School’s out and the family beach beckons.
Exciting times – but not without its own stress points if, like me, you are a parent juggling the family holiday with work schedules, child care and often fractious family relationships.
Although we at Nomadic Thoughts have considerable experience in travelling with our own children to all corners of the world, and continue to delight in arranging all manner of client family holidays, we never underestimate the importance of ‘getting it right’. After all, a family holiday is supposed to be a blissful escape, not a major admin task on a day to day basis.
As children become teenagers, priorities change but the fundamental priority is that you as parents must still have a great time. We all know that if the kids are happy, the parents will be too, but nevertheless, the choosing and planning of a family holiday must be led by what the head honchos (parents) want.
Indeed as I write this my Nomadic Thoughts colleagues Caroline and Claire are travelling with their respective families in South America and Africa.
1. Before planning/booking anything answer the following three questions:
(a) When and for how long?
(b) What (not where) do you want?
(c) Home & back – what do you want to keep the budget to?
Once you have established these basics, we at Nomadic Thoughts can explain all the options. It’s much better to choose a destination having looked at several options, than to go somewhere just because friends/neighbours had a good trip with their children once.
2. Organise in advance
Save on local aggro – it‘s essential to plan and book relevant services in advance. As well as the obvious things to book ahead – flights and accommodation – you should have transportation from airports and to activities arranged so that you don’t waste valuable time, energy and expense mucking about when you are supposed to be on holiday.
3. Steady Pace
Whether planning to roll back on a beach for two weeks, or tour across mountains, deserts or jungles it is essential to plan the holiday at an appropriately slow/steady pace. Steady pace = stress free. For example: the pace of the trip, and ease of travel, should be factored in when deciding whether to travel on local transport or in your own vehicle. Although kids love local trains, trams and buses, long road trips and complicated transfers (with luggage) are often better arranged with a private vehicle.
4. Understand and anticipate local costings
At Nomadic Thoughts we always do our best to advise accurately on what local spending is likely to be. For example, you might be surprised to hear that renting self-catering accommodation in Europe does not necessarily mean overall spending will be lower than staying at a hotel. Sourcing local amenities, as well as going out for meals, might be considerably more expensive than you expected. By the same token, travelling to a long-haul destination may be relatively expensive in airfares, but could be considerably less on local spending.
5. Embrace long-haul
Apart from the fact that long-haul travel is often more economically sensitive (ref’ my blog: ‘Mauritius –Summertime Special’), long flights with small children is no longer as difficult as it was. With such a wide selection of in-flight films, games as well as personal hand-held devices, amusing the troops can be a breeze. And once you are out there, any flight pain will be a distant memory.
6. Include Children in Photography & Video shooting
Whether you feel they should write a travel journal or paste together a scrap book (our children used to collect sand from different beaches, dropping a bucket of it on a page covered in glue), get them to fire away with the camera. As they get older they can take over the overall editing, production and printing of the family video/photo album.
7. Holidaying with Friends – Beware!
Although travelling with another family can be hugely successful, be very aware of the potential for it to go wrong, putting a strain on your longer-term relationship with the other family. My advice is ‘if in doubt – don’t do it’.
Joining up for a few days can be fun, but the strain of spending a hard-earned two weeks with another family can be underestimated. At the very least make sure you have discussed the different routines and ground rules on food, bed-times etc.
8. Embrace the concept of combining a variety of activities – beach/action/education/down-time
Set at the right pace, there is no reason not to have a holiday incorporating a variety of activities and interests. Visiting ancient ruins with stories of human sacrifices and medieval hedonism can be as exciting to children as enjoying an action-packed activity or blast of beach. Equally, children are now warmly welcomed on African safaris.
9. Young Children – how important is Kids Club?
Depending on the age of your child, a ‘Kids Club’ facility may or may not be essential to the enjoyment of your holiday. If it is, make sure you are fully aware of the facilities available locally and the costs of local child-care and/or baby-sitting services.
10. Teenagers – involve other teenagers
Whether joining forces with another family or planning a holiday separately, it’s a good idea to factor in opportunities for teenagers to meet other teenagers. Whether embarking on a flotilla sailing holiday or a ski-trip or overland touring adventure, the chance for your teenagers to mix with others could be the tipping point between enjoying paradise and experiencing Armageddon.
(For advice on travelling with babies, see my previous blog ‘Top 10 Tips – Travelling with Babies’)