Travelbag’s Holiday Mum Experts

by Travelbag on 19 November 2014, 11:11AM

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Ever wondered what other parents want from a holiday? Or the tips and tricks they’ve picked up to make family travel a whole lot easier? Well, we have asked the experts, talking to some of the finest Mum bloggers out there about their holidays and about keeping the kids entertained. Here is what they had to say:

1. Katie Ellison (mummydaddyandmemakesthree.co.uk & spaceinyourcase.com)

What is the very first thing you look for when booking a holiday?
For me I always look at the weather first, I am very much a sun person so will always look for the time of year when the weather is going to be best.  Since I became a parent my travelling situation has changed a lot, so now the next thing I will research is whether our potential destination is family friendly.

Do you take flight times into consideration, or does time spent travelling not matter as much as the destination?
I do in certain respects.  If we are limited to time, e.g. only going away for a weekend, I will make sure I take flight times into consideration and get the longest possible in a destination.  If I am travelling with my children I will always look at the most flexible option for us, e.g. travelling when it is their naptime so they are tired and hopefully will sleep!

What’s the furthest you’ll travel?
I have travelled all over the world, and if I had the money/time and really wanted to go to a destination I would go anywhere.  In terms of weekend and weeklong holidays, especially with my children, a couple of hour’s flight is the optimum time.

Do you prefer all-inclusive, half board or self-catering?
I like them all in different ways.  All-inclusive, depending on the property can be nice and easy, especially with children but it fully depends on where we are going.  Sometimes it is easier to take the hard work out of it especially on a holiday somewhere long haul like Mexico or the Caribbean.  However if we are going away for a few nights, especially on a city break, self-catering suits us best because we have the freedom to go out and explore. 

How do you keep your children entertained during the journey?
We pack ‘airplane bags’ and don’t let them see them before we travel.  In it we pack books, colouring pens, sweets, a magazine and silly things like pocket money toys.  They are so excited to open them and it definitely keeps them entertained.  Failing that, the iPad is our saviour!

What's the one thing you can't leave home without?
As above, the iPad for long journeys with children.  On a personal level I would never leave home without my camera- I love to document every single memory of our trips away.

Do you look for resorts/hotels with evening entertainment/activities?
Not particularly.  We aren’t massively into hotel entertainment, especially in the evening as normally we put our children to bed and sit on our balcony with a book and a glass of wine.  Even before children, we didn’t really like to be confined to our hotel so it’s never been a deal breaker in a holiday for us.

Are kids’ clubs important? If not, why not?
Yes and no.  I would have to really trust a place to leave my children there.  Until recently I didn’t think I ever would leave my children at a kids club, but after a summer holiday to Rhodes at a Mark Warner property, it’s changed my outlook a little.  That said, I don’t think I would do it at any hotel, it would have to be one where I knew that the reputation was of a very high standard.

Who do you holiday with? (Other couples/family etc.)
Normally just the four of us, but we do try and go away with our friends once a year.  It is nice as our children are the same age, so they can entertain themselves.

Who do you get your travel recommendations from?
A lot of it is online nowadays, I must admit to checking Trip Advisor before I travel anywhere, but I do take the reviews with a pinch of salt.  I like looking at other blogs, especially ones with lots of photos for inspiration.

What are your top 5 tips for travelling with kids?
1. Let go of your normal routine a little and try and relax.  You go away to have fun and so you need to just try and go with the flow a little more, even if it means later bedtimes.
2. An iPad is a must for entertainment on longer journeys- they don’t call it a virtual babysitter for nothing!  ;)
3. Do research before you go to find good child friendly restaurants etc.  There is so many great resources online to help you plan in advance.
4. Excite them in advance- we make a big deal about talking about where we are going and letting them help us pack.  We travel for memories and adventure and want to make sure that they know how lucky they are to be going away.
5. If going somewhere hot, UV clothing is a must.  We bought our girls some Konfidence suits this summer and they lived in them.  It meant that we didn’t need to panic so much about sun cream and we knew they had full protection.

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2. Susanna Scott (amodernmother.com & britmums.com)

What is the very first thing you look for when booking a holiday?
Location first. What is there to do for the family? Is there sun? City? Country? Then the accommodation. Will it be self-catering? Or do we go all out for a hotel? What are the rooms like?
 
Do you take flight times into consideration, or does time spent travelling not matter as much as the destination?
When travelling with a family, flight times are very important!
 
What’s the furthest you’ll travel?
We regularly fly to California to visit the grandparents - and that is about an 11-hour flight. I’ve never been further. I actually don’t like long haul flights! But sometimes you have to do it to get to a once-in-a-lifetime destination.
 
