Taking the family on a vacation during the holidays sounds relaxing, but it can easily turn stressful if you’re not prepared.
Between delays, preferences and ever-escalating prices, December vacations are tough, but well worth the rewards they can bring. Read on for top tips on deals and making it through travelling together in one piece.
If you work with a travel agent, they will be able to advise you on the best deals, dates and destinations. If you want to go it solo, though, you can find great prices if you plan ahead.
Says Corinne McDermott, founder and Managing Editor of the travel website HaveBabyWillTravel.com: “You can definitely save a lot of money if you are able to fly on ‘off’ days, like taking your trip Wednesday to Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, you often can't choose flight times if you’re booking a last-minute package, but our experience has been that earlier flights are easier to deal with than later ones.”
The biggest concern for most families when going on vacation is deciding where to stay. So what should you look for in amenities and location to ensure that your family will be comfortable?
“You may need to think about portable high chairs and/or travel cribs or playpens,” advises McDermott. “Many of these can be rented at your destination, or if you're staying with family, hopefully borrowed.
“If your child has food sensitivities (or you are brand loyal for certain items), pack as much as you think you'll need if you'll stress out about not getting that exact make at your destination.”
Surviving the Flight
Getting through the plane ride is also a challenge when travelling with youngsters. Especially for longer flights, it’s important to keep kids distracted and engaged. McDermott suggests packing smart:
“For your carry-on, you can never have too many wipes. Also, pack extra snacks and meals for little ones, since delays happen and planes and airports don't always offer the most suitable foods for little ones.
“Make like a boy scout and be prepared: make sure you're armed with as many distractions that your bag will hold, and never underestimate the power of the safety instructions card! In an emergency, don't feel bad for resorting to usually forbidden treats, or the supervised use of your precious smartphone.”
Once you arrive at your destination, the hotel will become your haven for the trip, the place you return to when kids get cranky and the resting place when the day is over.
“It's always easiest to stay somewhere with a kitchenette, or at the very least, a fridge and microwave,” McDermott recommends.
“If you know you'll be spending a great deal of time somewhere (i.e. the beach), it might be best to splurge a little to stay [nearby], as you'll save on money and time for transportation. Regardless of your destination, if your hotel has a pool, you're good.”
Of course, you’ll still want to do as many activities as time (and energy) will allow, but it’s essential to choose the right attractions.
“Everyone's usually all about the theme park,” says Corinne, “but some little ones are easily over-stimulated and can find it too much. With little ones, truthfully, you can never go wrong with a beach, bucket and shovel, a pool, or trails where they can romp and be free.”
The best tip of all? Be flexible. Vacations are just like life at home: planning is crucial, but you’ll end up going with the flow.