Woohoo, you’re on leave, school’s on break and it’s high time for that annual escape! Whether it’s a theme-park getaway or a sun-drenched beach vacation, isn’t it time you all enjoyed some quality time together?
Ideally, holidaying with your family should be happy and hassle-free. But anyone who’s ever travelled with a two-year-old will know that tranquillity can quickly turn to tears and tantrums. Crowds, queues and questionable food can test anyone’s patience, let alone that of a tired toddler.
But before you call time-out on your grand plans, take pause. Our guide to family-friendly travel will make holidaying with the kids as easy as 1-2-3!
With helpful hints from seasoned experts, you’ll score a truckload of travel tips on keeping your children content, safe and secure on your travels. You’ll cruise your way through the planning process, learning which destinations will cater to tiny tots, seasoned travellers and all ages in between.
We’ll outline the top 10 tactics to ensure your family’s safety abroad, some travel sickness tips, and what to do if a child was to get lost, as well as providing you with an ultimate packing list. And if you still have questions that need answering, we’ve compiled an exhaustive directory for all your FAQs.
So whether you’re planning activities for all-ages or are simply looking for a one-stop info shop to family travel, we’ve got you covered. Our guide will carry you through the initial planning stage of your trip to the best way to spend your time whilst there.
By sticking to our no-nonsense trip guide, you'll soon find yourself whisked away to your chosen holiday destination, with nothing to do but relax and enjoy your vacation!
Are your kids suffering from a case of the terrible twos? You’re gonna need all the help you’re can get (just kidding)! Stick to resorts that cater to families like the Caribbean, Florida (did someone say Disneyland?), the Mediterranean, or even destinations closer to home such as the Gold coast of Australia. They’ll be kids clubs where your toddler can meet new friends, kids pools, activities and child-friendly entertainment.
It's hard to predict your toddler's taste but most will love the novelty of a good animal or water park. And beach destination have long been popular choices for families; a bucket and spade can provide hours of entertainment for sand n' surf loving tots!
If your little one enjoys getting about on daddy's shoulder or kicking back in a pram, sightseeing city breaks can be equally enjoyable. Mix it up with museums and amusement parks; these can be a great source of visual stimulation and are guaranteed to tire out the most energetic of toddlers.
Now your kids are a bit bigger, the real fun can begin! There should be no barriers to travel now that your kids can express where they’d like to go and what they’d like to do. Consider holidays destinations where your younger children can discover new interests, sights and cultures such as Bali, Europe, or even as far as the UK.
Young kids are typically more adventurous so activity planned holidays can be a winning concept. Theme park trips (dare we mention Disneyland again), water parks, bike rides, museums, road trips, walking, trekking and camping would all be great holiday or day trip ideas.
The beach is still a winner with this age-group. Tween love to splash in the waves, dig in the sand and explore new places. The more activity and adventure you can provide them with the better.
After the terrible twos, so come the terrible teens (just joking....or are we)? Now your kids are of a ripe age, you can venture out towards some more exotic locations which previously would have been too 'out there'. The world is now your oyster as they say!
Now's a good time to consider some more high-octane adrenaline activities. Water babies may be ready to try snorkelling or scuba diving trips and snow bunnies may want to look into skiing, snowboarding. Adrenalin junkies may even be ready to trial more adventurous activities like rock climbing or bungy jumping.
Travelling with teenagers can be really fun and really rewarding so aim high!
On average you'll be delayed about 30 minutes at airport security, and during peak periods these waiting times will only increase! Airlines do not wait for passengers, so make sure you leave plenty of time to make up for any unpredictable hiccups.
If you’re travelling by plane then as a rule of thumb you will need to check-in three hours prior to departure for long haul flights. Two hours are the minimum you'll need before checking in to a domestic flight. After all, it's better to be at the airport an hour early than to miss your whole trip.
With so many security rules it's worth doing a double (or triple) check of your carry-on luggage to make sure no cheeky items have snuck their way in. Restricted items not allowed onboard (in the carriage, not in the hold) include liquids over 50ml, sharp objects, aerosols and more. Each airport will have different rules, so check the laws of the country you’re visiting before you pack any taboo items. You certainly don't want to have to throw a $200 duty-free bottle of Bolli away due to poor research! Check which items are banned to save time, money and a hassle at customs.
