If going on holiday with kids is going to be relaxing or at least manageable for you, it will help if it had at least some of these basics: Short flight or bus trip, smooth ferry journey, children friendly accommodation (i,e. not having you all sleeping in one bed), food that children will eat, cheap activities and helpful staff.
You also need to know what to pack – especially if you’re going to a tropical island with no pharmacy down the road. We interviewed a few parents to get their advice for travelling with kids in general and the inside scoop on holiday destinations that have worked for them.
Travel tips from our Panellist Dad, Paul
- Fast-track boarding options are useful to avoid queues and guarantee overhead locker space.
- Pack your carry-on bags with the essential gear and ensure that both of you know what’s inside to avoid the “rummage-and-tut” scenario.
- Take children’s paracetamol and a non-prescription antihistamine such as Piriton with you. Medicine might not be needed en route but remember that there isn’t always a pharmacy close by at your destination.
- Buy some good quality children’s over-the-ear headphones for the flight. Better sound quality means lower volume, which will protect your little ones’ ears.
- If it’s a night flight, have your child go to the airport in their pyjamas. Recreate a bedtime experience as best you can, with blankets, reading books and a favourite cuddly toy.
- Snacks, snacks, snacks…
- An extra bedroom can be essential if your kid is a light sleeper, or you just want some much-needed space – check out Airbnb for larger properties. A separate kitchen for preparing food, washing up and sterilising bottles can also be a godsend.
- A good kids’ club can be worth its weight in gold. Search for “kids club” in TripAdvisor reviews to see how certain hotels stack up; remember, too, some have strict minimum age rules or unhelpful opening times.
- Try to build a rapport with hotel staff as quickly as possible. Smile, be courteous, act interested; they’ll go out of their way to help you more on your trip.
- Always re-confirm that a baby crib will be ready and waiting in your hotel room.
Before we moved to Singapore, it was a villa holiday in Ibiza. We rented a place via Airbnb with friends who also had children – a great option, as it can help share the load. For all its reputation as a party island, Ibiza can be brilliant for kids. More recently, we spent a week at the Fairmont Sanur Beach, Bali. Sanur has plenty to distract the kids, including a low-tide beach to search for hermit crabs and a coastal path for bike rides. We stayed in a huge two-bed villa and took our helper along as a built-in babysitter.
Ask the panel: What are your tips for travelling with kids?
Tanya: Take night flights where you can. Bath and dress them in their PJs before you leave for the airport. Prepare toys and entertainment. Also, plan for help at your destination while you sleep for 12 hours!
Abigail: Prepare a bag of small toys wrapped up as presents to bring out when you need. Also, an iPad with their favourite TV shows is (sadly) essential for a peaceful journey. Bring snacks, water and things the children like as airplane food isn’t always the best for them. Remember that there are many parents on the plane and they’ve all been through challenging journeys, so just remain calm if your little one has a tantrum!
Mariel: Carry as little as possible and have treats to bribe the kids with.
Katy: Take night flights for long-haul ones and plan flights around naps times for short-haul. Put everything in Ziploc bags so that they’re easy to find; if you need to use a spare set of clothes, the dirty clothes can go into the bag. Always carry a mini first-aid kit with essentials such as kids’ Panadol. Pack more wet wipes and nappies than you think you will need just in case. Invest in a SkyBaby mattress, which makes things nice and comfortable for your baby. You can easily lift them in and out of the bassinet on it.
Also, get a Fly Babee/CoziGo that you can put over the bassinet to block out the lights on the plane – you’ll be the envy of the other parents trying to make makeshift screens with muslins or pashminas. You can also use the Fly Babee/CoziGo when out and about as a sunshield over your stroller and to keep bugs away. Bring an iPad with headphones and new toys in easy-to-find bags for toddlers and older kids. The JetKids BedBox is also great for creating a mini bed for your kids or even just extra room for them to play as it prevents everything from ending up on the floor. And pack snacks, snacks and more snacks!
Kathryn: The keys are Peppa Pig on the iPad, snacks and delegation. I’ve also been blessed to sit next to the odd granny figure who offers to take one of them off my hands for a while.
Lorraine: Keep them awake before and travel when they’re tired. Bring lots of snacks, books and activities. Give babies their milk during take-off and landing to “pop” their ears. Give them anything and everything they want for the duration of the journey to avoid meltdowns and embarrassing tantrums!
Laura: I always bring a full-sized bed pillow with me on flights to help the kids be more comfortable when they lean against the arm rest. I also change them into their pyjamas before boarding. Ensure a full tummy and prepare plenty of snacks. I tell myself that their comfort is more important than my own and any rest I get is a bonus!
Where’s the best place you’ve travelled to with the family and why?
Kathryn: New Zealand, and Margaret River in Australia. They’re so kid-friendly, and (I’m ashamed to say) they involved my toddler’s first encounters with real-life farm animals!
Lorraine: Thailand every time; we enjoy the food, the weather and the facilities for kids.
Tanya: Maldives and Sri Lanka. We stayed in a villa in both places, which allowed the kids to run about in a safe and enclosed area. They were doing so much during the day that they slept very well at night. We also had friends and family staying with us so at night so we could enjoy the social side of things while the kids slept.
Marie: We loved the Maldives: pristine waters, white sand, amazing service – it’s the ultimate luxury holiday.
Katy: Rawa Island – it’s easy to get to and very relaxing.
Laura: Among the places we’ve been, we enjoyed Sydney the most. It offers plentiful and free outdoors entertainment for kids; it was always easy to keep our son entertained there.
Abigail: The Andaman in Langkawi; it’s a short flight away and is an amazing resort on the most beautiful beach – I’d go back there in a heartbeat!
Want more? See our Kids section!