Preparing to take your little ones on a family day out can be quite an ordeal if you’re not well prepared. But it is possible to make sure unforeseen mishaps and hair-wrenching are taken out of the equation
Do you remember back when it was just the two of you? Whenever you fancied an adventure, you could just pick up your bags and go, and it didn’t matter if you got stuck in traffic or forgot to pack lunch.
But now you’ve got a baby to consider, a bit of preparation makes a huge difference. This doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun, just that you have to think everything through more carefully – the last thing you want is to reach your destination and find the car park is miles from the attraction.
Here’s our guide to the perfect trip out with your little one.
Using social media in the planning stages
Once you’ve worked out where you’d like to go, check to see how it’s been reviewed.
‘Whether it’s a beach or a theme park, most attractions in the UK now have a Facebook page, which will feature reviews from other mums, as well as details about baby facilities available,’ says Penelope Smith, mum of two and editor of letsgowiththechildren.co.uk.
Travel website tripadvisor.co.uk also has a section for reviews from families. Check out mum blogs, too – babydaytripper.co.uk offers inspiration about where to go, as well as tips on what to take.
Look for money off vouchers
A great day out doesn’t have to cost a fortune. ‘If you’re keen to visit an attraction that charges entry fees, such as Legoland or Peppa Pig World, check their website for advance booking discounts,’ says Penelope.
You’ll also find that many museums and galleries are free and offer activities. The Tate Modern’s Open Studio session is every Saturday and Sunday, and encourages children to create their own art works.
Find out what museums nationwide have on offer at kidsinmuseums.org.uk.
Think ahead for the car journey
It’s not just getting the route planning sorted that matters, you also need to think about places to stop for that emergency loo trip or nappy change, plus where you’re going to park when you arrive.
The NCP app will find your nearest car park, as well as keeping a record of exactly where you left the car.
To avoid fumbling with meters, there’s also a PayByPhone app that lets you sort it in advance. And to work out which service station will treat you to a Waitrose or M&S, rather than leaving you with no option but greasy burgers, visit motorwayservices.info.
Taking public transport with children
Going by car allows you to pile stuff in the boot, but it also comes with traffic jams and not being able to sit facing your kids.
If your journey is affordable by train, this can take the strain out of travel and allow your children more mobility. Plus, which toddler doesn’t love the adventure of going on ‘Thomas’?
Book tickets over the phone, so you can request priority seats with space to park your buggy.
Think through the whole day
It’s worth going through every part of your trip and working out how your kids’ needs (consider meals, snacks and naps) will fit in.
Whether you arrive by train or car, think about how you’re going to get from the station or car park to where you’re going.
Older toddlers can be exhausted by a long walk – a mistake when the day’s only just started.
For babies, consider how buggy friendly the route is and where you’ll be able to change nappies.
And, to find that all-important baby changer, download Nappy App, which uses GPS to identify your nearest facilities.