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Five lessons learned from travelling abroad with kids

travelling abroad with kids

Finally the sun is shining and I can’t stop thinking about the fact that we haven’t made any plans for the summer holidays as yet. We are contemplating doing a last-minute deal if we can find something reasonably priced for our large family or maybe we’ll make the most of what we have around Tunbridge Wells. There are certainly lots of interesting events, activities and holiday clubs coming up in July and August, which I am looking forward to sharing over the coming weeks.

The sunshine has also got me thinking about the different trips we have taken abroad with the kids and although I like to refer to a family holiday as a ‘change of scene’ rather than ‘holiday,’ I think I have learned some useful lessons which might be handy if you are going away this Summer. Here they are:

#1 Don’t introduce any new types of food when weaning your child 

I gave my (then) 9 month old scrambled eggs for breakfast when we took him to Spain for the first time. Big mistake! He had never had eggs before and came out in big aggressive red lumps all over his body.

We had to ring for an ambulance who took him to hospital as they weren’t sure whether it was anaphylactic or not. This is etched in my memory for forevermore! If you are in the weaning stages, please wait until you are at home before trying a new type of food!

#2 Choose your accommodation carefully

We have stayed in various different types of accommodation over the years but in general, we find that hiring a villa is one of our favourite ways of doing it when we are holidaying with the kids. You’ll have your own space, won’t need to worry about making too much noise and can enjoy your holiday according to your own schedule. Just make sure that your villa is accessible to a decent supermarket and the facilities you need. Plus read up on reviews beforehand. Our favourite destinations for hiring holiday villas are Cyprus, Menorca, Greece and mainland Spain.

#3 Always know what the local emergency numbers are

Leading on from point number one, when it was obvious that my son was having an allergic reaction, I completely panicked and realised that I didn’t know what the emergency services number was. I couldn’t get internet / wi-fi on my phone and was flapping around wondering what to do.

Luckily the clever villa owner where we were staying had put together an information pack with the useful numbers and we were able to get through to someone pretty quickly. I now always make sure I know the number to contact in case of emergency wherever we go. I always try to have my phone charged in case it is needed too(and also because I take most of my photos via my phone now)…

And while we are on the subject of safety, here are some super tips for staying safe on the beach.

travelling abroad with kids

#4 Think about sun protection  

I find it best to over estimate the power of the sun, especially when holidaying with kids. I usually pack at least three bottles of suncream for the kids (factor 50 all the way) and separate bottles for us adults. Onesie style swimming outfits with long arms and legs on them can be a great way from protecting your little ones from the sun while at the beach and investing in an all-around beach umbrella is a great option too.

#5 Keep hand luggage to a minimum

Ah yes, I learned the hard way with this. We were taking a flight to Dublin and it was all a bit chaotic –  I had far too much hand luggage, plus two children to look out for and a buggy along with a husband! When we boarded the plane and strapped ourselves in, I decided to double check our passport bag to make sure everything was in order. Pure panic! I couldn’t find the bag with the passports anywhere. I was rifling through the bigger bag, checking coats and pockets and underneath the seats but there was still no sign of them.

I then had a tiny inkling that I may have put them into the hood of the buggy, which was in the hold underneath the plane. However there was no way of checking this until we landed, and I was also worried that if they had been in the buggy hood at one point, would they still actually be there? Thankfully when we landed, the passports were in the hood just where I had apparently left them. Moral of the story? Try to keep hand luggage to a minimum. Just bring the essentials and keep it all in one bag!

#6 Read up on where you are going beforehand!

You know that saying ‘fail to prepare. prepare to fail’? It’s good to have a decent base knowledge for where you are going, especially with kids in tow. We often go to Ireland as it’s where I’m originally from. Instead of visiting the same place each time, we like to go somewhere new too. Culinary Travels blog has a fab guide to Cork, one of my favourite counties in Ireland. I know being spontaneous can be lots of fun too but having a clear idea of where you want to go each day can save you lots of time having to do the research while there.

#7 Bring a phrasebook with you

I have always loved speaking a bit of the local lingo and have tried to pass this onto my children too. I think it’s always good to know the basics like Yes, Hello, Goodbye, Please and Thank You at a minimum – according to research from Holiday Autos, despite millions of Brits travelling to Spain this summer, the average holidaymaker knows just eight Spanish words. Let’s try to change that!

We spent a week in Malaysia on the way to my brother’s wedding in New Zealand and hadn’t brought a phrase book with us. Yes, we could have probably looked some words up online, but when you are in a local restaurant with no access to wi-fi and would like to at least make some effort with the locals, it can be a bit tricky. Not even being able to say thank you made me feel like a bit of an ejit!

Having a phrasebook can also help to avoid any awkward situations where you say one thing but mean something completely different. This video from Holiday Autos which highlights some hilarious incidents which have occurred by things getting lost in translation made me chuckle!

#8 Make sure you take the right passports

This is another personal lesson learned. We were at a friend’s wedding and I was staying on with the kids for a few days. My husband had to go back to the UK to work. When he was packing his bag, he asked me for his passport and I handed it over.

Everything was going well until I had a phone-call from him a few hours later. He was at the boarding gate and wasn’t being allowed onto the flight because instead of having his own passport, he had my son’s!!

Neither of us had thought to double check that he had the right passport and the flight attendant was pretty surprised when she opened up the passport and saw a sweet little baby’s face looking back at her! Every time we go overseas now (especially if I am travelling back to Ireland with just my boys), I double and triple check that we have the right passports. I won’t be making that mistake again.

#9 Embrace the family holiday but have a child-free break too

Let’s face it, holidaying with children isn’t relaxing and although having some family time together is absolutely precious, it’s important to have some time together without the kids too.

If you are able to have family look after them while you go on an adventurous break then try to choose something that you definitely wouldn’t do with young kids in tow. There are some super trekking options out there including climbing Kilimanjaro which is something I have always wanted to do. It could be the trip of a lifetime and something you will be able to tell your kids about when they are older too.

travelling abroad with kids

The English Family have some handy tips for Baby & Toddler Travel Essentials which I’m sure you’ll find useful too.