From tantrums on a plane to finding yourself in a hotel room with no travel cot, travelling with kids throws up plenty of surprises. Here’s Nicola from Jetlag and Mayhem’s ten top tips to help make your vacation run like a well-oiled machine:
1. Plan ahead and book early to avoid disappointment. Locals and expats alike love to take advantage of the very few public holidays which means hotels and flights in the region get overbooked. Did you know that if you use a travel agent, you can get your names down on flights but not have to pay for them until a month before you travel?
2. Knowledge is power. The Internet is chock-a-block with people sharing their reviews from flights on Airline Quality to hotels on Tripadvisor. In this day and age there is no excuse for a nasty surprise, so spend time finding the right hotel for you.
3. Reconfirm all your travel details, whether it’s nagging the airline about booking a bassinet or checking with the hotel that your airport transfer has been booked.
4. Pack like a genius. Avoid overpacking by calling your accommodation in advance to check what they have on offer e.g. sterilisers, travel cots, baby bath. Don’t forget you can buy nappies, wipes etc. abroad! Don’t just chuck it all in the last minute, be methodical and consult a list like mine!
5. Get the kids excited about where you’re travelling to, whether that’s learning a few phrases of the local language or keeping a journal. Flying logbooks make great birthday presents and your kids can write about their flight and stick in their boarding passes.
6. Take lots of toys and activities for the plane. In addition to the ubiquitous iPad, you can’t go wrong with stickers (window ones are also fun), colouring sets, puzzles and for the younger ones, stacking cups, a box of straws and books with flaps.
7. Sharing a small hotel room during your much longed for beach holiday can be trying. It’s worth investigating all accommodation options e.g. I have stayed in villas that have worked out far cheaper than a hotel room. A villa gives you a living area to hang out, kitchen and separate bedrooms. My new favourite website is AirBnB, where you can rent somebody’s home from them – whether it’s an apartment in the city or a ranch in Texas! If you are sharing a room, my top tip is always to put the travel cot in the bathroom (providing it is ventilated). You can also buy some great travel blackout products like the Snoozeshade for Cots.
8. Have you found vacationing with young kids can leave you wanting another vacation straight after? Don’t forget that you deserve a break; utilise that Kids Club or book a babysitter through the hotel. If you think you might be relying on babysitting, check the hotel’s policies in advance e.g. no babysitting for babies under six months.
9. Don’t overload the itinerary. Whilst you might want to run around ticking heritage sites off your list, your four year old probably doesn’t. Although I try not to let my kids completely define the direction of my holiday, it’s good to allow for decent nap times, a swim back at the hotel or even TV time in the hotel room.
10. Go with the flow and don’t stress. If your baby has spent the last three hours screaming on a plane and you are getting dirty looks, then the other passengers need to remember they were young once. Kids don’t stay jetlagged forever and if you worried about all the ‘what ifs’ you’d never travel anywhere!
Originally from London, Nicola has been living in Asia for the past nine years. She has always been obsessed with travelling, from backpacking the globe to seeking out Asia’s finer luxury destinations. After becoming a mum to two little girls (and now globetrotters in their own right!) she wanted to share her tips on making travelling with kids easier. You can find her kids travel advice site at www.jetlagandmayhem.com and follow her on twitter @jetlagandmayhem