When it comes to travel, there is one travel bracket that requires a very specific type of advice and its own home for discussion: Family Travel. Those without children shudder at the thought of screaming babies on planes and even the most open-minded of child-free folk assume that travelling with little ones instantly limits what you do, where you go and how much of an travel bang you get for your hard earned buck. It's not for us to correct these naysayers; instead we've searched blogosphere to find the best advice from bloggers who are actually exploring the planet with their little ones - and not just surviving, they're succeeding in enjoying it too.
When is the right age for children to travel?
As early as possible says Skimbaco Lifestyle. Children are adaptable, quick to change and suit new surroundings and as Skimbaco's editor Katja Presnal says parents shouldn't wait for children to get older based on the assumption that that's when travel becomes easier. "No. It gets easier when they are older because they are used to it, not because they are older. Look at two adults, one who never travels and one who travels constantly - travelling is easier for the one with travelling experience, not for the one who is older."
What do you pack?
Pack the essentials and pack as light as you can! Popular Mummy-blogger Naomi Davis recently did a whirlwind tour of Italy with two children under the age of two and in this post about what she and her husband learned from the experience, she explains why they chose to travel with just two carry-on bags, despite thinking it was a crazy idea to begin with. "We managed to fit everything we needed for 2 weeks abroad with two small children in two large backpacks by packing layers ... buying diapers and wipes when we got to Italy, and making plans to wash clothing mid-trip". Did it work? Naomi seems to think so "I honestly feel like this is the sole reason our trip went well!"
1. Check the policies of your airline. Different carriers vary on how they transport equipment and what they'll do in the event of lost or damaged luggage. Satu's experience is that if you have a special travel bag for your pram, they are more likely to pay out in the event of damage.
2. Time your flights well. "If I can, I travel in the morning. That's when our baby sleeps the best," says Satu. Let's hope your child's peak sleeping time is in line with the cheapest available flights!
3. Get ready to feed, suckle and entertain. Babies and toddlers may need food or a bottle to soothe them during flights, particularly during take-off and landing to avoid sore ears. Bigger kids will need a new iPad game, an entertaining book or a favourite toy to keep them happy during longer flights.
4. Think of renting. Satu highlights that many major cities offer rental of prams, car seats and other equipment. This article on Family Travel Forum lists a number of providers.
5. Have a plan B. Satu says it's important to "have a Plan B in everything". Extra nappies, a change of clothes, a wraparound baby carrier should always go in your hand luggage in case your luggage is lost or your flight is delayed.
What's the best accommodation for family travel?
Caz and Craig from one of Australia's biggest family travel blogs Y Travel Blog are very quick to highlight the benefits of staying in a holiday apartment as opposed to a hotel in their 25 tips for travelling with children. "Most big-city hotel rooms were not built for families with young kids. They usually have no refrigerator or microwave, floor space is at a premium and neighbors can hear every tantrum. But with an apartment you get more space, thicker walls, a kitchen, a washing machine, and separate bedrooms." It's also the case that you save money too with hotels in many cities becoming increasingly expensive.
What do we do when we get there?
Ciao Bambino has a long list of tips for family travel including the suggestion that childrens' travel experience should begin long before you step foot on foreign soil. "Engage older children in the planning process and begin exploring maps, history, food, culture, and daily life before you leave." Y Travel Blog also recommends tailoring your activities to the youngest member of the family so that you can easily factor in playtime and naps.
Perhaps it's a myth that family travel is a fast-paced whirlwind of pre-planned activities aimed at keeping children entertained as the parents behind A King's Life explain in this post that their children are often fascinated enough by the change of scenery and will want to take their time and absorb it. "Children are natural explorers and if their love of learning and exploration hasn't already been squashed, they will find new situations to be fascinating. You may feel like rushing through an airport terminal, but to them it is a new, amazing world. You can't rush curiosity and it should be allowed to unravel."
We couldn't have put it better ourselves, and hopefully the pros have maybe taught you a thing or two. Happy holiday planning!
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