The thought of family holidays can spark plentiful fond memories, but if you also tend to break out in beads of sweat thinking about all the moments that can go wrong, you’re not alone. We’ve compiled a list of our top tips for you to consider when planning your next family holiday, to ensure it’s as stress-free (and memorable) as possible.
1. Choose the right destination for YOUR family.
A holiday should be something ALL family members enjoy. This means deciding what sort of holiday will suit your family the most – and finding the right pace. Are you a family who likes to hang by the pool, or would you all prefer to get out and explore from dusk ‘til dawn? This is something only you can answer; but keep in mind if you don’t like doing it at home, then it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy doing it on holiday.
A holiday works best where children are welcomed with open arms, provided fun-filled activities and adventures, and kids menus with options that parents will approve. But don’t forget about yourselves. There should be something about your holiday that provides an escape or adventure for the adults too!
When choosing your family’s holiday destination, there are a few simple questions to ask yourselves:
Why are you going away? Think about whether you’re wanting to relax and have family time, visit relatives, or explore the sights, sounds and smells of a completely new city.
What time of year are you going? Consider the season and whether you’ll be impacted by monsoons or cyclones, or whether your kids will come to life (like you do) during a beautiful (but chilly) snowfall. Think about what activities will be available to you during that time of year (snow skiing can be a little difficult in summer without snow, for example!).
What would you like to do when you’re there? If you love retail therapy and fine dining, it’s best to make sure your destination has an array of shopping and eating options, not just a small village.
How long can you take for your holiday? If you only have a week, then travelling 24 hours to reach your destination may not be a great choice.
2. Plan your travel in detail.
When flying long distances, we’ve found that an overnight flight has always worked best for our family. Keeping kids seated and entertained during the day when they’re at their most active is always challenging. Sleeping children make travel much calmer.
On board, having everything to make our lives easier within reach has always been a win.
Snacks are essential as you never know what delicacies will be served on the plane (not to mention when they’ll arrive). I don’t like to think I have fussy eaters, but I can still remember my son’s face when he was served duck on a long-haul flight. All I can say is thank goodness for crackers! Remember to request a baby or child meal for your flight, and reconfirm this at least 72 hours prior to travel.
Our favourite teddies come along too – and they even have their own passports! We always have something to do (that’s not just screen-time). Colouring in or sticker books have always been a favourite. If you’re packing the iPad, ensure it’s fully charged before heading to the airport, and pack a charging cable in your carry-on, along with suitable headphones.
Probably the most important item for your carry-on is a change of clothes for EVERYONE. I can assure you, there’s nothing like starting out a long haul-flight with the remnants of someone’s lunch down your front. Your hand luggage should also include a small medicine kit with a thermometer and Children’s Panadol as a minimum.
In saying all this, though, pack as light as you can. This is beyond helpful when navigating customs while holding onto or carrying children and having to juggle your belongings as you rummage for passports and everything else you need for security checks.
Always plan to arrive at the airport early to give yourself plenty of time for check in and clearing security (and minimise stress levels). And consider paying extra to pre-allocate your seats where possible. We always choose to be closer to the bathrooms, as kids tend to not give much notice when they need to go!
3. Find the right accommodation.
When it comes to travelling with kids, saving a few dollars on accommodation could mean the difference between a relaxing, easy holiday, and a weeklong circus of frustrating, stressful moments. So it’s important to choose the right place to stay for YOUR family. Consider if the accommodation has facilities your family would enjoy, what dining options they offer (including room service), and whether they accommodate children with cots and high chairs. Does the hotel or resort offer babysitting or kids’ clubs? Is there somewhere nearby you can buy staple grocery items?
The next important decision is choosing the right room type. Think about what you’re likely to do during your holiday. For example, if you have young children, staying by the pool may be the biggest part of your day, so a smart choice would be to choose a room nearby to minimise carting things back and forward. If you want to take in the scenery, but have little ones who need day sleeps, then choose a room that will let you enjoy beautiful views during quiet nap-times. Sometimes a ground floor room can be a much safer option for young ones, and a lot nicer on the parents who need to cart the stroller and luggage up and down the stairs a million times a day!
