The kids are all right
How do you make travelling with kids a relaxing time, asks Sandy Calleja Portelli.
Travel opens up a whole new set of experiences regardless of whether your idea of a perfect holiday is trekking through Asia or lounging beside the pool at an all-inclusive resort.
But add a child or two to the mix and travelling becomes a whole new ball game.
When you travel with children in tow, careful planning goes a long way to ensuring a pleasant experience for everyone.
Choosing the right destination for your holiday is an obvious starting point. You may well enjoy nothing more than spending entire days touring museums or a spot of white water rafting, but neither may tickle your child’s fancy. Planning your activities to suit your child’s interests will go a long way to making a good holiday.
The right choice of hotel is also crucial – somewhere that is family-friendly, with relatively large rooms and a good breakfast is a must. There is nothing worse than starting the day with a hungry child.
Nadia Vella, a mother of three, puts such careful research at the top of her list. Nadia also includes a list of medicines she never travels without including anti-diarrhoea and anti-pyreutic medicine, re-hydrating salts and antibiotics. Packing your child’s regular medication is obviously important as you cannot count on finding the same medicine at your destination.
Packing for a family holiday is a balancing act – while too much stuff will just weigh you down, packing a few clothes may mean you spend some holiday time doing a spot of laundry.
Encourage your children to pack their own hand luggage with their belongings including colouring pens and a travel game or two to pass the time on long journeys – the rolling countryside will only hold children’s interest for a very short time. Be sure to check the hand luggage for any extra belongings that find their way in there – one bedtime toy is acceptable, but a dozen teddy bears that your young one suddenly cannot sleep without are not.
Check again on departure to make sure nothing has been left behind and to avoid having to explain yourself to the security staff at the airport. “Madam, do you know you cannot take rocks in your hand baggage?” was one question I have had to answer after one of my own brood packed pebbles she wanted to paint on back home.
Having a plan for every day of your holiday is important as is being flexible enough to change your plan at the drop of a hat. On a recent trip to London, my daughters were enthralled with a big Easter egg hunt that was taking place. Spending the best part of two days looking for giant eggs was definitely not on my list of things to do but there is a lot to be said for going with the flow.
I usually try to plan visits to museums and art galleries for the morning and follow that up with something fun for the children. The internet is a great source of information for child centred activities at your destination while museum visits can be made more interesting by designing a treasure hunt which immediately gives the children a personal interest in the exhibits. Of course, a day spent visiting a fun park or zoo is definitely a must. Planned for the latter part of the holiday, this gives the children something to look forward to throughout.
Despite the preparations, things do go wrong and children have a knack for feeling crabby even in the most beautiful locations. They will still get over-tired just as they do back home, sometimes even more so as young children may find it hard to get accustomed to being away.
The flight may also be challenging for your child – make sure to pack a favourite snack for the journey and keep chewable sweets handy for take off and landing when your young one’s ears may become blocked.
Whatever you plan for your holiday, remember to take along a good dose of humour and a healthy dollop of patience. Finally, relax and let your young travelling companions bring a new perspective to your holiday. Bon voyage.
The Vella family travel with their three children aged 10, 8 and 2 years. Yet we still manage to pack loads of fun, says Nadia Vella.
Travelling with children is hard but fun. You have to be super organised and plan your holiday day by day. I usually try to have most of the things booked and paid for from beforehand. I also try to avoid long journeys and limit flights to one, with no connections or stopovers.
Days are planned one thing at a time – one cultural visit followed by a park or something light where they can detoxify after all the history, art and culture. Fun visits which they look forward to like visits to the zoo are left for the last days of the holiday.
I always try to carry food with me, so if they get hungry unexpectedly, I have something to give them. You must also be prepared for all kinds of emergencies.
When packing, the older girls are given a hand luggage each and all their belongings go in there. I give their luggage a final check and remove most of the soft toys and extra things. A book, a card game and colours are packed for long distance travel.
As for the length of the holiday, I prefer those which last around five days – neither too long nor too short.
Places like Euro Disney are ideal for travelling with children because everywhere is so child friendly and safe that parents can relax and enjoy themselves. Everyone is travelling with children so you are not the odd one out. Agriturismo places are also good when travelling with children – in the evening the children can play about and the parents can enjoy a good bottle of wine.
Claire Lateo’s young travelling companion is her eight-year-old daughter Sarah.
The first time I took Sarah abroad she was three and a half years old. I remember that the travel potty was a real blessing wherever we went. Of course at that age I also couldn’t travel without a buggy as she would get tired and take a nap at any time of day.
Wipes are a must have together with a change of clothes in my bag, especially if we’re spending the day out. Other useful things to have are a colouring book, pencils, puzzle books, word searches or other travel games so they can have something to do while on the aeroplane or at the airport or waiting for the food to arrive at a restaurant. Small snacks are also good to have, such as cereal bars and crackers together with a small bottle of water – Sarah does tend to get hungry at the most awkward times of the day!
I prefer to travel with an organised tour rather than on my own with Sarah. I’ve always tried to choose tours which include a visit to a fun park such as Gardaland when we went to Garda and Port Aventura when we went to Costa Brava. A cruise is also suitable for children as entertainment is provided practically at all times.
A holiday to remember was Disneyland Park in Paris – a great experience for both children and adults alike. I think it was special for Sarah and I to experience the adventure of the rides together. Livigno was also a great experience together – we both touched the snow for the first time and built a snowman together. Skiing was something that she mastered so naturally – I realised that these skills come less naturally to adults.
No matter where you go for your holiday, detaching yourself from the house and work gives you the opportunity to spend some quality time with your children.