast or you're embarking on an international escape to popular family holiday destinations, it can help to be prepared when you've got the kids on board. There's no doubt that travelling with kids isn't as easy as a solo adventure but the good news is it can be just as fun! So rather than let the pent-up stress multiply while you're away with your little ones, we've put together a list of our tried and tested tips for holidaying with your children without having a meltdown.
Do your research
First things first, do your research. Before you even think about booking, it's important to make sure the destination is right for you and your family's needs. Doing your research doesn't just mean perusing pictures of the final destination. It includes reviewing a number of different factors including the travel to, from and around the destination, the accommodation, facilities and activities available to you to name a few things.
Take into consideration what type of holiday you want. Do you want a holiday for active families? Or perhaps a relaxing retreat? You'll also want to take into account the age and interests of your children so they enjoy themselves too. While you may want an ultimate tropical destination where you can enjoy swimming on pristine beaches, your kids may want to visit a theme park or a kids club.
Some destinations are a lot more child friendly than others and it can often make your trip a whole lot more enjoyable if you travel somewhere that caters to children.
When you're travelling with kids, you're often not able to be as spontaneous as you once were, which is why it pays to plan ahead. The extent to which you need to plan will also depend on the trip itself. International travel will often require a bit of extra organisation compared to domestic travel, especially when you need to get your children's travel documents in order before you set off.
Be sure to plot out the logistics and give yourself plenty of time to get from A to B. There's nothing worse than rushing to get somewhere when your toddler decides to throw a temper tantrum and slow things down. Depending on the age of your kids, having access to things like car seats can be a bit of a hindrance, so you'll either need to pack one with you or have one ready to go once you get to the other side. If you're planning on driving to your destination using your own car, this shouldn't be an issue but interstate or international travel, while not impossible, can involve a few more hurdles with young kids.
Even planning and booking some of the activities you'd like to do while on holiday can help to take some of the pressure off once you get to your destination. Just make sure the activities you have in mind are age appropriate for the little ones.
Book accommodation in advance
Make sure to book your accommodation ahead of time to make sure the facilities meet your family's needs. While you might have been away with booking a hotel the day you arrive at your destination in the past, that strategy just isn't going to work out when you've got kids in tow. So book ahead and that way you'll have one less thing to worry about once you're en route.
Create a packing checklist
While we're on the topic of planning ahead, it can be a great idea to prepare a packing checklist that covers all of the essentials for the family and the kids in particular. There's nothing worse than arriving at your destination only to find you've forgotten to pack your child's favourite toy. So, the best way to make sure you don't forget anything is by creating a packing list. Better yet, save it for all future trips and update it as you go along. Obviously, the list will change as your kids get older and it will also depend on where you're travelling to, but having a template on hand can be a great starting point.
Here are some of the essentials to get you started:
- Clothes and spare clothes
- Travel documents (EG. passport, Visa, immunisation documents, etc.)
- Medication and first aid kit
- Kids toiletries
- Stroller or baby carrier
- Hat and sunscreen
- Entertainment options like toys, books, games and technology (EG. iPad)
- Food and water
Get your kids involved
We're not saying you should leave the itinerary up to your little ones but you might be surprised at how much they enjoy being involved in the planning process. Obviously, the level of involvement will depend on the age of your children but even getting their input on the kinds of activities they'd like to participate in while you're away can help them to get excited about the trip.
Set your child's expectations
If it's your first time travelling or doing a big trip with your little ones, it can be worth taking some time to explain how the whole experience will play out, particularly when it comes to the actual travel days. Explaining the travel process can help to encourage cooperation and better behaviour among younger children, rather than just throwing them into an unfamiliar environment and expecting them to cope.
Schedule in some shut-eye
There's not much worse than an over-tired child, but an over-tired child when you're on holiday can be a new experience in itself. If you're going to be travelling across time zones, it can help to slowly adjust your children's sleeping schedule in the days leading up to your trip to help them settle in quicker when you finally arrive.
In some instances, travelling with an infant can be easier when it comes to sleep because they spend so much time asleep and are often soothed by the white noise of car and plane engines.
Keep your little ones occupied
Whether you're in the car, on a plane or taking some time out at your accommodation, it's worth bringing some bits and pieces along to keep your kids entertained during the downtime.
Think games, colouring in books, activity books and travel diaries. Depending on the age of your kids, you'll also want to make sure you've packed their favourite toys too. And don't underestimate the power of screens and gadgets for keeping your little ones entertained when you're in between activities or just need a bit of a break yourself. There's nothing wrong with handing over the iPad when you need a little time off but you should also encourage some screen-free time so they can connect with the family while you're away too.
Don't forget the snacks
We're all guilty of getting hangry from time to time but children are often the number one culprits for hunger-fuelled meltdowns. One surefire way to keep your kids happy and entertained is with their favourite snacks. It's always better to have too many on hand than not enough, so make sure you include snacks on your packing checklist so you don't forget them.
Go with the flow
While being organised can help to keep your holiday on track, don't be too hard on yourself if things don't go entirely to plan either. There are so many factors that are completely out of your hands when it comes to holidays and travelling so it also pays to go with the flow and have contingencies in place if Plan A doesn't work out.
Travelling with children can be incredibly daunting but if you follow these tips you're sure to have a great time without losing your marbles. Travelling, no matter how near or far you go, is an incredible experience for people of all ages and it's one of the best ways to make lifelong memories as a family. When it comes to hitting the road with your kids happy children = happy parents! So go forth and explore with your little ones.