By Melissa Grant
Once upon a time, holidays involved flying to far-flung exotic destinations, lapping up the sun poolside while sipping cocktails, endless exploring and big nights out.
OK, let me preface this column by saying that holidaying with children is no fairy tale. Actually, I recently read that travelling with kids is like taking a herd of wild goats on holiday.
I understand the sentiment of that statement after recently returning from our first real family holiday with 17-month-old daughter.
While we loved our trip to Broome, it was a lot different to the one my husband and I enjoyed three years earlier.
Did we regret flying nearly five hours north to a stunning destination for some much needed sun? No. Would we do it again? Probably not.
The seven-night holiday was lovely, but also a real learning experience about holidaying as parents.
Here’s what should be considered…
Pick the destination carefully. A young child isn’t going to care whether you’re visiting Santa Monica Beach or Surfers Paradise. The latter is much closer and cheaper, and boasts a host of family-friendly attractions and accommodation options. Save those expensive destinations for when they are old enough to appreciate it.
Book a room with a lot of room. Yes, it’s possible to share a one-room hotel with a baby or toddler, but a self-contained unit is a far superior option. There’s hardly enough room to swing a cat in most hotel rooms, let alone sufficient space for a toddler to roam. You also want enough space so you don’t have to share a room with a noisy little sleeper, plus a kitchen and laundry (taking toddlers out to eat is tiring and they will dirty all the clothes you pack).
Pack methodically. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget one of the dozens of things your kid needs. When you pack think of everything they use daily (bowls, bibs, sippy cups) and pack more than you think you need to (even jumpers and pants if you’re going to a hot climate as it can get chilly at night).
When you get to the airport, head straight for an attendant. Many airlines have a bag-drop option, but it’s not really an option when you’re travelling with a tot. Usually an attendant is required to check-in items such as prams, and it’s definitely worth asking for a spare seat if the flight isn’t full. On both flights my husband, daughter and I got an entire row to ourselves!
Hire a car. Having the freedom to hit the open road is a must. It’s nice to be able to head out for a coffee or shopping trip at a moment’s notice and rely on a car rather than public transport. After all, you ever know when you may have to make a quick dash to the doctors or chemist (we had to visit the local pharmacy when our daughter got a whole body rash, which turned out to be a reaction from the pool water).
Have some ‘me time’. Yes, it’s a family holiday but the best way to relax can be away from the children. During our trip, my husband and I would take it in turns of heading to the adults only pool during our daughter’s nap-time. As I sat around the pool drinking a cocktail, I was able to truly relax and (for an hour a day) it felt like I was on one of those fairytale pre-kid holidays. Bliss!