Once upon a time, long ago, in a world you might visit now only in the most fevered gin fantasy, you went on holiday and the preparation involved:
- Booking and planning your itinerary which – depending on your tastes – would revolve around cultural landmarks, fabulous dining experiences, hours of spa treatments or once-in-a-lifetime adventures.
- Curating the perfect elegant, yet serviceable, capsule wardrobe for travel. Yes, all the shoes were necessary.
- Selecting your reading material, whether you’re a glossy magazine girl or looking forward to diving in to the latest literary sensation.
- The breakfast of champions – Candice’s is sushi and prosecco, Leanne’s steak and eggs – at the airport.
Too cruel of us to remind you? Alas, as busy mums of small children we are all now in the same, rather different, boat. Or plane. Or train. Or car. Whatever the mode of transport and however long the journey, there are certain inalienable truths about preparing for a holiday with kids.
- Packing: You must attempt to pack IN SECRET. Unless you want ‘help’. This may involve items being unpacked and secreted around the house (swimsuits in the kitchen cupboards, sunscreen in the cat’s bowl). It will almost certainly involve a number of unsolicited additions to your suitcase (surprisingly weighty toy trains, the bemused cat herself.) Our advice: if you can’t pack by night and your house doesn’t have a secret bunker, you’ll need to distract the kids.
- Lists: You will need a list. Candice has the ‘One List To Rule Them All’, an Excel spreadsheet which includes everything from plug adaptors to nappy bags which is updated and consulted before every trip. Seriously, attempt nothing without the list. Remember just how many times you’re likely to be interrupted during the process.
- Extra time: Oh so much extra time – must be built into every single section of the schedule to allow for tantrums, lost hat crises, extended farewells to inanimate objects, snacking and short legs. Also this will help ease your stress levels!
- Luggage: You will leave for the trip with double the amount of luggage you would once have required to see all of South East Asia over a period of months.
- Snacks: You will – no, you must – leave for the trip with four times the quantity of snacks you would once have consumed during your extensive trip around South East Asia over a period of months in your handbag. Always be over generous with snack packing. Always.
- Extras: Make sure you have a bag of emergency clothing for the inevitable sticky spillages that happen on en route. (Even socks.) (Perhaps especially socks.)
- Activities: Sorry to break this to you, but that book you’re desperate to read is unlikely to get a look-in when travelling with young children! Instead, cram your hand luggage with activities for the kids that will keep them busy and distracted (and snack, did we mention snacks?), and ensure you’re only asked, “Are we nearly there yet?” roughly once every couple of minutes, instead of every twenty seconds.
- Busy bags: We have both flown long-haul with energetic young children, so we know exactly how challenging – and that’s putting it very mildly – it can be. It’s one of the reasons we conceived a number of our busy bags around just this experience, because we were crying out (ok, yes, at times also literally crying) for something lightweight, reusable and fun to absorb them. “Beep beep, choo choo” bought Candice time to drink half a lukewarm coffee as her three-year-old son enjoyed learning colours and transport vehicles, and you can’t put a price on that (despite the airline charging her the price of a decent cocktail!) So the advice that has saved our sanity on every journey is to stuff your bag with busy bags, books, stickers and snacks to keep little hands and minds active and occupied (and not get to hangry).
Once you’ve managed to leave the house, there is just the journey between your family and holiday bliss. ‘Just’ the journey…!
But that’s for the next time, when we’ll share our tried, tested and true tips for not completely losing your mind while ferrying the family from A to blissful B.
Candice and Leanne