When I think back to the best memories I had as a child, they were almost always from adventures we took as a family – sometimes close to home and (very fortunately for me) also abroad.
Let’s face it though, travelling with kids isn’t always easy.
With that said though, given a few handy tips and an adventurous spirit, there’s no reason you need to stay locked away at home. It seems Kiwi families are catching onto this too, with countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and France featuring in the top 10 family travel destinations these winter holidays.
So if you’re considering an adventurous family holiday (or even a more sedate one to test the water), these tips will help you make the most of your time…
1. Become a List-Maker
Often it’s the small things that make life easier with kids but when holiday mode kicks in, those are sometimes the things that get accidentally left out.
Before you head away, write a list of all of the essentials you’d like to take and revisit it a few days later to check that you’ve accounted for everything you’ll need. Use that list again when you go to pack your bag and your family will be off to a good start.
On the Plane
2. Pack Spare Clothes in Your Carry-On
Nobody wants to sit is grubby clothes through a long flight (much less sit next to the person that is!) so the ability to freshen up will be sure to start your trip on the right note. Having a change of clothes (both for you and the kids) will also be a godsend should your checked-in baggage go walkabouts.
3. Look After Little Ears
Air pressure changes on takeoff and landing can result in pain for kids, especially if they’re showing signs of a cold. Specially designed earplugs can help equalise air pressure during flights, as can sucking a lolly (or chewing gum for older kids). For babies, breast or bottle feeding is often the best solution.
Should you kids have blocked ears or a cold, sniffing on Vicks can help clear their sinuses (though if you’re caught short, airlines sometimes carry eucalyptus wipes for this very purpose).
4. Free-Range Travel
When it’s safe to move about on a plane, it’s best to let the kids do so in a supervised manner. Doing so will hopefully mean they’ll be less frustrated and restless when the time comes to strap them in.
Hit the Ground Running
5. Leave Yourself a Time Cushion
Let’s face it, things just take a little longer when young ones are involved. Be realistic about how long activities will take with kids in tow and give yourself extra time in which to pack your day bag and get everyone ready.
6. As the Scouts Say, ‘Be Prepared’
With the hustle and bustle of a new environment and the potential for different climates to unsettle kids, having a ready supply of food, drinks and even a few of your family medicine staples is a wise idea. If the kids have favourite snacks from home, you might even like to bring them for the sake of familiarity.
Dried fruit, nuts, crackers, muesli bars and juice boxes are all handy to have in your bag too, along with kids paracetamol, rescue remedy and the ever-trusty plasters.
Keep an eye on liquids though; only baby food and milk are exempt from the 100mL carry-on restrictions. Anything else will need to be checked in to be accessed after your flight.
7. Safety First
Though you’re unlikely to become separated from your children whilst travelling, it’s better to have a plan in place than not.
Each day, take a photo of your kids wearing the clothes they’ll go adventuring in – this way you’ll have an accurate image to show any helpers should you need a hand looking for your little ones. You can also pick up kids ID bracelets or can write your phone number on their hand/arm using a semi-permanent marker.
8. Child-Proof on the Move
When you first arrive at your hotel, quickly scope it out to check it’s child-friendly. Consider all of the things you’d do at home.
Do the locks on the windows and doors work? Are there exposed power sockets or exposed wires? If so, shift some furniture around to suit. Also be sure to check that the hot water is a suitable temperature. If it’s too hot, let the kids know that they’re not to go near the taps without you (or have a chat to the front desk to see if they can help).
9. Keep ‘Em Entertained
For all of the ‘ups’ when it comes to travel, there are also likely to be a number of ‘downs’.
Long travel days and delays can be a real challenge for kids so having some on-the-go games in your arsenal can be a lifesaver. Whether they’re mobile boardgames, engaging apps, classics like ‘eye spy’ or colouring books and crayons, you’ll thank us for it later.
10. Keep the Bugs at Bay
There’s not much worse than being hit by a case of ‘Bali belly’ whilst travelling, especially if it’s the little ones affected.
Kids are often more susceptible to illness and when travelling in a foreign country, an illness on top of all the other changes can sometimes be too much.
To keep the bugs at bay, we recommend travelling with mini hand sanitisers and having a healthy stock of medication waiting in the wings. If you’re travelling to a spot a little more off the beaten path, we’d also recommend voiding ice cubes (at least until you’re acclimatised to the local water), buying only bottled or filtered water and, if you’re using tap water, encouraging the kids to spit it out when washing their teeth (or even easier, using that bottled water you bought earlier).
So there you have it – 10 tips to help you make the most of your family adventure! Happy travels.
If you’re an adventuring family please share with us your top tips below. We’d love to hear from you!