Herding cats. If you're a parent to young children, the expression is very familiar.
But now that Spring has sprung in the UK, your thoughts might be turning to a family break in sunnier climes - and even the most Zen of parents baulk at the prospect of travelling with tots. So to help you shepherd your under fives, here are our top 10 tips for keeping the hassle out of your holiday:
Plan ahead for your family holiday
Planning ahead sounds like a no-brainer but there's more to it than flight times and hotel transfers. Pre-book your airport parking to get the best deals and reduce stress. Don't mess with other passengers fighting their way on to a sardine can 747 - ask to pre-board at your departure gate so you can get the little ones settled into their seats ahead of the crowd.
Play to your strengths
Nervous about flying? Kids great in the car? Take it easy, keep it old-school and catch a ferry to the continent for your family adventure. The kids can even help you plan your route and prepare an epic family playlist.
Leave adventure time, not extra time
Under fives usually have their settings locked on 'explore' when there's novelty to be had, so embrace it. Don't just leave extra time to get three sets of shoes off as you head through security, make an adventure by allowing time for a cafe stop and an airport scavenger hunt along the way.
Make the kids a part of the team. Children aged 3-5 are keen to help and show you what they can do, so use it. Give them the tickets and a mission to hand them over and talk to the staff, or the job of finding your departure gate and spotting the signs to get you there. Of course, you'll need to keep an eye open (and some spare tickets printed), but it's a sure-fire way of keeping them engaged.
Keep the team well-stocked without weighing yourself down by dividing up some of the essentials into the kids' backpacks as well as your own. Write tags to help you remember what's where and find things quickly, from the baby-wipes to the emergency snack stash.
Banish hangry moments
It's a common phenomenon: Hungry + Angry = HANGRY. Whether it's spare formula for your youngest or snack bars and juice for everyone else, come prepared and keep the food coming to keep rumbling tummies and temper tantrums at bay. Sometimes, the fun lives or dies on a ham sandwich from your handbag.
Bring your A-games
Boredom leads to bickering, bickering leads to misery. From the back seat of the car to the blanket on the beach, make sure you've got your entertainment covered. Word games, travel-size games, riddles or scavenger hunts; it's all to play for. And for emergencies, always leave room in the suitcase for a favourite teddy.
Teach them the drill
Exploring airports or ferries is great fun but make sure the kids know just what to do if they get separated from you. It's a 'Just In Case' scenario but an essential – you're not above a temporary Biro tattoo of your mobile number on anyone able to wander off. For the tech-savvy, invest in a childfinder app and stave off panic by following the beep.
Don't get bored waiting to board – now is the time to use up some energy. Sitting in the boarding lounge for hours on end will only mean wide-awake children on the plane, so keep baby up and awake and have a game ready for the kids – but save the technology distractions for the flight.
Pack extra, pack smart
Vacuum pack anything you don't need en route to save valuable suitcase space and keep your hand luggage free for the spare clothing, nappies, food and games that will help your A to B run stress-free, come what may.
Help the kids to observe, enjoy and record their explorations. A scrap book for collecting tickets and souvenirs, a cheap camera for photos and colouring pencils for drawing or writing about your adventures will help kids keep the memories for longer.
Before you book
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