1: Pack each child a small bag containing colouring pencils, comics, stickers, a book, little toys and a few food treats. Whether you are hanging around an airport or stopping at services, kids get fed up. You could end up spending a fortune on bored kids in an attempt to placate them, especially when surrounded by overpriced gift shops in a railway station or ferry terminal. Making each child responsible for their own exciting holiday bag of goodies will keep them occupied and make travelling that much easier! My kids always love having their own bag to go away with. It makes them feel grown up and they are useful to use whilst they are away to.
2: Don't forget the sunscreen! Wherever and whenever you are travelling, make sure you pack sun cream. Children's delicate skin can easily be damaged due to exposure to the sun. It doesn't have to be a hot and sunny day either,and if you are spending more time than usual outside, it is better to be safe and protect your children from the dangers of UV rays. I'll never forget my poor little Joe burning the tops of his legs on a day that was overcast. It was this that made me realise the importance of protecting their skin.
3: Be flexible. Holidays are not the time or place to stick to routines. You can get very stressed trying to keep to bedtimes and mealtimes, meaning you won't enjoy yourself as much. When we went to Tenerife with my son Joe aged 18 months, we hired a buggy and took him out in the evenings with us. He'd snooze in the pushchair safely by our table, allowing us to enjoy a meal out. Then we'd pop him staright to bed in the hotel when we got back. Kids are really adaptable and will soon fall back into the routine of home once you get back to reality!
4: Learn some handy phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. Not only is it polite to have a try at speaking to people in their native tongue, it is also a great way to teach your children a few words of a new language. Plus if you get caught short in the middle of nowhere and need directions to the nearest town, you will be able to seek help much easier. We got lost on our way to our French holiday home in the heart of rural France and had to ask directions from a Frenchman in the street. We were so glad that we had polished up our Francais! When Freddy was three we taught him to say 'Bonjour' and 'Merci' and he was a hit with all the French women in the local shop who were really impressed with him for making the effort.
5: Keep a scrapbook. Every year that we go on holiday we buy a scrapbook and pack some pens and felt tips and a Pritt Stick so we can keep a family holiday diary. Everyone joins in, drawing pictures, sticking in tickets, leaflets or photos, writing diary entries or sketching a cartoon, so we have everybody's thoughts and stories preserved within the pages. We have done scrapbooks for all our holidays and they are lovely to look back on. It's lovely to see some of the contributions from the kids as toddlers. On a city break to London when Kizzy was just 2, she stuck in leaves that she had collected from the street, which she called 'flowers'. It's a wonderful memory. For our Disneyland Paris scrapbook the children wrote down little things that Freddy said so we never forget them. They also stuck in the park map, tickets, receipts and made cartoons and stories out of the things we did together making wonderful memories to last forever. It also gave the children something to do in any spare moments they had, plus it is an educational activity for when they are away from school. Their grandparents loved being able to see what the children had been up to once we arrived back home!
6: Take a spare memory card. You can never take enough pictures on holiday. I literally take thousands and don't regret taking any of them! Nothing is worse than running out of space on your memory card, so to be on the safe side we always pop a spare card into the camera case ready to use if necessary. After all, who would want to miss photographing moments like this, when my little Ella met one of Cinderella's mice?!
7: Do some research before you go! Although we never stick to a strict itinerary when on holiday, I do like to know what attractions are nearby and have some wet weather contingency plans up our sleeves in case the weather takes a turn for the worse. You can also involve the kids in making plans and get them interested about places they will be able to visit. It is nice to put some of the decisions in the hands of the children, it is their holiday too and they will enjoy it all the more if they have had a say in some of the things on the to-do list. We have visited zoos, castles, theme parks and indoor play areas thanks to the kids planning with us!
Wherever you go I hope you have a happy holiday!