Do you prefer all-inclusive, half board or self-catering?
For an all-out holiday I like all-inclusive. If it is one of our “extra, let’s book it” holidays - we may go self catering. I’ve been to some great campsites in northern France - the girls are still raving about it.

How do you keep your children entertained during the journey?
For long haul flights I put together a flight bag for them It’s full of activities and new items. For example, I mate wrap up some crayons or coloured pencils and includes note pads and activity books. A deck of cards always comes in handy! Also, plastacine will keep them busy for hours. If you get the small single pack, it usually makes it through security, and the girls spend hours making little figures.
 
What's the one thing you can't leave home without?
Passport, credit card and mobile phone!

Do you look for resorts/hotels with evening entertainment/activities?
If we were going all-inclusive, I would expect teeing entertainment. They love the discos especially!  

Are kids’ clubs important? If not, why not?
When the girls were little (under 7) these were invaluable! It was a chance for mum and dad to do something on our own. But now they just enjoy hanging out with us!
 
Who do you holiday with? (Other couples/family etc.)
I’ve never holidayed with another family - I’m too selfish with my time and don’t want to coordinate. We do go away a lot with family though.

Who do you get your travel recommendations from?
Friends. Family. Websites. I can spend hours researching a destination. It’s so much fun.
What are your top 5 tips for travelling with kids?
1. Be flexible!
2. Don’t have a timetable! You will go crazy! Everything will take longer than you think.
3. Book ahead for best prices.
4. Pack an activity pack with lots of things like coloured pencils, crayons, and paper, colouring books. Scotch tape (yes!) You never know when it will come in handy.
5. Bring baby wipes. You can never have too many. The come in handy at the strangest times (wiping the bugs off car windscreen).

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3. Helen Wills (actuallymummy.co.uk & www.spaceinyourcase.com)

What is the very first thing you look for when booking a holiday?
Something that inspires me. It’s not always necessarily the accommodation, although it’s really important for me to know we’re going to be comfortable. What I’m looking for is a hook – something that gets me excited about my forthcoming trip.

Do you take flight times into consideration, or does time spent travelling not matter as much as the destination?
Yes, but the further we are going, the more I am prepared to flex times for a better cost.

What’s the furthest you’ll travel?
Me? I’ll go anywhere!

Do you prefer all-inclusive, half board or self-catering?
We’ve done it all. It very much depends on the experience we’re after, and what we’re prepared to pay. One of my best holidays was all-inclusive in the Maldives, but then again, another of my favourites was self-catering in a caravan!

How do you keep your children entertained during the journey?
I’m afraid I resort to iPads and DS consoles. It’s not something they spend a lot of their time doing normally, so I don’t mind compromising on a long flight or car journey. There’s nothing worse than feeling bored, and I like to get the holiday started as soon as we’re through passport control.

What's the one thing you can't leave home without?
My contact lenses! I’m normally a glasses wearer, but sunshine, beaches, activity, and rolling around with the children doesn’t fit well with glasses, so these are my holiday enhancer.

Do you look for resorts/hotels with evening entertainment/activities?
Again, that depends what kind of holiday we’re after. I love a summer campsite with cheesy entertainment – it keeps the children happy while I enjoy a chat over a glass of wine with the adults. Then again, the kids are great company and love their food, so I like nothing better than hanging out over dinner with them.

Are kids’ clubs important? If not, why not?
Not for us. The children are great company and enjoy being with us. They think they’re missing out on something if we put them in the kids club. Having said that, when they have ventured in there, they’ve always had fun.

Who do you holiday with? (Other couples/family etc.)
Usually we holiday as a family of four, but every year we go camping with another family we’re close to. Having a ready-made set of friends for the children to roam around with adds a different dimension to our break, and we really relax.

Who do you get your travel recommendations from?
I’m a big fan of Trip Advisor. We tend to do a lot of research before we book a holiday, and reading lots of reviews is a good way to decide for yourself what you think you will like about a particular holiday.

What are your top 5 tips for travelling with kids?
1. Relax the rules and the routine. It’s easy to slide back into the norm once you get home, so go with the flow and don’t fight the wake-up times or the desire for spaghetti bolognaise every day.
2. Take blackout fabric and duct tape. We tape it over the windows on the first few days to stop the early light from waking our children too early after a late night.
3. Always get separate rooms if you can afford to. A waking child is more likely to go back to sleep if the novelty of finding their parent in the bed next to them is removed!
4. Embrace family-friendly. It may have been your idea of hell before you became a parent, but honestly, if the kids are happy, the parents are relaxed – and we all know relaxation is what you need on a holiday.
5. Pick your beach/ski slope well. Every age has different requirements, and the huge waves that serve your teen on a surfboard well on holiday will be wholly terrifying for your toddler. Get it right and you can relax for the whole holiday.

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