I’m a freelance travel writer who is obsessed with the best beaches in the world…you might be wondering why this blog hasn’t been more about my favourite subject before now.
Husband and I have had our fair share of travel adventures together.
Our honeymoon was a tour of Scotland (brr) followed by a five-week Caribbean cruise (to warm back up again) and it was a few years after this, at the end of a grown-up gap year, when I fell pregnant with my boys. That trip took in the US, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and the Maldives. It was as incredible as it sounds. I’d love to do it again sometime, although I don’t think I could face all of the overtime we had to put in to save up for it again, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a lottery win.
We returned to the UK with such a bump. And I started to grow my own very large bump which quickly turned into two small people with lots of needs.
Juggling baby twins was challenging, but not half as challenging as juggling toddler twins and a baby. For the last few years we’ve only taken short haul holidays, but now they’re growing up I’m hoping travel is going to get easier.
Travelling with children is completely different to your pre-children holidays. I thought I’d share lists of what’s hot and what’s not for families this holiday season.
Travelling with kids: What’s out
Laying on a beach with your eyes closed. Small people have a habit of veering too close to the sea or getting lost if you blink for half a second.
Drinking gin before noon. Unless of course there is another responsible adult on hand to help with the kids (I knew there was a good reason I got married).
Reading a book. Unless it’s got big pictures in it and it rhymes so perfectly that you find yourself reciting it to yourself all day.
Sleeping through a whole night. It’s always scary in a new bed and the curtains are always see-through. And often there isn’t a cot available which means the littlest has to sleep in your bed, which she hates and kick and prods you all night until you want to cry.
Sight seeing. Who wants to visit ancient ruins and art galleries when there are ice cream parlours to visit and brightly coloured gift shops selling plastic tat?
Packing and unpacking. It takes hours, it’s impossible to travel light and you always forget something really important no matter how many lists you write and how carefully you check.
Visiting a spa. Unless you can persuade your other half to hold the fort while you unwind for a few hours. If they’re willing to do that then it’s a good sign they’re a keeper.
Doing something adventurous as a couple. If you both go sky diving or caving, who is going to look after the kids? This is also a good excuse for people (like me) who refuse to bungee or jump off something high in the interests of adrenaline as one of you needs to take care of the kids while the other is being silly.
Food of any kind. Even if it’s just sausages or chicken nuggets they will no doubt look different to the ones they’re used to back home. Unless you have one of those crazy kids who eats anything, just accept they will probably survive on bread and biscuits until you get back home again. Go with it and embrace it.
Travelling with kids: What’s in
Watching the sun rise. Every. Day. See above note about the see-through curtains.
Dieting. Not by choice, but because eating out with a group of small children is so much hard work and they’re likely to have a melt down just as you finally sit down to eat your dinner meaning you have to leave the restaurant before you get kicked out. For once, this will be one holiday when you won’t come back half a stone heavier.
Late night drinks with your other half on the balcony. All while keeping your fingers crossed your voices don’t wake the kids. Which means you usually end up with at least one small person coming to join you for half the evening.
Daytime naps (hopefully). With all of the sunshine and running around, it’s a perfect chance for you all to take a siesta.
Seeing places with fresh eyes. Revisiting a place with kids means you see all of the fun bits you missed last time on your grown up trip.
You feel no pressure. When we were travelling as a couple, we felt we had to see and do everything. With kids it’s just not worth the hassle or stress, so you’re easier on yourself.
You get to walk around with a buggy to carry all of your bags underneath. This means you can pick up a few bottles of wine from the supermarket without having to struggle to carry it. And being strapped into it keeps your toddler out of mischief. #winning
Building sandcastles. Who doesn’t love building sandcastles?!
Eating ice cream. Yes, you might not make it to the art gallery but who doesn’t enjoy eating ice cream at every opportunity?
Seeing places through your children’s eyes and thinking how the trips are going to shape the people they grow into. Sorry, I had to chuck in a serious one there.
Making friends. It’s so easy to get chatting to other families when you have kids. It usually starts with a knowing nod as your children take turns to have epic tantrums.
Oversized characters. You can’t beat a seven-foot Barney the Dinosaur or Bob the Builder. Although at least one of your kids will be terrified (hence there is only one child in the Barney photo above!)
Make the effort
Travelling with kids is exhausting. With one baby or toddler it’s pretty easy to travel without too much extra thought or planning, but throw in a few extra for good measure and it’s a good idea to find family friendly destinations to keep everyone happy and relaxed.
You will need to travel with all the things – nappies, wipes, forumla, travel toddler beds, bottles, sterilisers, more clothes than you ever imagined, a buggy, high chair…the list goes on and on. If you stay somewhere family friendly you can often hire the big gear but understand you will never travel light again!
When I told a friend we were taking our almost 2yo boys abroad a couple of years ago, they gasped and said: “Travelling with kids is just like being at home, only worse as you don’t have any of your stuff. ”
They were kind of telling the truth. Travel with kids is seriously hard work. You come back more exhausted than when you set off. You arrive home with the largest washing mountain you ever thought possible. Yet seeing their little excited faces as they explore new sights, sounds and smells is priceless.
If you saw my Instagram feed last week, you’ll see we’ve just got back from a Just for Tots break at Butlins, Minehead and a long weekend in the New Forest at the Oakdene Forest Park. Family travel doesn’t have to be about exotic destinations and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune – there are plenty of places on your doorstep to explore. Watch this space for reviews as soon as I’ve finished scaling the highest mountain of washing I’ve ever seen.