Everyone deserves to have a rip-roaring royal time when they’re on holiday, right?
Or, at least, to experience something out of the ordinary. A break from the humdrum, which makes you feel as though you’re floating above the dreariness of everyday life in some kind of regal cloud.
So: how to achieve that special, out-of-the-ordinary experience, with children in tow? Based on previous breaks that we’ve taken, both in this country and overseas, I would say it helps to see every holiday as a once-in-a-lifetime, special occasion, and to plan accordingly.
So, to try and inject some fairytale magic into your family travels, why not use that traditional formula usually reserved for weddings?
A break from the routine can be refreshing for grown-ups, but unsettling for young children. Make sure you pack a few familiar items to make them feel at home in their new surroundings. A comforting soft toy is the obvious thing. But why not slip in, say, their favourite, dinosaur-patterned pillowcase? Or that sippy cup with the trucks on that they love so much?
You might feel as though you’re kitting yourselves out with excess baggage. But you can always ditch those extra nappies and wipes to make some more space. They should be readily available at your destination (unless you’re off trekking in the Andes, that is). Just don’t forget to pack plenty of sunscreen. We’ve come a-cropper before, by running out and then only being able to find factor 2 coconut oil in the local shops….
More a tip for the grown-ups, this one, although it could apply to the children, too.
Nobody wants to step out of their freshly serviced, immaculate hotel room in holey old pants and a top whose spaghetti straps have gone soggy with age. If you take a few new outfits on your break, not only will you get the double whammy of treating yourself with a holiday AND new clothes: after your vacation is over, those garments are likely to conjour up that holiday mood whenever you take them out of the wardrobe.
Charity shop finds are just as good as new pieces. Even better, in fact: if you spend less on thrifty bargains, then you’ll have more cash to spend in those swanky restaurants – the perfect setting to show off your pizzazzy outfits.
The best travel tip, in my view, is to borrow the wisdom of your friends. If, like me, you’ve amassed a set of buddies with children of broadly similar ages to yours, you can ask them for tips, first-hand and bang-up-to-date. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to travel with a four-year-old when your travel plans involve trying to keep two galumphing teenagers happy. So, listen to those who are at a similar stage to you.
Stickers; small, cheap toys giftwrapped especially to be unwrapped along the way; and car headrest DVD players have all been welcome suggestions from my friends, when I asked about the best things to take on journeys. And if your friend tells you about their natty gadget that’s guaranteed to keep the little ones happy in the car or on a plane, they may well go the whole hog and loan it to you, too.
Or red. Or neon pink. Or fluorescent yellow. Just anything to make you child stand out from the crowd.
And that’s not just in the sartorial sense. A packed beach, heaving playground or a bustling theme park can be joyously exciting. But if it’s so busy that your little one mingles into the crowd, or scenery as soon as they leave your side, the day could soon turn into a misery-inducing search for a lost child. So don’t pack too many of those tasteful sand- or forest green-coloured kids’ outfits. The brighter, the better. And, if you have more than one child to keep an eye on, it could help to dress them in matching shades…..
If your child is young enough, consider taking their buggy with you onto the flight. Most airlines allow you to do this (for short-haul flights, at least). Not only does it mean that your little ‘un can nap through any waits at the airport; it also ensures you’re more likely to be given the same buggy-deference you get at home. When I’m wheeling our puschair round these parts (i.e. good old London taaahn) I’m usually showered with smiles and nods. Even the occasional bus has been known to stop to let me cross the road in front of it.
And, when we travelled to Spain with Austin and Gwen just over a year ago, people were similarly accommodating. We were zoomed to the front of the queue (it was a budget airline; the waiting time was loooong); the flight attendants only took our buggy away from us at the last minute; and it was the first thing to pop out on the conveyor belt when we went to collect our luggage at the other side.
It won’t exactly guarantee royal treatment. But a comfy buggy will allow one of you, at least, to sail along, regally, as you set off on your majestic travels.
Do you have any family travel tips?