Even planning a family vacation can be so exhausting, you might feel you need to plan another one just for yourself once you’ve got it all figured out. Thankfully, at Black Tomato we’re experts in planning epic adventures for all ages, and know a thing or two about traveling with little (or big) kids in tow. Read on for our top tips for a stress-free family break.
Sometimes it can feel like you need the logic of a chess champion and the strength of an Olympic powerlifter to pack and carry everything you need for a family holiday. To help lighten the load, call ahead; many hotels are very well-stocked with child-friendly facilities, from a full range of baby care to full-blown kids clubs, so you don’t need to pack a whole nursery’s worth of equipment. Keep it even lighter by swapping bits of kit for travel versions, such as a lightweight folding pushchair.
Even something as simple as a suitcase designed for children can be a big help. Kids will love packing their own things into their own space, and clever designs such as the ride-on Trunki (which looks like so much fun, we want one of our own) are useful for tired little legs in the terminal. It’s also a good way to make sure they pack their favourite toys – you don’t want to realise you’ve left Mr Bear at home when you’re 30,000ft in the air with a grumpy infant.
Tablets can save a lot of space usually occupied by games, books and toys – we’ve written about those and our other top tech for kids (and parents) here.
Extra planning might sound obvious when you’re travelling with children, but if you sweat the small stuff in advance, you can be sure of less stress when you arrive. Take extra care to consider your destination, for example: what season is it in? Are there any major events (that you’re not planning to attend yourself) that may disrupt your plans once you’re there? Will the children (or you) require vaccines or special medication? Some very young children and pregnant women are advised against certain jabs, while certain tropical repellents or even sun creams may cause allergic reactions. Research the nearest medical services to your accommodation, take your GP contact details, and make sure your insurance is absolutely comprehensive. For the journey itself, prepare a miniature pharmacy of travel-size lotions and potions: creams for rashes and bites, tablets for fevers and sickness, and plasters and lollipops for the brave little wounded soldiers.
Check airline restrictions and baggage allowances carefully, especially on permitted amounts of baby foods and formulas. Iron out the little details for a smoother journey. Some airports offer concierge services to whisk you through premium security channels to be first at the departure gate – via an executive lounge, of course. At Black Tomato, we make sure that every single visa, airport transfer, flight and hotel is booked and ready to go so that all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
ON THE JOURNEY
If you have a long drive ahead of you, get the little ones enthused about the destination by sharing the schedule with them or even letting them help plan the journey (or at least letting them read a map). Rig up a makeshift cinema in the back of the car using a travel tablet holder that fits to the back of the headrest. Classic car games are useful, although a game of I Spy might fizzle out fairly quickly if you’re driving through the desert; try audiobooks, singalongs, or just make up your own story and take turns telling it. If you’re flying, an iPad preloaded with their favourite films is usually a safer bet than the in-flight entertainment. As much as possible, try and keep schedules to follow normal routines, such as evening flights to coincide with their bedtime.
And, whether travelling by land, sea or air, a good selection of sweets and treats is an essential bribe – sorry, item – in your arsenal. Boiled sweets are a tried and tested remedy for relieving ear pressure on a flight. Pack a small essentials kit containing all the necessary toys, sweets and wet wipes you’ll need, and keep it close to hand so you know it’s not buried in the boot or checked into the hold when you need it most. Packing a new toy for little ones to unwrap on the flight can come in handy – they’ll love the novelty of a new distraction.
WHEN YOU’RE THERE
Make full use of the child-friendly facilities; some hotel kids clubs offer so many activities for children you might want to join in yourself, from sports and games to cultural excursions or lessons in the local arts and music. It’ll keep them wide-eyed and occupied while you enjoy a much-deserved massage (or a much-needed Mai Tai). While this obviously shouldn’t completely compromise quality family time, it’s a great opportunity for them to learn new things and make new friends while you enjoy time with your better half.
Some hotels put together great tailored trips as well as the usual group outings; father-and-son fishing trips, mother-and-daughter day spas, and so on. Be realistic about your expectations; insisting on ticking off a certain number of attractions every day can very quickly turn from exciting into exhausting. Don’t be afraid to enjoy the downtime – it’s why you’re here, after all.
For amazing kids clubs, awesome activities, and sumptuous spas for Mum and Dad, check out our top family-friendly hotels here.
With Black Tomato, your holiday is in the hands of the experts. We’re here to help every step of the way, from airport transfers to bringing out our little black book to make sure you have the best guides available when you arrive. Our itineraries and hotels have all been thoroughly vetted to ensure you have the best service and experience possible, completely tailored to the whole family. And on the rare occasion that we hit a speedbump even we couldn’t predict, you can be assured we’re working around the clock to fix it. You can plan every detail of the journey down to the number of carrot sticks in your carry-on bag (well, at least some of the snacks should be healthy …) but sometimes it’s best to go with the flow and let someone else take care of the details – the most difficult decision you should be making is what to have for dinner. Take each day as it comes as a new adventure, whether it’s for the first or fifteenth time you’re all away together, and the kids (and you) will be talking about it for years to come.
Feeling inspired? Get in touch to plan your next family holiday.