Family holidays, they’re supposed to be fun right? A chance to spend quality time with your nearest and dearest away from the pressures of daily life – work, school and that guttering that needs unblocking. But they often turn out to be more stressful than just staying at home.
Fortunately there are plenty of things you can do to make sure your getaway goes smoothly, or at the very least isn’t a total disaster. And, largely, we’ve got the internet to thank.
Getting the kids onboard
The first step is deciding where to go, which is often constrained by budget and practical considerations such as whether you really want to spend a 10 hour flight playing a 30,000ft high game of chase the toddler. But once you’ve narrowed down a destination, it’s time to get your kids involved.
Younger ones are pretty easy to excite, even a trip to the local recycling centre can be spun into an adventure. But, sooner than you’d hope, they’ll hit an age when all parental suggestions are greeted with a shrug of disdain. So it’s a good idea to get them interested early, hopefully by the time you leave they’ll actually want to go.
Gently suggest they take a look at things to do in the vicinity, are there any water parks nearby? Can they find GoPro YouTube videos of the best slides? Soon they’ll have an unrealistically long list there’s no chance you’ll complete, but you can break that to them when you get there.
Nichola West who runs family travel blog Globalmouse Travels says Instagram is a good place to kick off the research. “Use it as a search facility and look at the destinations you’re thinking of visiting and then scroll through the photos for some child-friendly options.”
Don’t blow the bank
While they’re making that list, you need to get on and book the holiday. Taking an entire family away can be take-out-a-new-mortgage expensive, so it pays to research all your options says Nichola. “Accommodation providers like Airbnb or VRBO often work out cheaper when you’re travelling with kids and it’s a good idea to check out tourist board sites for special offers and events for families.”
There are also plenty of comparison websites that’ll help you find the best price, such as TravelSupermarket, Travelzoo and Ice Lolly, and sites such as Holiday Pirates that specialise in cut price last minute deals. MoneySavingExpert has a handy list to get your started.
Before you hand over any cash take a look at a range of online reviews from several sources – one amazing, or horrific, review never tells the whole story. Another trick is to find the hotel or apartment on Google Maps and mooch around on street view. Is there a building site next door they failed to mention? Is the beach really just a five minute walk away? When they say “vibrant” does that mean you’ll be surrounded by 24-hour drinking dens?
Packing in the apps
Once you’ve booked it’s time to app yourself up. That doesn’t necessarily mean filling an iPad full of games that’ll keep the kids quiet – although if that buys you a couple of hours snoozing under a parasol, why not?
Britt Marie-Monks, founder of The Honeymoon and Holiday Fixer, says plenty of apps help children engage more deeply with their new surroundings.
“CamFind uses mobile visual search technology to identify what is in a picture from food, fashion to buildings and paintings.”
Apps can also give parents extra peace of mind. “Ones like Citymapper and Google Maps not only help you find your way around more easily, but also act as a safety net if one member of the family breaks away from everyone else,” says Claire Willoughby of Ice Lolly. So give your child a crash course in how to drop a pin and share their location before you go
Nichola of Globalmouse Travels also says it’s worth finding out if your destination has an electronic city card. These provide discounted travel and entry to attractions and, over the course of a holiday, can add up to big savings.
Almost time for take off
As your holiday approaches it makes sense to gather all your tickets and booking references together. Rather than printing them off, save a small forest by creating a folder in your email account or putting them in cloud storage. That way they’ll always be at your fingertips or, when you lose your smartphone on the beach, at the local internet café.
Finally, advises Anthony Charles of Rich Vein Travel, check your airline’s flight status or flight tracker tool. “Most airlines from Emirates to EasyJet have one. This means that on the way to the airport, or even at home, you can devise new plans to keep the children entertained if there’s a delay.”
Sadly, we still haven’t found a way to stop those...