We’ve come up with 10 great tips for travelling with young ones so that your holidays are more joy than ‘oh boy!‘
1. Tell the kids about your trip in advance
Most of us have no problem boasting to our friends about an up-and-coming holiday, however we often forget to tell our little ones all about where they’re about to jet off to. To help your kids adjust more quickly to new surrounds, show them photographs of the place you’re going to. Quite often you can Google the town/city/resort name and select ‘images’ to see all the photos relating to that place. Also, show them photos of the hotel or resort’s bedrooms, pool area, nearby parks etc, so that it’s not such a huge surprise for them when you get there. Try to describe what you see in the photos so that when you eventually see the items and landmarks for real, your little one will be excited that they recognise them.
2. Rent an apartment
Many resorts (here and overseas) have apartments, and the fridge, microwave, and often a washing machine, makes it a much easier experience if you have young ones. Here’s a trick that’s saved me up to hundreds of dollars a night on an Australian resort apartment. Research the best resort in the area you want to visit. Then look for that same resort on a website like Stayz. Many people own private apartments located within high-end resorts that they rent out at much cheaper prices. You still have access to all the resort facilities, but the accommodation can go from $880 a night for a two-bedroom apartment to as little $230, as we have found out in a Far North Queensland resort. That’s a lot of cocktails by the pool!
3. Shop for groceries online
No-one wants to fill up three quarters of their luggage with disposable nappies. Or have to worry about rushing out to find milk, bread and snacks as soon as you arrive at your destination. If you are staying somewhere where you know the address (if you book a private apartment or holiday home you will generally know in advance), then you can set up an order online at the nearby Coles or Woolworths and have your essentials delivered to the apartment shortly after you arrive. If you don’t know the number of the room you are staying in and are there for a few days, you can often phone the resort/hotel to find out the day before you arrive to see what room you have been allocated, or simply have your online order ready to go as soon as you get there.
4. Consider meals
When you have young children, dining in restaurants can be a chore. Keeping their wiggly little bottoms on seats for more than an hour at dinnertime can be akin to trying to restrain a T-Rex – and be just as noisy. I must admit, when our family travelled to Europe last year and our son was just two, we found that the iPad (aka ‘the babysitter’) came in very handy at restaurants so we could finish our meals in relative peace. We did get some furrowed brows from the older set, but we were all happy and our son didn’t get the iPad until after he ate, so we felt fine with that. If you are travelling for more than a few days, think about mixing up meal locations so that everyone enjoys their time and you are much less stressed. Consider a picnic in a National Park, kids’ playground or at the beach so the kids can burn some energy while you relax (some drinks, a few bread rolls, a BBQ chicken and several apples is all you need). Many apartments/holiday homes have barbecues on their balcony/verandahs which can make for easy, casual mealtimes, too.
5. Take transport items
On a family trip, you tend to do a lot of kilometres either walking to take in the sights and shop, or driving to interesting places. If you have children under four, it’s a really good idea to take a stroller (or hire one once you get there). Your children might be good walkers, but it’s even tiring for us to walk for a while, let alone for a little person with little legs. Carrying a three-year-old plus any shopping and your handbag (stuffed full of toddler food and drink) is a strain, but a stroller will definitely ease the load.
If you’re hiring a car for a week or more, it can also be cost-effective to take your own car seat (you can save about $20 a day in hire fees). The good news is, most flights allow you to check-in strollers and car seats, and they don’t count towards your baggage allowance. You may need to check them into oversize baggage, but it’s no real hardship, and you’ll certainly be thankful for them when you arrive at your destination.
6. Entertain, entertain, entertain
You might like lying by the pool on a sun lounge for hours on end, or curling up with a good book back in the room, but your young ones certainly don’t. Come equipped with ways to entertain them for stretches of time. Think of items such as a couple of small cars for a young boy, a jewellery making kit for a girl, a jigsaw puzzle for an individual or the family to complete, spades for the beach (you can use any old container to build sandcastles), plastic stacking cups for toddlers (these can be fun in and out of the water), and a few picture books. Then there are the electronics, which you can time-manage as you desire — iPad and mobile phones for gaming and learning apps, plus a couple of DVDs for family nights in. If you’re kids are a bit older and can write, consider buying them a travel diary so they can document their adventures each evening.
7. Label items
Jackets, cardigans, hats, shoes, sunnies, swimming goggles, floaties, electronics, favourite toys – these all have a habit of becoming lost when you’re travelling. Use a laundry marker to write your name and mobile number on any clothing/soft toys, and stick-on labels (also displaying your name and mobile) for everything else. That way, anything lost is just a phone call from a good Samaritan away. Stuck on You, Bright Star Kids and Tiny Me are a few popular websites for ordering labels.
8. ID your child
My three-year-old son has suddenly discovered he can take off at the speed of light and, unfortunately, he loves his new-found freedom. I don’t! I’ve been lucky not to lose him (for long) so far, but I really fear he will escape my notice at some stage, and this would be especially frightening in an area I’m not familiar with. Fortunately, there are forms of ID you can attach to your child so that if someone nice finds your kid, they can find you – there are ID bracelets you can purchase or you could even write your name and number in permanent texta on your child’s arm. However, I recently discovered My Buddy Tag. It’s amazing! It looks a bit like a wristwatch which you pop on your child’s arm and sync to your mobile phone. The ‘watch’ sends you a beep when it is within a certain distance from you, plus it sends an alarm if submersed in water for about 10 seconds (to help prevent drowning), and it even emails time and map locations of when your child is last seen by the BuddyTag App. To top it off, it has a panic button the child can press if they are afraid. I think it’s a fantastic device for travelling families; and great peace of mind for parents of ‘wanderers’. You can order them locally through Buy My Things.
9. Remember road safety
It’s shuddering to think that a quarter of pedestrians hit by a car, going at just 40 kilometres per hour, actually die. Keeping our kids safe is paramount, but it’s so easy to lose concentration on a family holiday, especially if you’re not familiar with an area you are walking in and are busy gazing at street signs or looking out for tourist destinations. Remember to always hold your children’s hands while crossing, even if they think they’re big enough to go it alone. According to Kidsafe NSW, ‘children need assistance dealing with the traffic environment until at least the age of 10 as they are not equipped physically or developmentally to make the crucial decisions to keep them safe’. Tragically, a North Shore family lost their four-year-old boy who was hit by a car while on a family holiday a couple of years ago. You can read the mum’s story here. Plus, take a look at Little Blue Dinosaur, a memorial Facebook page this mum set up to help parents and children become more aware of road safety.
10. Take photos, with people in them!
If you’re like me, you’re too busy taking beautiful scenery shots that you get home and there is little evidence your family actually went on a holiday — you could have just downloaded a bunch of pictures from the Net to look at. If your children are under five, they will have little or no recollection of their trip, so get snap happy so you can relive family adventures with them when they’re older. And don’t forget to include yourself with them in the shots. All kids get a real kick out of seeing a smaller version of themselves posing with a ‘retro’ mum and/or dad in future years.
If you have any other tips to add to this list, we love to hear them! Write them down in the comments section below.
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