One of our favourite things to do is to travel as a family. I write a lot about family travel on the blog and about not being afraid to explore different types of holidays in a range of locations with children.
Talking to other parents though, there are lots who choose not to travel far with children for a variety of logistical reasons or fears of what travelling overseas with children would entail.
There are a number of things that can help and ease these concerns, meaning that you can enjoy a family holiday and make wonderful memories together.
Research your destination
Now I’m all for going with the flow and absorbing the culture as you explore it BUT, when you have children along for the ride, and especially if you are a bit green at the whole travelling with kids lark, it really pays to research your destination.
Have an idea of the kind of temperatures you could expect, check out what the normal weather is for the time of year you are travelling, find out if where children are and are not welcome and research some possible things you might do.
You don’t have to remove all the spontaneity but when you have a family in tow, it’s not always practical to be spontaneous. You can still make amazing memories on a holiday that has been planned well, and generally if you do your research you are less likely to come unstuck thousands of miles from home.
Learn the lingo
Now I don’t know about you, but speaking at least a few words of the language of the country I’m travelling to always makes me feel more relaxed. I speak reasonable French, some Spanish and some Japanese, but when I went to Germany I felt very uncomfortable because I only knew about five words of German.
There are lots of people who are happy to travel to a foreign country and just speak English in a loud, slow voice, but I’m not one of them. Also I think that when you have a family with you it really helps to be able to ‘get by’ in the language of the country you are visiting. Not only does it help make your holiday better, it sets a great example to the children.
According to a recent study by Holiday Autos car hire British people are most familiar with French, with the average adult able to rattle off up to 15 words. Despite millions of British people travelling to Spain this summer, the average holidaymaker knows just eight Spanish words. The poll found 27 percent of Brits make absolutely no effort to learn a language ahead of their holidays, making the excuse that ‘everyone speaks English.’ This doesn’t surprise me if I am honest, I thought the figures would be higher!
Do any of the situations in this video ring true with you?
When you are travelling with your family think about how much easier your time away could be if you knew even some basic phrases. Try and think about possible scenarios and brush up on the language before you head off.
Keep bugs at bay
Whether you’re travelling to Andorra or Alaska, Spain or Senegal, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser are handbag essentials. A wipe of the cutlery in restaurants where you’re unsure of hygiene, or a squirt of hand sanitiser when there’s no washing facilities, can blast a few germs and prevent children catching some of the common bugs.
No one wants to get poorly whilst away and it can be very stressful for parents to have a sick child when you are in a different country, not to mention, if you’ve waited a whole year for that week or two weeks away, to have it destroyed by a tummy bug can ruin the whole experience.
Make sure you pack a thermometer and that trusty Calpol, along with some plasters, Piriton and anti-bacterial spray and you’ll feel reassured you’ve covered yourself for the basics at least.
Brand your children
We’ve all heard horror stories of people loosing children on holiday or worse. Develop a method of what works for you. Older children might have their own phones and you can arrange a meeting point if anyone got lost.
With little ones, you might want to write your phone number on their hand, get them a wristband with your details, talk to them about what to do if they get lost and so on. The choice is yours and what you decide will alter as children grow up.
One of the things I do with our two youngest children is dress them the same anytime we go anywhere I know will be busy. It helps when you are constantly trying to watch them, it’s easier to see them in a crowd and I think if ever one did get lost, you’d tell everyone you were looking for another child dressed exactly the same – it’s just my technique, but it’s whatever works for you really.
Pack a few home comforts
If you have children who are very relaxed and go with the flow this might not be needed, but most parents, especially those with toddlers will be familiar with that fussy stage or having a child that is very particular about something.
Now obviously you can’t pack everything and cater for every eventuality, but packing a few familiar snacks for example can go a long way to halting a meltdown. Never under estimate the power of their favourite fruit winder or packet of mini cookies when they are complaining that the milk and bread at your destination taste ‘funny’.