But first, our bonus tip is the most important:
A family holiday is about the memories you make, not where you go.
Keep it fun, keep it easy. The best gift you can give your kids this holiday season is time with your full attention and lots of love.
1. Don’t go far in a day
Don’t plan long drives if you can help it. Spread your journey out with multiple stops for things the kids will enjoy – the nut house, the aviation museum, whatever is on the way and remotely interesting. Help your kids stay engaged along the way by letting them “help navigate” on a spare map they can scribble on.
Don’t aim to tackle long walks, either. Young kids especially have limitations to what they can do easily and happily. They might have way more fun playing in mud puddles and climbing a tree in the park than walking for hours through the bush to see a famous rock, or driving for ages to go to a restaurant. Remember, if they’re happy, everyone’s happy.
2. Avoid the queues and try a tour
If you’re away for a whole week, plan to hit any big attractions mid-week so you can avoid the weekend crowd. It’s always a little hit-and-miss with what kind of children’s activities they’ll have at museums or galleries, so Google is your friend when it comes to finding something fun. You can often hit a home run with a free guided tour where your kids can ask an expert everything they want to about dinosaurs, or planes, or the history of pirates.
3. Awaken the imagination
You can do a lot of easy things to get your kids as enthusiastic to go travelling as you are. Watch a movie or read a book about your chosen destination. Show them where the country or town is on a globe or on Google Maps. A ruined fort can be more than just a pile of old bricks if you dress up in medieval costumes and have a sword fight among the empty walls. A walking tour in the city is transformed for your teens if you can point out places where their favourite band has been known to hang out.
4. Plan for the munchies
Bring a whole day’s worth of snacks. Snacks, not sugar. Nuts, crackers and fruit are all safe ideas. And bring lots of water – you all need to stay hydrated when you’re on the go!
Think about where you’ll find breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most kids aren’t too fussed about fancy restaurant food, but if you can find a diner or another place with simple, hot food, you should be okay. When you’re in a strange place, anything that feels familiar is a winner.
5. Pay in advance to save in bulk
Even just two adults and two kids is an expensive day out, whether you’re buying plane tickets or cinema tickets. Look for online discounts and two-for-one offers in advance, or ask if they have a family group discount. Pay in advance instead of paying through the nose at the door.
6. Accommodation that’s right for your family and your budget
No one needs to stay in a hotel, but you don’t need to freeze in a tent either – unless that’s your kind of thing. A farm stay where the kids get to help feed the animals or go hiking in the hills can be a great way to make memories and save money.
You could even stick to day trips away each day during your week of holidays, instead of staying somewhere away from home. With the extra money you’ve saved every night, you can do more during the day!
7. Call a friend
If you have teenagers, you probably have teen angst on family holidays because they’ve been taken away from their friends during their only time off school. How could you? You can take that angst away by letting them bring a friend along with them – someone to hang out and have fun with, who’s not an ‘annoying sibling’. It can be a huge relief to them and you.
8. The Mary Poppins bag
Keep all your essentials in one bag when you’re out during the day. Obviously you’ll want to keep your vital passports, tickets, and accommodation details with you, but you’ll also want everything you might need during the day:
- Aforementioned snacks and water
- Magic stuffed animal that sends your little one to sleep on the train
- Prescription medication and kids’ and adults’ painkillers
- Band-aids (and lots of them!)
- MP3 player/mobile phone loaded with some favourite music for each person
- Mobile phone charger (don’t get stuck without it)
- Rain coats
9. Teach your kids to pack
Teach your kids how to pack their own bags. Get storage cubes – ziplock bags for keeping things separate and safe within their bigger pack – so they can easily find clean socks in a hurry.
Teach your kids how to pack light and make sure everyone carries their own. After they’ve had to lug around a heavy suitcase on their own once, they’ll never forget to pack light again.
10. Set a budget but stay flexible
Make sure everyone knows how much money they have to spend on souvenirs and snacks each day. Of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday if there weren’t one or two special treats. Take them out for a late-night gelato. If it’s not in the food budget, stretch the budget elsewhere. And talking budget, don’t forget to take travel insurance with you. It’s a small cost that could end up being a big budget saver.