As soon as you start to think of that awesome family travel trip, you might break out into a sweat wondering if you can handle travelling with the kids. Well we’re here to tell that there’s no need to have a nervous breakdown; with a bit of advance planning, your family vacation can be a memorable experience for the whole family. So you can relax, read on and find out how to research that special vacation.
What to do before you leave?
Research your Destination
This is one of the cool parts of getting ready for a trip, where oh where to go? Do you want to go jungle bashing, go to an exotic island, have a more rural experience or head for a big city? Whatever your dreams, focus your search around that.
Get the Kids Involved
From the age of seven up, kids certainly start to have their own ideas and opinions. No doubt you’ve experienced it. So a great way to get them to use those ideas and opinions is to include them in the planning of your vacation. Once you’ve decided on your awesome destination, show them on the internet where you’ll be going, what the local attractions are and all the sightseeing possibilities. Let each child do their own research, they’ll love this! They can page through travel magazines on the destination, surf the internet and get them to give you their ideas on what they want to see and where they want to go. Wikipedia is a great source of information and even some prescribed books such as Anne Frank, just as an example can give them some inspiration to visit the Annexe in Amsterdam and bring history to life.
Consider interactive sightseeing options, which will be less likely to have the kids yawning and complaining. There are often fantastic science museums in most cities, which give a whole new meaning to the word museum! Outdoors activities are a must, as not only is it adventurous, but they can let off steam after being cooped up while you’re travelling for extended periods of time.
Mix it up a bit if you’ve got a younger child and an older child. One day a science museum, the next day could be a kayak on a river. A great idea is to tap into their interests, but to also give them new experiences to try.
This is going to be one of your biggest expenses so we suggest you research them well. Chat to travel agents, scour social media and of course use the internet.
Just a few quick tips; according to studies done, the best day and time to buy a ticket is on a Tuesday afternoon at 3pm (EST). But you can also pick up a few bargains on Wednesdays too. Make sure you’re there ready to bag a bargain.
The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays. Prices peak on Fridays, Sundays and Mondays, so plan your trip around this for some cool cash savings. Here are some of the best flight comparison sites to use; Hipmunk, Cheapflights, Sky Scanner, Smarter Travel and Momondo.
Happy flight hunting!
If you’re going to be away for a while, make some arrangements with their school, or talk to them about the possibilities of getting assignments for your kids to do on the road, so that they don’t miss out on too much of the curriculum. If you home school you’ll be ready, set for wherever you may go. You can take your home schooling curriculum on the road with a few adjustments. One thing to remember is that your kids will also experience real life learning through nature, different cultures and many other experiences too.
Before you go making that reservation in excitement, and paying for everything, check the weather. The rainy season, or even typhoon season, depending on where you’re going, is not a wise idea! So keep that credit card at bay until you’ve done your research properly.
Decide whether guided tours are the way to go and particularly check whether they’re suitable for the ages of your children. Often there are age restrictions, so check carefully. Things to consider is whether there will be child friendly meals, unless you’ve got a kid who gobbles up anything! You might want to do some organised tours, and then also venture out by yourselves to truly discover where you are.
One of the best things to do is consider self-catering accommodation if you’ve got kids. Even a small apartment is more spacious than a hotel room and gives you more flexibility as a family. Also consider whether you want a swimming pool, unless of course you’re lucky enough to be starting at the ocean. It could be a good way for the kids to relax and recharge after a long day of sightseeing. We’ve had a look at some rental websites for you, to help you on your way. Here are some of the best ones that we’ve found Tripping, Homeaway, Flipkey and Homestay.
Another extremely affordable thing to consider is home exchange, where you literally swap your home with somebody else, and it’s all for free. You do have to pay small registration fees on the sites, but that’s it! Some of the top home exchange sites are Home Exchange, Intervac Home Exchange, Love Home Swap or Homelink.
Well, what can we say, Wi-Fi to a pre-teen or adolescent is what a play park is to a five year old? So, this is pretty much a must! If you’re schooling on the road, or if you’re working remotely, then there is no negotiation on this. You can also keep in touch with family, check out last minute itinerary changes, show off your travels on social media and your pre-teen can do the same…keep their mates updated by uploading photos and showing off their trip to their friends back home. They’ll also want to keep in touch with their friends!
