There is little more exciting than planning a first family holiday with young children, especially as a first time parent. But to ensure that much deserved break to a European destination or beyond will meet your expectations, a little preparation must be undertaken before anything is placed in a suitcase.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of five handy tips so you can enjoy a completely stress free first family holiday.
Location, location, location
As every parent knows, travelling any distance with children can require military style planning! Whether you’re planning a city break or a week or two at a beach resort, it’s worth thinking of these things beforehand
Length of flight. A luxury sunshine break to exotic Thailand or Bali may have been perfect when it was just the two of you, but any flight time over three or four hours may not be ideal when travelling with a baby or young children in your party.
Transfer time from the airport. The journey time to your holiday destination does not end when the plane touches down at your destination’s nearest airport. Parents will know that a lengthy road trip in the UK can throw up a multitude of challenges when it comes to keeping their children happy and entertained. And those challenges can be even greater when that road trip is taken on a bus packed with fellow holidaymakers.
Temperature at your holiday destination. You may be able to lie back, relax and forget about life’s everyday stresses in temperatures exceeding 30°C. However, it is worth bearing in mind that hot weather can affect babies and young children because their bodies are unable to adjust to changes in temperature as well as adults. Babies and children sweat less, reducing their bodies’ ability to cool down.
Nearby attractions. Make sure your chosen holiday accommodation is near to whatever you – and your children – like doing best. Beaches, amusement parks, play centres or other attractions nearby can cut down on travel time when you are on holiday.
It’s important to consider whether the facilities at your hotel or resort will keep the younger members of your family fed well and entertained while giving you peace of mind.
Things to consider include:
- Are there child friendly dining rooms and menus? If you are choosing an all inclusive break, does the food and drink on offer include ice cream and a good range of soft drinks?
- Does the hotel or resort offer a child minding service at night and a kids’ club during the day? Also check whether there is a dedicated children’s pool with a lifeguard present during opening hours
- Is there lift access to rooms not on the ground floor?
- Does your hotel/resort provide a cot?
- And if the children in your party are old enough to sleep on their own, will the hotel or resort provide inter-connecting rooms?
Having decided on the ideal location and accommodation for your first family holiday, the next stage of the planning process is to…
Get your documentation in order…
Passports and visas
Passport expiry dates can creep up on you surprisingly quickly, and if you have recently welcomed a baby into the family they will need their own passport. It’s also worth bearing in mind that many countries outside the EU require a minimum of six months’ validity on all your party’s passports and some insist visas must be obtained in advance of travel.
If you are planning a first family holiday in the EU, it is worth obtaining a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for all members of your party. This is because an EHIC, which replaced the old E111 form in 2005, entitles the holder to free or discounted medical treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs in any EU country, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Wherever in the world you plan to take your first family holiday, it is advisable to purchase holiday insurance that covers cancellation and curtailment; baggage and belongings; personal liability; emergency assistance; and medical cover.
While hiring a car might not have been top of your list when it was just the two of you, a vehicle can make family day trips far easier when on holiday.
Although the DVLA ditched the paper counterpart to the Photocard licence in 2015, overseas car hire companies may ask to check your driving licence record.
It is, therefore, advisable to print out your own driving licence record and getting a code from the DVLA’s Share Driving Licence service. The code will be valid for 21 days and gives a hire firm one-off access to your online driving licence record if they need to see it.
If any children in your group have a different surname because you are not the child’s parent, it is advisable to carry extra documents that establish your relationship. This can speed up the process of entering a foreign country.
According to the Home Office, such evidence might include a copy of a birth or adoption certificate showing your relationship with the child; divorce or marriage certificates if you are the parent but have a different surname; or a letter from one or both of the child’s parents, with contact details, giving consent for the child to travel with you.
And stay healthy…
You and your partner may have been prepared to risk travelling abroad without undergoing a raft of advisable vaccinations, but the health of the younger members of your party is a different matter.
The NHS advises that travelling with children requires practical consideration and careful planning. It is advisable to consult your GP surgery at least six to eight weeks in advance of departure because the risks to health vary and many factors – such as destination, length of stay, planned activities, age and the general health of the child or children – need to be taken into account.
It is also worth bearing in mind that some vaccines are available free on the NHS, but others that are advisable may be chargeable.
Packing for your first family holiday
First, calculate the total journey time from your home to your holiday accommodation. Remember, this includes the time spent at the airport (including possible flight delays) in addition to the time it will take to get the departure airport in the UK and from the arrival airport to your hotel or resort.
Next, think about what items will need to be accessible at a moment’s notice. Depending on the ages of the children in your party, this can include:
- Baby changing equipment, including nappies, wipes and tissues
- A baby carrier or booster cushion
- Food and drink, including formula and bottles. But bear in mind the rules restricting taking liquids on board a plane
- Toys and games, including favourite electronic devices and headphones
When packing the luggage that will be placed in the plane’s hold, one golden rule is to leave enough space for the souvenirs you and your children will inevitably purchase that will keep memories of your first family holiday fresh forever.