Always choose space! Wherever possible, when we travel, we always opt for a layout that offers a separate sleeping area, like a one or two bedroom unit. This allows us to put the kids to sleep at their normal time, and us to enjoy our child-free evening without having to sit in silence in the dark or be imprisoned on a small balcony.
Consider paying for early check-in and late check-out. This will ensure your room is ready on arrival, and you won’t be stranded for the last hours before your flight. When travelling with kids, one of the best tips is to stay a bit longer and see more in one place, rather than moving around every couple of nights.
4. Book a private transfer when you can.
Each time we arrive at a new destination, we always make sure we have a private transfer waiting. This helps to smooth the tension of the travel day. It helps with avoiding queues, the eternity of waiting for the bus to fill before we get on the road, and the multiple stops it may take to reach your destination. Private transfers also means child seats are more readily available. They’re generally more expensive but they are definitely worth the time and can be an absolute saviour at the end of a very long day.
5. Arrange dinner for your first night BEFORE you arrive.
Travel days can be long and exhausting, which seems so strange when all you’ve been doing is sitting down (and changing nappies in tiny cubicles, and entertaining small humans who normally won’t sit still for more than six minutes!), but for some reason, everyone always arrives tired and exhausted. Having to decide where to eat can be one of the most difficult decisions when everyone is feeling this way.
The best thing you can do to alleviate some of the grumpiness is arrange dinner for your first night prior to your arrival. There’s nothing worse than finding your choice of restaurant only has late sittings available by the time you arrive (waaaaay past the kids’ bedtime). If you’re staying in a hotel and room service is the best option, request the room service menu prior to your arrival, so you know what you’ll be able to order and when.
For many apartment or rental stays, groceries can be delivered prior to your arrival (and if the resort doesn’t offer the service, check out local delivery services like online supermarkets or Amazon). You might just choose to get the basics delivered to get you through breakfasts, or if you’re having a longer stay, lunch and dinner supplies as well.
6. Take all your important documents with you.
Domestically or internationally, you should carry more than just your passports or licences. Always take a copy of vaccination certificates for your children, as these can be requested by kids’ club facilities. If you’re travelling domestically, it’s beneficial to carry copies of birth certificates for children in case proof of age may be required.
7. Don’t skimp on travel insurance.
Insurance is one of those things that seems like a cost with no tangible benefit. But the reality is, if you don’t have it, it can spell disaster. Ensure your policy covers everyone in the family, along with any pre existing conditions. Cover should also extend for any activities you are wanting to partake in, such as snow sports.
Travel insurance should be taken out as close as possible to paying your flights and deposits. This ensures your cancellation cover for all events listed in the policy starts immediately.
8. Know where the nearest medical services are and how to reach them.
Kids get sick. Sometimes it can be something as simple as an ear infection that can thwart your plans. Make sure you know the closest medical services and how you would contact them. These days it could be as simple as a Zoom appointment with your doctor back home, and a trip to the local pharmacy. For emergencies, make sure you know what to dial for your location. Is it 911? 000? You don’t want to be spending time Googling emergency numbers when an ambulance should be on its way.
Always pack a medicine kit. We have one pre-packed at home and it always comes away with us. It includes basics like Bandaids, antiseptic cream, a thermometer, Panadol, antihistamines, sunscreen and insect repellent. It’s one of the important things to remember, but hopefully you never need to use it!
Keen to make your next family holiday a winter wonderland?
Snow Safaris is an Australian owned and operated outfit specialising in fun-filled, stress-free family snow and ski holidays here and overseas. We know what it’s like to travel with kids, so we take care of all the logistics to make sure it’s the perfect family holiday for little kids… and big kids. With local, experienced ski hosts to take you to places on the mountain you’d never find on your own, as well as tailored fun for the kids, you can let the family find their happy place while you rediscover yours.
Carve unforgettable moments with the whole family and reach out to Snow Safaris today – we’re only a snowball’s throw away.