Planning a family holiday can be a daunting task, whether you have a baby, toddler or school age child in tow. From packing all the right things to finding a low stress way to travel, to choosing a destination that offers just the right balance of family fun and relaxation, there’s a lot to organise. To achieve a successful trip, you’d do well to remember the 6Ps: Proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance. It’s an old military adage, and there’s definitely something to be said for approaching your next family holiday with military precision! Here are 5 top tips to get you started.
Don’t go too far
The trick to having a relaxing family holiday is to make it easy for everyone. You may be dreaming of an exotic beach holiday in Bali, but will your little darlings be up for a 16+ hour long haul flight with a stopover in Dubai? Your other half may want to choose a New York city break, but how is that going to work with a baby or bored toddler? And what about exploring about foreign foods when your child is screaming for baked beans on toast?
Rather than setting yourself up for an ordeal far away from home, why not start with simple pleasures? There are plenty of UK holidays within driving distance. If you do like to go beside the seaside, you may be surprised to hear that at any point in Britain you’re never more than 70 miles from the sea. Choose one of many child friendly self catering holiday cottages and keep everything as it is at home, but with the added excitement of being on a seaside holiday!
Do your research
Regardless of where in the UK you are headed, it’s important to find a destination that will offer something for everyone in the family. Try to find a happy medium that incorporates kids’ activities, something for parents to enjoy and stuff you can all do together. From safe sandy beaches in Cornwall to holiday parks with all-inclusive facilities, camping in the New Forest or sightseeing in Scotland, choose a holiday that you know will work for your nearest and dearest.
If your children are old enough, why not ask them what they would like to do? Involving them in the planning and decision making stages will make them feel more enthused and connected to the trip even before you set off.
Prepare for the journey
Assuming you’re travelling by car, you won’t be quite as restricted in how much you can pack as you would on a flight, but that doesn’t mean you should pack the kitchen sink! Find out what is provided by your accommodation and pack your essentials accordingly. Don’t panic – unless you’re off to a remote Scottish island, there will be local shops!
Long car journeys can be trying for small children, so plan ahead. Age appropriate books, music and games are a must for keeping the little ones entertained, as are plenty of snacks and baby wipes. Make frequent stops and do your best to relax, treating the drive as part of the holiday.
Make an itinerary
As most parents will agree, children need structure or they can go wild. Do you really want to have 7 days with nothing planned stretching ahead of you? Much better to have at least a rough idea of what will be happening every day. Unless you’re taking infants on holiday, it’s a good idea to mix things up with different activities and local trips.
It could be as simple as a trip to the beach, a visit to the zoo, getting ice creams in the local village, a steam train or pony ride, visiting a castle or going to the cinema. Make sure you find a balance between fun activities and relaxing down time for parents and children alike.
Be prepared for problems
What if your child becomes ill when you’re on holiday? Not quite as serious as if you had gone abroad, it’s still worth being prepared for the unexpected. Take emergency medicines including a painkiller such as Calpol, some Olbas Oil for stuffy noses, and antihistamine in case of allergic reactions, a disinfectant such as Dettol in case of cuts and scrapes, and a first aid kit with you. Locate the nearest hospital with A&E facilities and the nearest dispensing chemist, just in case.
Finally, if your children are old enough, talk to them about Stranger Danger and what to do if they get lost. Agree a meeting point at the start of every day, in case you should get separated, and put your and the hotel’s phone number into your child’s mobile phone if they’re old enough to have one.