Kids love to get messy! In some foreign destinations, hygiene standards maybe a little lower than what you're used to, so it pays to be a bit OCD when it comes to keeping clean. Pack some anti-bacterial wipes and/or hand sanitiser for your trip. Tray tables on planes can get pretty dirty too so pack a spare plastic bowl and cutlery set for your little one...just to be on the safe side.
Cruise liners are an adventure playground for little nippers. Prepare for the adrenaline rush you'll get when you first set sail! But with so much to explore on board, so comes risks. Before your boat leaves the port it's a good idea to have a talk with your kids about the rules of the high seas. Make sure they understand the following no-no's; running on deck, climbing on balconies or railings, wandering off on their own, or going into other people's cabins. By sticking to these no-nonsense rules, your kids can stay safe on board while you all relax and enjoy your time at sea.
It might be worthwhile explaining muster drills too - these are important cruise liner procedures that can save lives in the event of an emergency. You should make sure you are familiar where the lifejackets are for all members of the family too.
Driving in new, unfamiliar settings can be daunting. Road signs in funny languages, foreign road rules and driving on the wrong side of the road just for starters! Finding your way from A-B under these conditions can be a task without having to cope with your kids in the back screaming "are we nearly there yet!?" Within a matter of minutes, your family holiday can turn from calm to crazy!
However, family road trips needn't drive you round the bend. Combating any unnecessary car stress can start with good preparation. Fill up on petrol, check tyre pressures, fluid levels, and double-check your lights and windscreen wipers. Program your sat nav with a few route options so you're not stuck in the event of traffic problems and road closures. If you make your chosen route a longer, scenic journey, include suitable stopping places along the way for bathroom and food breaks. Throw in a few games of 'I spy', an audiobook or a sing-along album, and you'll find that time will fly!
Seatbelts: If you’re travelling by car in Europe, you should be aware there is a legal requirement for children under three years old, or under 135cm tall, to wear appropriate child restraints when travelling.
Pack road safety supplies: Avoid any nasty side-of-the-road fines by making sure you’ve packed the necessary driving supplies. warning triangle. For instance, when driving in Europe you will require a high visibility vest, a magnetic GB sticker (or equivalent 'Country of Origin' identity plate), headlamp beam converters and an approved breathalyser kit. Every destination will differ in driving requirements so check what's necessary before zooming off!
No-one wants to start their holidays suffering from travel sickness, so it's a good idea to be prepared and pack all of the remedies you may require. Follow our tips to keep travel sickness at bay...
Depending on your child's age anti-nausea tablets may be your new best friend. Alternatively, you could try acupressure wrist bands or natural remedies such as ginger which can be taken in tablets, tea, or biscuit form. Nom nom!
Although telling your kids to avoid books, comics and video games will not make you the most popular of parents, looking ahead (not down) can help to ward off travel sickness!
Car sick? Keep the windows wound down low and try to look out as much as possible; good ventilation and moving scenery can ward off nausea.
Avoid heavy meals before travelling. Pack plain snacks such as rice crackers or cereal bars to munch on from time to time to keep your blood sugar levels even.
When all is lost and you can't fight it back make sure you're all stocked up with extra sick bags, plenty of water and baby wipes.
If turbulence sends your tummy in twists request a seat closer to the front of the plane where it's slightly smoother.
Make sure your kids are never too far away. Bright or distinctive clothing can make it easier to spot them in a crowd too. Make sure they have your contact details on them, so security can contact you easily if they are lost.
Discuss you're decided 'meet up point' with your children and keep checking to see if they remember it. For example, if you visit a theme park then choose an information desk or ride and tell your children that, if they become lost, to wait at this meeting point until you find them.
Take a few deep breaths then begin to retrace your steps. Where did you last see your child? Where is the nearest official? You can help the authorities find them if you know what they’re wearing and can describe it in the local language.
As soon as you are reunited with your child it’s important to remain calm. Take them somewhere less crowded, give them a hug and reassure them that they’re safe. Once they’ve calmed down, you can remind them to stay close to family members and not wander off alone. With a little luck, your kids will be more likely to remember your safety guidelines and avoid it happening again.
Having travelled to over 40 countries, studied tourism management and worked as a flight attendant for over three years, Natalie knows more than a thing or two about travel! She’s an adventure-lover, whose favourite trips have been trekking Machu Picchu and volunteering in an animal shelter in the Amazon. Qualified in Tier 2 General Insurance General Advice and specialising in travel insurance for the last five years, she in passionate about helping travellers get the most out of their holiday.