Here are some top tips to stop your hair falling out on a family holiday. Think: minimum stress and maximum enjoyment for monsters of all ages – including you.
Get the kids on-board before you leave the house
Children love to feel involved, so make their opinions part of the holiday process. You may not want them to help choose the destination, but they can assist in picking the activities that they’ll want to do when you’re away and can even lend a hand when deciding what to pack. Having their input from the beginning will get them really excited and should save on sulks later down the line. Once you’ve picked your holiday, try getting out maps, watching films set on location and whipping up a local dish or two - it’s guaranteed to get you all in the mood.
Lighten the load
There’s nothing worse than being weighed down by baggage that’s twice your bodyweight, especially if you find that use a fraction of your stuff. Certainly pack a pram, it can double up as a handy bed for naps and give little ones a break from walking, but try to leave most gadgets at home. Carry essentials in your cabin bag, just in case your flight is delayed or your luggage goes missing, but keep things light. There are shops all over the world and your little one won’t mind if they wear the same outfit more than once.
Distraction is your in-flight friend
Fearful of sonic-wailing and strangers with rolling eyes, many parents dread flying with toddlers in tow, but it needn’t be traumatic. Try packing a goodie bag that your child can open on take off and fill it with games and little treats. A change in air pressure can be painful on the ears of little ones, so minimise the impact by ensuring they have something to suck on or chew during take off and landing. Depending on their age, this could be a dummy or a pack of chewy sweets, but both will hold back in-flight tears and judgemental tuts.
Swap your hotel for a family-friendly living space
With adjoining rooms, non-childproofed spaces, sub-standard baby beds and additional costs for family breakfasts, hotels can become a headache. Sometimes the best solution for families is to look away from the usual stays and try renting an apartment. It will allow you to stick to your own family routine and self-cater at the same time. You can even go one step further and try a home exchange, swapping child-friendly homes with other parents.
Slow down the pace
It’s tempting to cram every waking minute with activities, but you should hold fire when travelling with children. Be realistic: slow down your itinerary to account for naps, toilet breaks, snacks and tantrums as well as some much-needed parental downtime. Factor in some lazy fun around the pool or a picnic in the park, giving everyone a chance to unwind. It’s guaranteed to keep happiness levels below grumpy.
Never underestimate the power of the non-perishable snack
To the naked eye, muesli bars, crisps, dried fruit and the odd cheeky lollipop may look like snacks, but to the trained parent, they can be lifesavers, especially on a family holiday. Brilliant for staving off tantrums and tears, it’s wise to have a secret stash within reach at all times, especially if you haven’t decided where to lunch.
Start a scrapbook project
A scrapbook is a great way to keep your kids engaged on holiday, giving them a project to complete during dinner or on long bus and train journeys. Ask them to draw or write about their day, scribbling down their highlights, and glue in everything from ticket stubs to postcards to flyers, building up a journal to keep for life. Both educational and fun, it’s a parental box-ticker and brilliant way to store memories.
Enjoy the simple things in life
Theme parks might seem like the perfect family holiday solution, but the reality is quite often far less magical and far more expensive, especially during the school holidays. Think long queues in the searing heat or restless kids in the driving rain; expect exhaustion, tantrums and expensive meals. Stick to the simple things instead: bike rides in the countryside, canoeing on a lake, messing around on the beach or kicking a ball about in the park.
Because you deserve it. This is your holiday too, so when the kids are asleep, snatch some adult time and be sure to indulge. It might be tempting to pass out on the sofa or grab an early night, but stay up to treat yourself, if only for an hour.