4 years, 9 months ago
Family Holidays are a bit like Christmas: there’s the perfect one we’re sold and the reality. How can there be a ‘perfect family’ holiday? You’d need a perfect family to start with – good luck with that. But a great family holiday is doable.
Here are ten tried and tested ways to get as close as you can to those tanned, terrific types lounging on sunbeds while their organically-fed offspring reproduce ancient Zen gardens by the gently lapping waters of an azure-blue sea – you know the kind of thing?
Get Your Accommodation Right
Decide what the deal breakers are. Think about what might be nice but you could live without. If you’ve got curious toddlers consider stairs, balconies, pool alarms etc. Teens won’t be that thrilled by splendid isolation and no wi-fi. And mixed age groups need to have some individual input. Read Housetrip reviews, make a shortlist, then give everyone a bit of say before the final cut.
1 in 5 travellers are flying with hand-luggage only this year. That might be bit of an ask for a family holiday, but jettisoning some of your excess baggage isn’t that hard. Baby Gear Hire from London to Latvia is a great alternative to bring-your-own-buggy etc. The rest of the world has shops, so don’t pack what you can buy. And check your hand-luggage for size and weight – carriers are notoriously strict during the busy summer period.
Do Your Homework
I’m all for the free-spirit, live-in-the-moment holiday approach but experience tells me it always works out better if someone’s done a bit of forward planning. Have a look at your destination online and see what’s happening before you head off, it adds excitement and there’s also lots of deals on everything from theme parks to bike hire if you book ahead.
Buy City Cards
Even if you’re only going to visit a city for a day, a City Card makes sense. Most work as free passes for major museums and attractions and mean less queuing. Many have public transport benefits. And almost every City Card comes with savings and offers on all sorts of holiday stuff from ice-cream to river cruises. To get the idea have a look at www.iamsterdam.com or www.barcelona-card.com or www.musement.com for the Paris Pass.
Don’t Go Hungry
Little kids won’t adjust to the pretty strict mealtimes most European countries keep outside cities, carry snacks or cope with tantrums.
Kids will only drink if they’re thirsty and the first sign of dehydration is unusual sleepiness, not thirst. Always carry water, even a few sips regularly will keep little one’s hydrated. Bottled water is safest. But if you want to use local, get a steriPEN Freedom UV Water Purifier. It’s tiny, USB rechargeable and kills 99.9% of harmful micro-organisms in water in just 50 seconds. www.steripen.com
Kids’ Meals are usually menu afterthoughts and not good. Most smaller children will happily share an adult main-course if they get to help choose – just ask for an extra plate no one will mind.
Basic First Aid
Pack a small kit with a few essentials like plasters, cotton pads, a small pair of tweezers (anyone who’s done the splinter dance knows why), antiseptic cream or spray, travel thermometer and Vaseline. Yes, really. Vaseline is the holiday go-to: emergency moisturiser, eye-make up remover, tidies eyebrows and doubles as mascara in a pinch, seals cuts and stops minor bleeding, suffocates skin ticks on pets and kids and (as I recently discovered) it’s the only thing to get tar off your hired car if you fall foul of the European passion for Summer road repairs.
Board Games or Just Bored?
I’m all for bonding, but is the annual summer holiday really the time to go full-retro on family entertainment? In the spirit of compromise might I suggest the small, delightful and very amusing 1TB LaCie External Hard Drive. It’s 12cm square, weighs 300g and has space for all the Game of Thrones, Lego Movies and Orange is the New Black you’ll ever need. Ration if you want, but definitely worth considering.