Missed our chat with Smith & Family’s Tamara Heber-Percy? Catch up on what she had to say here
As part of supporting you with our Working Mums Club, we’ve recruited some of the most inspiration working mums we’ve ever met to create a unique panel.
On Thursday, mum of two Tamara Herber-Percy, co-founder of travel publishers Mr & Mrs Smith and Smith & Family, which rounds up the best child friendly stays, joined us for a Facebook Q&A about her specialist subject – family holidays.
From flying with babies and toddlers (clue: bring a roll of Sellotape) to her favourite destination recommendations, we introduce this travel expert’s top tips and suggestions.
Q: What are your tips for keeping your child entertained when you want to relax on holiday?
Find him or her a friend. It's amazing how much they don't need you when there's another little person to knock around with. Hotels with a play area or crèche/kids clubs will give you some precious time off.
Or look for a location where your child can learn something: there are surf schools at Memmo Baleeira and Watergate Bay, for example. Or for younger kids, pizza making, dressing up and getting messy with paints are all possible (and you won't have to clear up!).
Q: I'm going away with my toddler and always worry about him falling in the pool. Is there anything I can do?
There's no fail-safe way to stop your toddler taking an accidental tumble, but you could check beforehand whether your hotel has gated pools or can put a temporary cover over your pool.
For example, villas at Martinhal on the Algarve coast have their own private, gated pools, while Kayumanis Jimbaran has villas with pools that can be fenced off, and the main pool at La Signoria in Corsica is gated, too.
Q: We’re taking our one year old on her first flight – any tips?
First of all, make sure you build loads of time into your journey. Find out if there's a soft-play area at the airport (there often is) so she can burn off some steam before having to sit still for take off.
And remember, if you're calm and happy, she's much more likely to be, too. Ours at that age were very food-motivated (and teething), so a non-stop supply of their favourite healthy snacks is a great idea.
Q: What's the best way to deal with a major time zone change for a baby under a year old?
A baby under one is more adaptable than you think, and this is definitely the time to travel (trust me, it's much harder with a temper-prone toddler!). They key is for you to be relaxed, and not try to force a sleep pattern on them.
It's best to adopt the time zone of your destination as soon as your flight begins – but go with the flow when you arrive. If you arrive during the day, get your baby out into the daylight/fresh air if you can – don't stay in your hotel – as this will reset her body clock much faster. If you're going East, try to do a night flight on the way there, so you arrive in the day.
It's best to adopt the time zone of your destination as soon as your flight begins
When James and I made our regular Asia trips, we'd always start the time adjustment a couple of weeks before, by shifting naps and sleep times by between five and 15 minutes every day, so we gained a couple of hours on the time difference by the time we arrived.
Q: Is it too hot for a six-month-old baby to visit Greece in July?
You should be fine, as long as you take sensible precautions. Daytime temperatures can easily hit 30 degrees Celsius, but since your baby is likely to be an early riser, make the most of the cool, early-morning hours and then retreat to your hotel for a midday siesta.
Check that your hotel has air-conditioning, and also do a quick recce of the pool and communal areas to make sure there's plenty of nice cool shade to hang out in. You'll be fine!
Amirandes in Crete has loads of loaner baby kit (including monitors), a shallow pool for tiny tots, plenty of shade and baby food to buy. Go for a villa and you'll be able to sit by your private pool while baby sleeps in your nice cool lounge.
Q: Any ideas for flying long-haul with a 16-week-old baby?
Try not to stress. Travelling for any length of time with a small baby is always a challenge, and to some degree, I'm afraid it's just pot luck. But a little forethought will go a long way.
Contact the airline and double-check that a bassinet will be available, and that you have bulkhead seats. Make sure you have more than enough nappies, wipes and formula in your hand luggage – and then add 50% extra, in case there are delays along the way.
As well as changes of clothes for baby, put a change of clothes for yourself in your carry-on kit (nobody wants to suffer a 20-hour flight covered in sick – or worse!). Feed your baby as the plane begins to descend: it will help with painful ears.
Bribery helps: one couple I know printed out little cards, and passed them around all the passengers seated nearby with a bowl of sweeties: 'Sorry, we're *those* people with a small baby – please feel free to come over and talk to us, we're not ogres and we're doing our best!'
Q: Can you recommend a child friendly resort in France?
The one I've had my eye on since it launched on Smith & Family is Château de Valmer on the Côte d'Azur. It's charming and sophisticated, but really family-friendly, with spacious family rooms, interconnecting options and even a treehouse suite.
There's a fantastic private beach club just a short amble away, and the grown-up spa means you can get in a bit of serious pampering. If you have a smaller budget, or (like us) you're not keen on the idea of a 'proper' resort, there are some great little guesthouses and surprisingly affordable château stays.
Have a look at Breton bolthole Le Lodge Kerisper, on the coast of Brittany.
Q: I’m contemplating travelling with two little ones but the idea of getting all the kit we need for a week into bags that will come in under the airline restrictions seems impossible. I've heard of hotels that supply baby kit for when you get there – is this true?
Yes! Anassa and Almyra in Cyprus were pioneers of the so-called 'Baby-go-Lightly' service, where guests can pre-order all manner of baby gear, from nappies and wipes to baby gyms and pushchairs, to be ready in-room on arrival. Amirandes in Crete and many more of our family-friendly hotel picks offer a similar service – it's so useful for family holidays.
Every Smith & Family hotel page on our site also lists what kit is already there, and what can be requested ahead of arrival.
Another tip is to use a luggage-forwarding service (like First Luggage) to send all the bulky stuff ahead, leaving you hands-free for the journey.
Q: What are your tips for flying with a nearly two year old?
Two year olds are notoriously distractible, so I would come prepared with a treasure trove of small, ready-wrapped items to pull out at various intervals on the journey.
My toddler loved sticking bits of tape on the back of the chair in front – one roll kept her amused for almost an hour.
Q: Any tips on taking your kids on a joint holiday with another family while avoiding all-out war?
I think the key thing is that the kids get on, because if they hit it off, you've got it made. Introduce them before the trip, and spend a day hanging out as families to see if you gel. Obviously it helps if you have similar parenting styles; it will make everything from mealtimes to days out and bedtime tussles that much easier.
Introduce them before the trip, and spend a day hanging out as families to see if you gel
Lots of space and plenty of sunshine helps, too. If you're in a hotel rather than a villa, you should have no problems at all since there's plenty of opportunity for alone time as well as together time.
Q: I'd love Tamara to suggest her favourite products for travelling with kids.
My two adored their Trunkis and now, at four and six, they've moved onto the Paddlepaks, which are waterproof rucksacks and perfect for beach holidays. If you have a baby, Ella's food pouches are a life-saver for feeding on the go.
And a decent pair of decibel-limited headphones is great for little iPad addicts! My daughter has a V-Tech camera, which she loved using on our last trip: it takes pretty decent digital images and we all enjoyed seeing things from her perspective.
I'd also recommend one of those cotton pocket chair slings that pack flat and are really useful for restaurants and road trips.
Q: I'd like some tips on long car journeys please, especially ones when you try to do it at night by putting small kids to bed in the car?
Music can be helpful – try the Putumayo Kids albums – and my two have iPads that we strap to the back of the front-seat headrests for day trips.
My son used to be very car sick, but the iPad fixed that – it can help them to drop off, too (especially if you play something a bit boring!).
Before you set off for a night journey, try to stick to your normal bedtime routine, and also make sure the car seat is comfy. Some kids really aren't comfortable enough to sleep overnight in a seat, so get one that reclines if possible.