The first time I went on holiday with a baby in tow, it was a bit of a shocker. To say the least. She was crawling and, as I chased her across the deck and back again, I remember thinking what a far cry it was from those lazy summer days spent reading on a sun lounger, sipping a cocktail. In short, it didn't feel much like a holiday at all. Just our usual lives shipped to a different location. Fast forward five years and suddenly, we were going away with three of them this week. All our own kids, I should add, not random children we'd picked up in transit. So here's what I've learned about making holidays relaxing for you too...
1. Make sure your passports are up to date.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘Well, THAT’S obvious.‘ But it’s surprising how expiry dates creep up on you, especially the expiry of your child's first passport. I've just done a mad dash to the Passport Office to fast-track my middly's passport, so she doesn't have to stay at home with my mum. And if you’ve got a new addition to the family, make sure you’ve got them a passport in the first place. I mean, it would be just terrible if you had to leave one (all) of your kids behind, wouldn’t it?
2. Choose a holiday that works for a young family
A walking holiday with two kids under five? Canal boating with a newly toddling 15 month old. After ambitious thoughts to take the kids on inappropriate holidays, I’m now fully grounded in what sort we need to do. With three young kids under eight, I wouldn't do anything but an all inclusive holiday. Not because I'm lacking in adventure but because I desperately want to have a holiday too . No trying to find somewhere for dinner with overtired, famished kids. Or sitting on crowded beaches.
3. Do your research and book in advance
If it’s your first time going to a place, do a bit of research before you go. It’s often easier to do this stuff without tired, impatient kids hanging off you, as you struggle to get your bearings. It means your holiday can start the minute you get on the plane and order a G&T.
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4. Pack less than you think you need
Kids are messy and it’s really tempting to take three million t-shirts, 400 pairs of shorts and a washing machine. But on a beach holiday, you spend all day at the pool and the beach, and kids live in their swimwear and hooded towels. Which means they’re really only wearing actual clothes in the evening. So for a two week holiday I pack 10-14 outfits each and that’s it.
5. Make sure you have some in-flight entertainment.
I can highly recommend Calpol for them. And gin for you. It’s a combination I’ve personally tried and tested to get three kids under eight across the ocean. In desperate times, I’ve also had the Calpol. Jokes aside, a ‘surprise’ bag of goodies per child works really well in keeping them occupied and there are even companies who do this for you now.
6. Use an all day sunscreen
An all day sunscreen saves a lot of fuss and chasing your kids around the swimming pool begging them to ‘JUST STAND STILL FOR ONE MINUTE!’. It really is good stuff.
7. Utilise the Kids’ Club
It’s worth settling your kids into the Kids’ Club, if there is one. They get such a lot from it and it gives you a much needed break. NO GUILT PLEASE. It’s your holiday too and a little time apart means you’re revitalised when you come back together.
8. Keep going back
If you find somewhere that works, return! Kids LOVE the familiarity of returning to a place they know. Far from being boring, it actually saves you days acclimatising and trying to figure everything out. We're heading to Club Letoonia in Fethiye, Turkey, for the fourth time this summer. Every year, I get to see the kids become a little more independent and exercise even more freedom, without me worrying about them. It’s home from home. Just with way more sunshine, spectacular coastal views and never having to cook or put the dishwasher on. Amen to that.