Thursday, 22 June 2017

How To Plan A Great Family Holiday

The recent heatwave has reminded me that the summer holidays are very nearly here. Although we were determined to go away as a family this year I found booking a holiday a little bit daunting. Where should we go? What sort of accommodation? Where should we look? We eventually found somewhere we can afford that will be great for me, my partner, my 5 year old and our 1 year old, but it wasn’t easy. To make it easier for others here’s my advice on how to plan a great family holiday.

A girl in a swimming costume reaching it to a water fountain


When is best to book your family holiday?

The best deals are normally found if you book early (at least 9 months before) or last minute (less than 2 months before departure) although the prices often don’t vary that much for the popular places which get booked up. Booking early obviously means you have much more choice, but if you are more flexible on dates, location and requirements then you can grab a bargain booking close to departure. 
We need to go away in school holidays to child friendly locations so it can get very expensive. I would rather find somewhere than meets our needs than wait and save a bit of money. 

Should you stay in the UK or go abroad?

Holidays in the UK are great because you are familiar with the food, language and customs, but they often don’t work out much cheaper than going abroad and they might not even be quicker to get to.  In just a couple of hours on an aeroplane you can get to a huge range of destinations in Europe with more reliable weather than the UK. I always feel I’m on a "proper" holiday when I’ve gone on an aeroplane too. On the other hand travelling in the UK means you can take your car and fill it full of clothes, toys and equipment without worrying about weight limits. 

A young girl in a pink swimming costume and arm bands swimming in a pool

What are you going to do on holiday?

Before children holidays would involve lying in the sun reading, eating relaxing meals, sipping cocktails and exploring the local area. With young children I have found the best way to have a fun holiday is to keep the children entertained. When we look at resorts we are interested in those with a kids club, kids’ pool and play areas. Even if staying in a villa or cottage having a safe outside space means they can play while we relax. Activities we can do as a family such as splashing in the pool are a great way to have a fun time together.


What's the best accommodation for families?

I know that when the 4 of us share a room it means none of us get enough sleep so top priority for us is at least 2 bedrooms. Having a separate living area is ideal so a villa or apartment normally works better for us than hotels.
My climbing, adventurous toddler can get up to mischief quickly at home and on holiday it can be even worse. If our accommodation could be made toddler safe so we don’t need to watch her every second (and keep telling her “no”) it would be great, add in a lot of the equipment we use at home (stair gates, baby monitor, cot, night light, plastic crockery) and it would be perfect. We really need to stay somewhere aimed at children to provide us with reassurance and reduce stress. Tots To Travel*** visit all their villas to make sure they are safe, they provide free baby & toddler kit and even ensure the private pools are barriered. These child (and parent) friendly touches really make the difference to a holiday.

Getting to your holiday destination?

Whether travelling by aeroplane, car, train or coach I like to pack a surprise survival package filled with food and activities for my girls. I normally let my big girl choose a magazine at the airport or station as well because she is guaranteed to pick one with lots of freebies. Having a toy, stickers and possibly even some colouring in addition to the magazine keeps her entertained for a good portion of the journey. As a bonus I can happily throw it all away before we come back. Of course I always have a fully loaded iPad as back up for long journeys too!
If you aren’t taking your own car, book your hire car or transfer in advance with a company that has good reviews and provides car seats so you don’t have to worry on arrival.

Me in a silly straw hat with a sarong round my shoulders with the sea in the background

What do you need to pack for holiday?

If you are going somewhere hot children need surprisingly few clothes. I always over pack and half the clothes aren’t worn. I’ve found they generally just need swimming clothes, a couple of pairs of shorts, a few t-shirts, a few light dresses, knickers and something to cover them up if the evenings turn cool. If our accommodation is private they wear even less. It’s easy to hand wash clothes if needed and they dry quickly in the heat. This should leave plenty of space for all the other items they insist on bringing…
At most destinations you can buy nappies etc so you don't need to worry about taking huge amounts. I generally keep an eye on everything we use in the course of a week and if I think we'll need it on holiday I add it to a list. The more basic your accommodation the more you will need to take with you.

So those are my tips about how to plan a great family holiday. I am so excited about going away now I think I’m going to start writing my list of what we need to pack. 


***Disclosure: this is a collaborative post***
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11 comments

  1. As a child we always used to go to Haven sites. However as you have said UK holidays can now be just as expensive as abroad. We always take the kids abroad now because we can guarantee the weather. Overpacking is always something I struggle with as well, think were al the same ha ha

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    1. Me too, I spent every Easter in the Tiger club in Havens

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  2. I think I find staycations less stressful in the lead up so enjoy them more. But nothing beats a holiday in the sun :) ox

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    1. A holiday in the UK in the sun is perfect when it happens

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  3. We've already been to Scotland and heading to Devon in the summer - action packed outdoor holiday destinations at their best :)

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  4. In the UK you have to over pack to ensure you have something for every weather possibility! I am scared of flying so we explore our own country but one day the kids will want to go abroad...

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    1. We never really went abroad when I was child, I think it's made me appreciate it more now

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  5. Great tips! We're hoping to go on our first family holiday abroad soon - exciting! x

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  6. I'm holidaying later this year with my little one who will be nearly one - will be keeping these in mind!

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  7. I am such a home body, i love somewhere local and not to far away from home, i am sure in future we will go somewhere overseas but right now give me Great Yarmouth hah

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