Travelling with children

Family holidays. Two words that simultaneously bring a heady wave of nostalgia and strike fear into the hearts of holidaymakers the world over.

I am sure most of us can recall family holidays from when we were kids. They all tended to follow the same sort of formula:

  • Leave home at the crack of dawn in order to beat the traffic only then to listen to dad complain for the next two hours because everybody else on the road had the same idea.
  • At least a dozen fights with your brothers and sisters about who has to sit in the back seat with a suitcase and skateboard rammed into the side of their head, or whose thigh had crossed over onto whose seat or who whose breathing was the noisiest. Generally these fights were punctuated by mum or dad wildly slapping at your legs with a thong from the front seat and the never realized threat of turning around and going home.
  • Stopping at some random town in the middle of nowhere to catch up with some distant friend or relative that you swear you had never seen before in your life.
  • Sun burn.
  • At least one significant injury (aside from sun burn).
  • Having a small beach’s worth of sand in your bedding or sleeping bag for the duration of the holiday, or hanging around from the last time that you were on holidays.
  • At least one laughing fit where nobody can stop and mum or dad who were trying their best to be angry and tell everyone to be quiet eventually succumbs and starts laughing too.
  • No trouble sleeping and lying all over your brothers and sisters on the long car trip back home.

There is nothing like a family holiday. They provide a break from the day to day, a chance for everyone to bond a little more, memories that punctuate and season your childhood or parenting years, challenges that you wouldn’t normally face at home and lots of sunshine, fresh air and fish and chips.

However, family holidays can be hell too. So for the sake of building some wonderful memories, here are my 5 top tips for having a great family holiday.

  1. Wherever you go, there you are. Please remember that you will be bringing your family with you on your family holiday. If your child is going through a stage of willful defiance have a plan. Do not cross your fingers and hope that being on the beach will provide reprieve from their tantrums. There is no magic bullet for poor behavior in your child so come prepared to manage this.
  2. Involve your kids in the whole holiday. This might include helping you to pick bags off the luggage carousel, planning each day’s activities, or picking where you are going to eat. I’m not suggesting that you give your children executive powers over the whole holiday, just give them at least some input. You will be amazed how exciting even the most mundane activities can become when you do them together.
  3. Plan to the youngest child. Generally, the sort of holiday that you will be able to have will depend on the age of your youngest child. For instance, rock climbing in the jungles of South America will generally not suit a family with a toddler. Make sure that what your holiday will include something that everybody will enjoy. This probably explains why beach holidays are so popular.
  4. Keep to a routine – even with teenagers. Kids are very flexible but if you want your time away to be full of grizzling, tired and hungry kids, then throw a regular meal and sleep time out of the window, and give your teenagers no time to themselves in a day at all.
  5. Lastly, this is a family I repeat a family holiday. This will not be the holiday where you sit on a beach sipping cocktails all day reading that book that you have been wanting to read all year. Well, you may get something like this if your children are older or if where you are staying has a good kid’s club. Generally speaking though, expect to spend lots of time with your family. If you expect this then maybe you won’t roll your eyes so much when your child kicks sand all over your beach towel. And remember, that time together is what family holidays are all about.