Words: Nicole Krug, Founder Notting Hill Nannies

A few years ago, a good friend of mine took her two girls on their first “proper” family holiday abroad. The girls were 18 months and 3 years old at the time, and let’s just say my friend didn’t exactly have the experience she was hoping for. In fact, once back in the UK, I clearly recall her saying that she will NEVER take her children on a holiday EVER again! – That’s a tad bit harsh…

I have to admit, whilst I found watching my friend – a grown up woman throwing a tantrum – utterly amusing, I couldn’t help but wonder if the outcome of her disastrous holiday was partly her fault? Did she set herself up for failure from the very beginning? Did she have unrealistic expectations? Sadly, the problem with setting expectations is that it is very often NOT based on reality.

Planning your family holiday with your little one can be very exciting. As you scroll through the internet searching for the ideal location, you’re already picturing yourself building sandcastles, running around the beach, jumping over weaves…drinking a BIG glass of wine. Just PERFECT! Now before you get too carried away imagining yourself there, there are a few things to consider. The truth is once you have a baby, holidays will never be the same again and while I can’t make your fussy toddler appreciate the new scenery, or help your overtired baby to calm down, I can certainly arm you with some useful tips to help you have a better experience than my dear friend.

Setting realistic expectations

Having realistic expectations is very important, we usually have a widely optimistic mind-set and a stupidly hopeful ideology when it comes to family holidays! Forget about what the magazines are telling you, or what your Instagram feed on all the yummy mummies is showing you, and just try to relax and slow things down.

Plan ahead

When traveling with children, being organised and planning ahead is the key to success! Make sure you do your research and look up different activities the whole family can do. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, you could start telling your children about all the fun things you’re planning on doing. When booking your holiday, remember, sand and babies do NOT go well together. If you don’t believe me, just imagine sand stuck in nappies or mixed with sun cream! Yep, it is as gross and annoying as it sounds.

Book suitable accommodation

Booking an apartment can make things easier. Most hotel rooms are not really suitable for young children. Renting a holiday apartment, you usually end up with more space, separate bedrooms, your own kitchen etc. If you decide to book a hotel, make sure it is a family friendly one, preferably with thick walls!

Routine – use it, or lose it?

So my view might be a bit controversial, but here it is…Usually I’m a HUGE fan of routine, but when you are on holiday it is SO easy to become a slave to it. In order to keep your sanity, it is best to maintain a loose holiday routine, but don’t stress too much if your tots ends up going to bed at 9pm instead of 7pm or if they have their afternoon nap later than usual. With any luck, you all get to have a little lie in in the morning – BONUS!. Equally, when it comes to food, don’t stress too much. No matter how hard you try, I can guarantee that for the duration of your holiday your child’s diet will be based on pasta, crisps and ice-lollies (and it REALLY is OK).

Pack the essentials

Make sure you pack the essentials, but pack as light as you can!

Remember, you can buy nappies, wipes and sun cream almost anywhere, so you don’t need to take a ton of them with you! A few days before you go away, make a list of things you’ll need to take. (This should give you enough time to buy anything extra you might need, and do a last minute Amazon Prime order)

Things to pack:

  • Passports – a couple of months before your holiday check the passports to make sure they are all valid!
  • Any medication your children need on a daily basis
  • Calpol (just in case)
  • Your child’s favourite toy and comforter – make sure you have these in your hand luggage if traveling via plane
  • A few books
  • Surprise “Goody Bag” for your child – this could include a couple of new (small!!) toys, books, favourite sweets, snacks etc…
  • Travel carbon monoxide alarm – considering carbon monoxide poisoning is called the “silent killer”, this is an item worth buying!! You can buy them for about £25.
  • iPad – this is the time to take advantage of technology! (Other parents will probably judge you, but just ignore them!)
  • Baby Carrier

Finally, in order to help you to make the most of your holiday, just remember to go with the flow, laugh as much as you can and enjoy every moment (good, bad, big or small).