If you haven’t travelled with children before, you’d be forgiven for envisioning all big smiles, happy families and wholesome activities. But in reality, these are usually the parts we usually see in advertising campaigns and the social media pages of celebrities and influencers. If you’ve travelled with kids before, you’d know that while it can be incredibly fun, it’s a special type of holiday that doesn’t come without its challenges. And if you were unprepared for what lay in store, the thought of doing it again might be enough to have you second-guessing your holiday in lieu of staying home.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. All it takes is a little preparation and perhaps, slightly lower expectations than you had the first time around. Kids are unpredictable, so it’s best to be as prepared as possible for any mood, any circumstance and—dare we say it—any disaster. To help, we’ve collected our seven best survival trips for travelling with children. If you can nail each of these, you could be rewarded with your best family holiday yet!
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Build in plenty of kid-friendly activities
Your holiday doesn’t need to be jam-packed with activities for the kids, but it can certainly help to keep them happy if there are a couple of specific activities for them to look forward to! Depending on where you’re travelling and how you’re getting there, do a bit of research on things like theme parks or playgrounds, museums, child-friendly walks, movies, arcades, wildlife sanctuaries and beaches. Build the excitement for these activities before you leave—and by all means, use them as leverage for good behaviour if necessary!
You could also download an app like oodlz which suggests child-friendly activities (including free ones!) for your chosen destination—and even dishes out rewards for completing them! It’s a great way to add another level of excitement to your holiday and can add interest and spontaneity to an otherwise ordinary day.
(Check out the list of our top family-friendly activities at the end of this blog!)
Organise some fun travel packs
Whether you’re travelling via car or plane, travel packs for children are an absolute must! Fill a bag or box with little activities that can be enjoyed while sitting; things like drawing or colouring in, playing with stickers, reading and magnetic games. And if you don’t mind a bit of screen time, iPads, DVD players or hand-held gaming consoles are great for longer journeys. Hide the travel packs in the car before you leave and pull them out once the boredom starts to kick in. They’re guaranteed to be a hit!
If you need some new toys or activities that don’t take up too much toom check out websites like Busy Bags or Fairplay – they have a great range of educational toys and activities that you mightn’t find in the bigger chain stores.
Food prep is key
This one probably goes without saying, but you can never pack too many snacks for the journey when kids are involved! By preparing these you’ll have something your children like on hand and a far better chance of bypassing the takeaway restaurants without hearing a whisper. If you’re worried about motion sickness and upset tummies, stick to easily digestible foods like crackers, bread, bananas and apples. You could even get your children involved in snack preparation by having them help with baking or packing snack boxes.
It’s also worth researching child-friendly restaurants at your destination and booking these in advance. Look for dedicated kids’ menus (with dishes they’ll actually eat), playgrounds or venues with large grounds for lawn games and running around. Treat the experience like a special occasion (and, by all means, use this one as leverage for good behaviour too!)
Prepare to stop frequently
When travelling with kids by car, it’s worth allowing for a little more time than expected to cater to a few more stops. Not only will there be the usual toilet stops, but potentially stops for sickness, outfit changes, seat swaps, conflict resolution, snacks and drinks, photos at iconic landmarks, spontaneous playground adventures and the list goes on and on.
By preparing for this, you won’t feel anxious every time you need to pull over. Plus, stopping frequently can also help to break up the trip and avoid the dreaded, “are we there yet?!”
Prioritise health and safety
Dealing with a sick child is trying at the best of times—but having a sick child on holiday can really throw a spanner in the works! With COVID-19 transmission still high, it’s worth taking as many steps as possible to keep everyone safe and healthy. Remember to use hand sanitiser regularly and take antibacterial wipes for frequently touched public surfaces like handrails and playground equipment. RAT tests are also essential. If symptoms pop up, it’s best to be able to rule out COVID as soon as possible so that you can continue your holiday with peace of mind.
The pandemic aside, some children can be terribly accident-prone. So always have a fully-stocked first aid kit in your car or suitcase, and be aware of where the closest hospital, chemist or after-hours doctors are in case of any emergencies. Make sure you remember any medications and over-the-counter painkillers too—both for the adults and the kids.
Look into nannies or kids’ clubs
If you haven’t yet chosen your holiday destination and you’re desperate for some R&R (or just some well-deserved child-free time) there are some great resorts and hotels that offer in-room childcare or kids’ activities at an additional cost. Most of these will require you to book in advance, but you could have hours of free time while the children are burning a bit of energy and having an absolute ball with other kids their age. A few New Zealand options include the popular South Island ski resorts like Cardrona and Mt Hutt which offer both babysitting and ski schools and Edgewater Resort at Lake Wanaka or the Cordis in Auckland which offer in-room babysitting services.
And if your accommodation can’t help, try downloading an app like Sittr. You plug in the details like the location, the date and time you need a babysitter and the ages of any children who need care, and you’ll be connected to hundreds of experienced local babysitters who are background-checked, first aid trained and fully insured.
Many parents believe that there are times and places where screen time for kids is completely OK. If this is the case for you and your kids have portable devices, one of the most important things to remember is to pack the chargers! We also recommend a fully charged portable power bank for any flat batteries on the go, and headphones to minimise any noise when you’re in confined spaces. If you have spare chargers, pack them! They tend to go astray and are one of the most common items to be left behind on holiday.
One final tip for technology is to make sure you can track any devices via GPS if needed. This can avoid moments of panic and additional expenses from the need to replace items on your return home.
Some of our favorite family-friendly activities throughout New Zealand: