Now that Easter is over and done with and the kids have gone back to school attentions are turning to summer and in particular booking summer holidays in the sunshine somewhere. We all need something in the diary to look forward to!
Booking a family holiday can be a bit of a daunting thing. Where do you go? Who do you travel with? Do you book it all yourself or go with a reputable travel firm like First Choice? Everyone's talking about all inclusive holidays to Greece, but Greece is a big country so where do you start looking? What do I actually need to book and organise? I might not know exactly which holiday is right for your family, but here are some top tips to get you started.
1. Ask around
This may seem like an obvious thing to start with, but why not ask people you know about where they are planning to go this summer, or where they went last summer. There's a local mums Facebook group here and there are regularly questions on there asking for recommendations on places to go. It's a quick and simple way of finding out where you can get to easily from where you live and also helps you to find resorts or locations to research further.
2. Who is going?
Now this may seem like a daft question, but are you just going to take your immediate family or how about grandparents or your kids cousins? If there's more of you going it can mean having an extra pair of hands to help with the kids too. Also, we all know that kids can often manage to entertain themselves if there's enough of them, and if you have an age gap between your children it might be nice for them to have cousins their own age to play with. Grandparents might not want to go far from their rooms in an evening meaning you might be lucky enough to have a ready-made babysitter right there!
3. What do you all like to do?
Are you someone who is quite happy just to lie on a beach with a book all day or do you need there to be watersports activities on site? Or maybe you'd prefer the children to go into some sort of play scheme whilst you take some time out in the spa? Does someone want a golf course nearby? Evening entertainment for the kids? Make a list of what is important to everyone in your family and from that pick out the things that you need to have that will make everyone happy.
4. How much have you got to spend?
Again another potentially daft question, but a practical one that needs some consideration. Are you on a budget or are you more of a bung it on the credit card and worry later type or person. There's no point spending everything relaxing on a luxury holiday if you then have to work every bit of overtime going and stress yourself out trying to pay for it. If you know up front how much you have to spend then it can stop you getting carried away dreaming about 5 star resorts when 3 star is more your budget range.
5. How will you get there?
Don't just think about the actual flight time, but also what happens at both ends in terms of transfer times. A five hour flight might sound manageable with your kids, but if you then have to add on three plus hours at each end plus extra check in time you're talking about 12+ hours which is a totally different kettle of fish.
If there's a regional airport near you why not see where they fly to first. Also, when you get to where you're going is there a train or bus that takes you straight to your resort or will you need to sort out a taxi or wait for a bus that only goes every three hours. Planning is key on this and this is where asking around can help.
6. Self catering or full board
There can be pros and cons with each on a family holiday. Self catering can help keep costs down, but it does them mean that the holiday might not be much of a break for those that are doing the cooking and food shopping. If you have fussy eaters in the family it might be a preferred option though.
Full board means that you know up front what you're going to spend on food (and in some cases drink) but depending on exactly where you are going it can take some of the flexibility out of your holiday as you might be constrained as to what time you can eat and where. Depending on the ages of your children this might not fit in with their schedules, or on the flip side it might work perfectly. Definitely worth some consideration though.
7. Where do you want to go?
So now you've looked at many of the practicalities on the holiday, but which country do you want to visit? Or does that not really matter as long as the place you're going to has everything you want to do there?
It might be that you want to go to some particular tourist site close to where you're staying, but that might not be your cup of tea at all. Are there any good attractions for children nearby that you could visit? Many country guidebooks have a section in them about travelling with kids in that country and that section often also includes information about the most popular family attractions and basic stuff like how many playgrounds you might find in a city. It's certainly the case that some countries are more geared up for families than others so do your research if you plan to travel around a bit away from a resort.
8. Consider what you need to take or find once there
This is another time to make a list. How old are your kids and what special "equipment" do you need for them. Do they sleep in a cot or do you need bed guards? How about formula milk? Do you need to take a buggy? What about car seats if you have to do a long transfer in a car or mini-bus?
It might be that you can hire some bigger items when you get to your holiday location, but other things may be necessary for the journey itself. Talk to airlines about whether they let you take a buggy in the hold in addition to your checked in baggage. Some airlines also let you check in car seats and many parents prefer to do this after experiencing hired ones being not up to the quality and safety standard that you get here in the UK. For slightly older children you can buy travel booster seats which you could easily pack and it might be that you can borrow one of these from a friend just for the duration of your trip.
If you have really little kids a sling might be useful for in the airport – remember that even if you can take your pushchair all the way to the gate on your outbound flight you might not be able to get it back until baggage reclaim at the other end. And you don't know when you might have to give it up on the return leg. Also, a buggy isn't always appropriate if you're going to an old town where everywhere is covered in cobbles. Research is again key.
9. What if something goes wrong?
We all obviously hope that this won't be the case, but accidents do happen, flights do get cancelled and even the best laid plans can unravel. If this does happen what are you going to do? Travelling with a family is different to just a couple of adults who would happily kill time in a bar or bed down on a airport floor if necessary. Please make sure that you've got comprehensive travel insurance just in case and if you're travelling in Europe you can get a European Health Insurance Card for free which means that you should be covered for state healthcare (either free or at a reduced cost) in Europe. Children need to have their own card, but they are incredibly simple to get. Do check that your cards are still valid before you travel though as they do go out of date.
10. Remember to enjoy it!
Planning and taking a family holiday isn't supposed to be hard work, in fact the dictionary definition of holiday includes: an extended period of leisure and recreation It might be that you need to do a fair bit of planning before a family holiday but one of the key things is to relax and enjoy yourself once you're there. And if you're a mum, remember that it shouldn't only be you that has to do everything whilst you're away – it's a holiday for the whole family.
Bon Voyage and remember the sun cream!
Disclaimer: This featured post was brought to you in association with First Choice.