Resorts or Lodges
If you’re heading along the resort route, or even lodges on a safari holiday, make sure there is something to keep the kids occupied, and what age groups they cater for. You also might want to check if they’ve got ‘carers’ who look after the kids during various activities, for example there might be a kid-friendly game drive, so find out what qualifications they’ve got. Always make sure before you book anything that the kids aren’t going to be sitting round twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do.
Making sure you’ve got the right travel documents for children is extremely important. Each country has different rules, so check beforehand and don’t be left at the airport not allowed to enter. Of course, make sure your child’s passport is valid. Before you go, get certified copies of all travel documents for all of you including air tickets. Keep the certified copies on you. If you’re unfortunate enough to lose your luggage or have your bags stolen, this will be your lifesaver. It is best to double check with the Department of Home Affairs of your country as well as your destination country to be certain that all the travel regulations with regards to you kids are complied with.
About three months before you leave, find out what vaccines are needed for all of you, not just the kids. Find out when you need to get them. Some countries need specific vaccinations and proof that you’ve actually had them, for example Malaria. Find out if there are any side effects so that you’re aware and can be prepared. Find out from a travel agent what’s needed. Make an appointment with your doctor, or your nearest travel clinic to get your vaccines done.
It’s certainly better to be prepared for any eventuality. Keep a handy basic first aid items kit with things like band aids, headache tablets; prescribed medicines, necessary medication for allergies if needed. Also keep flight restrictions in mind and quantities allowed on board. It’s a good idea to have anti-nausea medication as you never know who might fall down the travel sickness road. Always have a bottle of water handy for thirsty kids and if there are delays. A couple of sweet treats for emergencies is always a good idea; a bar of chocolate can go a long way to placate a grumpy child.
Prepare your kids beforehand for airports – especially if you’re having an extended stopover. They can be tiresome and boring, but a lot more airports are becoming more child friendly. Tell your kids that they’ll need to be patient, there are queues, flights can get delayed which means extending the stopover. Let each of them have an item that will keep them occupied like a tablet or an iPad, or iPod or even a book. You can always check if you’ve got any travel benefits linked to your credit cards like access to lounges, which are always more comfortable during long airport stopover or budget for a sit-down restaurant meal to pass the time.
Always check that the tap water is safe to drink where you’re going. At least if you know this, one of your first stops at your destination will be to buy water if necessary.
Things to consider when you get there
You’ve done your research for your holiday, but here are a couple more tips that you need to think about before you go, so that you’re full prepared. You’ll need to bear these things in mind and possibly research them before you go.
- Prepare a backpack for each child with a “survival kit” – water bottle, snacks, emergency telephone numbers and addresses (hotel, local mobile numbers of parents and/or siblings or nearby relatives, police etc).
- Check out local mobiles – it is a cheaper way to keep contact as a family than your “home mobile”.
- You should also think about preparing an emergency plan as a family – e.g. what happens when one of your kids get separated? Where is the meeting place? A good idea is to identify a landmark at a sightseeing destination or where you’re staying when the kids can actually walk there. Make sure the kids know the address of where you’re staying. Issue each child with “emergency money”. Make it clear that this amount is not for spending but to be used in an emergency for train or taxi fare to get back to the hotel in case of separation or to buy airtime to make an emergency call.
- Leave some room in your itinerary to be guided by the kids as it’s their holiday too. Sometimes interesting places pop up which you weren’t aware of. Take the time to do this, especially if the kids will enjoy it.
- When you’re self-driving, try and schedule stops at cool places to keep it exciting. They can get out the car, stretch those legs and do a bit of exploring! Research the roads you’ll be travelling and find any interesting things you can see along the way.
- Photos and journals are a great way to get the kids to pay attention to what’s going on around them. Before you leave, get your kids a note book and let them keep their memories alive. You might want to even consider getting them a camera that’s totally kid proof. Also get this before you go.
- Go out and get comfortable shoes for everyone. This is a necessity, especially where your destination requires a lot of walking in order to explore.
- Before you go, check out what side of the road people drive on, and also research how railway systems function. Kids need to be aware of this, for when they’re crossing the road, and it’s different to home. Make sure your kids are mindful of strangers and to never ever get into a car with a stranger under any circumstances.
Last but not least have fun and enjoy your holiday. Let’s face it, the idea of kids getting separated are surely not a fun idea to think about, but in a foreign city, it helps to be prepared and think about the worst-case scenario and what your plan of action will be. Relax and be flexible. Let your destination guide you instead of the flagged items in your guidebook. Deviate from your itinerary and go down the path less travelled – it is often these deviations that are most memorable.