Planning holidays with children
Whether you’re hanging out in one spot or heading off to explore, holidays with kids are about planning for short attention spans and short travel times:
- You’ll need lots of breaks and fewer activities than you would if you were travelling on your own or with adults.
- Plenty of stops for meals and drinks will keep everyone’s energy levels up.
- Everyone has more energy in the morning, so this can be a good time for adult activities. Kids can look forward to their activities in the afternoon.
- Activities and local attractions to keep children entertained might involve swimming, games, playgrounds, carnivals, fun parks and movies.
- Don’t forget to plan down time for yourself too. If your children are entertained with organised activities, play with other children or are looked after by babysitters, you’ll get a break for yourself.
- If your holidays are going to involve long car, bus, train or plane trips, it might pay to think ahead about ways to keep your children entertained.
Involve kids in holiday planning
Getting the kids to help you plan your holiday can get them interested and excited. Their input can help you have a holiday that’s fun for everyone. You could get some books from the library or find some websites about the place you’re going, so your children can look at pictures and tell you what looks fun. You could read some story books from the place you’ll visit, or learn a few words of the language if it’s somewhere overseas. If your children are younger, you can come up with a basic plan and give them some options to choose from.
Although holidays are exciting, some kids do get nervous about the break from routine. Talking about holiday plans is also a good way to help them settle in to the idea and lessen any anxiety.
Holidays with children can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to put some thought into your budget. You might need to need to save in advance. You could read our guide to family budgets
for some general tips.
Where to go and what to do
There are many different kinds of child-friendly holidays.
Check that the beach is patrolled by lifeguards and the tides are predictable for safe swimming. Many beaches have rockpools or other areas that are good for small children, but check first that there’s nothing dangerous in them. For sun protection, take sunscreen and hats and consider buying your child a UV swim suit with long sleeves and legs. Make sure there are other things to do in case of wet weather, or when the children get sick of playing in the sand and swimming.
Check out local guide books or national park websites before deciding on a spot for your bushwalking holiday. These guides describe walking trails in the area and can help you decide whether they’re too steep or hard. Many national parks have paths designed for wheelchairs and prams. If your walks will be longer than half an hour or so, make sure you pack a first aid kit, sunscreen, wet weather gear, insect repellent and some food and water.
Choose a location where you can be sure kids will be able to see and do exciting things such as spotting local wildlife. Always choose a spot where you can keep an eye on your kids. Be prepared with wet weather gear, sunscreen, first aid, games and books.
Renting a house
Make sure children are welcome and that the house is child-friendly with secured windows, decks, pools and staircases (especially if you have young ones). You might also want to check that the house is away from busy roads.
Here are 10 tips for making your stay away from home safe and stress-free:
- Book a holiday house or rooms that allow family members to have some privacy. A place with one bedroom for the grown-ups and one for the kids can make sleeping arrangements easier to manage. The same is true for hotels – if you can get a family suite for a reasonable price, having a separate bedroom will mean you won’t keep the kids awake. If it’s not possible, a room with a balcony or a patio can give you some space to yourselves when the kids are asleep.
- If you’re staying in a hotel, it’s worth checking where the nearest fire escape is and ensuring that it isn’t blocked.
- If your accommodation has a pool, check that it has a fence.
- Always supervise children, particularly any under-fives, in the bath and around water.
- Bring your own stair gates if necessary.
- Have phone numbers and locations of the local doctor and hospital handy.
- Avoid bunk beds for very young children.
- Check hot water temperature.
- Check outdoor play equipment to make sure nothing’s broken or falling off and that it’s structurally solid.
- Make sure children are welcome at any restaurants. Children’s menus are an added bonus. Outdoor dining areas are great if the weather’s good and your children are likely to be noisy or don’t want to stay in their seats.
Holidays are about having fun, relaxing and getting away from the daily grind. But many kids benefit from routines, whether they’re at home or on holidays. Some routines will fall by the wayside, but sticking to a few basics, like bedtimes and mealtimes, can help children adapt to changes while you’re away.
Sleep times are especially important. Here are some ideas to help keep kids in their sleeping routines:
- Take your child’s ‘blankie’ or favourite toy.
- If your child sleeps in a cot at home, check that you can hire one at your accommodation.
- Stick to your child’s normal bedtime as much as possible. The occasional late night might be a treat.
You might need to make some new rules and routines for your kids on holiday. For example, only go swimming with an adult, always wear sunscreen and a hat outside, or always tell parents where you’re going.
If your child’s in the middle of toilet training
, think about postponing your holiday. It might be easier if toilet training is done at home, before or after you go away, because relaxed routines and far-away toilets can make things more difficult on holidays. If this isn’t possible, and you find yourself a long way from toilets with your child, think about carrying some basics – toilet paper, tissues or wipes in your bag, another disposable bag for the waste and perhaps some soap or hand cleaning gel that doesn’t need water.
Staying healthy is one of the bigger challenges when heading overseas. Talk to your doctor or a clinic for travellers about any vaccinations and medications you’ll need for your destination.
It’s a good idea to get children, particularly young children, immunised well in advance. If your child’s too young for the necessary vaccinations, consider postponing your trip. If your child has a cold, check with the doctor that she’s OK to fly. Note: not all immunisations or anti-malarials are suitable for children.
If you formula feed, check that the formula you use is available where you’re going. If you’re planning to carry made-up formula on board a flight, check with the airline beforehand about any restrictions on carrying liquids.
In some places, it’s hard to get clean water. Even when the water is clean, it’ll probably have different bacteria from those you’re used to. It’s possible you or your children will have slightly upset tummies while you get used to it. Bottled water is available in most places, as are packaged fruit juices and UHT milk. Taking your own pocket water purifier and some reusable bottles produces much less waste than buying bottled drinks.
Your child might also be unimpressed with strange food. If you can introduce her to some of the local cuisine before you leave home, it might help. Otherwise, you might have to be a bit more relaxed about mealtimes than you would be at home. Just try to make sure she gets plenty to drink if she’s not eating much.
A good supply of wet wipes or a bottle of alcohol hand cleaner can be very useful, as your kids are bound to get into all kinds of dirt. Cleaning their hands and faces regularly will cut down the chances of them picking up diseases.
Travel and breastfeeding
Some mothers find their milk supply is affected by stress, jetlag, dehydration and illness. If you think your supply is down:
- try to get plenty of rest, including during the day
- drink lots of fluids, especially water
- avoid tea, coffee and other drinks with caffeine
- keep feeding, even more often if possible.
If you take medication to treat jetlag or illness, a small amount will transfer to your baby through breastmilk. If you’re taking anti-malarial drugs, your breastmilk will also be affected – depending on which anti-malarial you take, it might not be safe. Your anti-malarials won’t cover your breastfed baby – he’ll need to take anti-malarials as well. Talk to your doctor about how any medications will affect your baby.
If you’re vaccinated, it won’t affect your baby, unless you need to be vaccinated for yellow fever. The yellow fever vaccine is transmitted in breastmilk and isn’t safe for infants.
If you’re breastfeeding and travelling overseas, you might find that mothers are expected to breastfeed discreetly in some countries, so bring a shawl to cover up. If you suffer from travellers’ diarrhoea, there’s no need to stop breastfeeding because it won’t affect your baby. But you should try to increase your fluid intake, take oral rehydration salts and breastfeed more frequently.
Breastfeeding during take-off and landing in a plane can really help to ease your baby’s discomfort. If you’re planning to carry expressed milk, check with the airline beforehand about any restrictions on carrying liquids.