The summer holidays are over, and back to school is in full swing – along with the cooler, damper mornings. Instead of mourning summer and days on the beach, it just makes me want to plan another family holiday. Life can be incessant, particularly when you have school age children, as you are always thinking about homework, after school clubs and trying to get everyone out of the house on time. For me its important to have something to look forward to – whether thats a big holiday abroad, a trip to the coast, or a long weekend away. With all the stresses of day to day life, it’s so important to be able to take time away, and enjoy being together as a family, however on the flip side, the thought of organising, paying for and packing for a holiday, can be enough to make you break out in a cold sweat.
Over the years, and especially now we have four children, I’ve found some handy tips and tricks that can help alleviate some of that stress – particularly if you are like me, and you are the person responsible for the planning. I remember our first holiday as a family of three. We went to North Cornwall when Izzie was about 8 weeks old. We had a 3 door Renault Clio, and it was packed to bursting with all the baby paraphernalia that we thought we would need for a week away. Nowadays, with 6 of us to organise and pack for, I’ve learnt that the essentials are key – and even if you forget something, you can usually find somewhere to purchase it at your destination.
Here are some hints and tips on how to make travelling with a large family a little more stress free…
Book Early – if you have an idea of where you want to go and when, try to book as early as you can. Sometimes you can get bargain last minute deals, but booking early is usually the key to getting the holiday you want, and if you are lucky, getting it at a lower price.
Preparation (or organisation) is key – in other words, don’t leave packing until the night before you leave. Also remember to make sure you have enough spare clothes – and if you are traveling in the UK don’t forget your raincoats!
‘Staycations’ for the win – For a holiday that is budget and travel friendly, a ‘staycation’ is a great way to go. There are so many beautiful paces to travel within the UK, and you don’t have to worry about missing flights, or changing currency. We are huge fans of beautiful Cornwall for our yearly week’s summer holiday, or if you are looking for a family break, there are places like Center Parcs, who have destinations all over the UK – you definitely don’t need to travel overseas to find beautiful beaches or walks.
Remember to budget – when you are planning a holiday, as well as budgeting for the cost of your accommodation and travel, don’t forget to factor in spending money and money for food too. I was massively caught out a couple of years ago when I realised that we were in a popular seaside destination, and a round of ice cream for 5 of us was costing around £20 a time – over the course of a week that adds up, and as I hate saying no on holiday (especially to ice cream), I always make sure to factor in spending money so we don’t overspend.
Room to roam – as much as I love the idea of staying a gorgeous fancy hotel, the reality is that with four children under the age of 10, it’s not practical – and likely not fair on the other guests to have us all (especially the louder ones of us) in one room. We tend to find holidays that allow us our own space, such as a house, or a lodge, or even camping. Having all four kids in one room is a bit of an ask, and so we make sure a place has a minimum of three bedrooms so that we can all get some sleep!
Go self catering for a more cost effective holiday – my favourite thing about a self-catering holiday is that you can make it cost effective for your budget. For example, we will often do a food shop to take with us, or to have delivered when we arrive, so that we don’t spend money on eating out for every meal. A lot of self-catering accommodations have home from home facilities so we are able to cook a couple of times during our break – meaning our spending money can be better utilised elsewhere – on those aforementioned ice creams for example.
Travel friendly essentials – having a baby under a year old that is still bottle feeding, it means we have to take a lot of equipment with us when we go anywhere. We learnt a few years ago, that a cold water sterilising bucket was the way forward, and we keep it filled with spare toiletries that we always take away with us – shampoo, shower gel, toothbrushes, painkillers, small bottle of washing up liquid etc, so that when we are packing to go somewhere, it is all set up and ready to take with us – and gives us no reason to forget our toothbrushes.
Go with the flow – I’m an organiser and planner at heart, but I know that when we are on holiday, I have to let go, and go with the flow. It’s nice to plan some things to do, but don’t try to stick to it too rigidly, and you will find your holiday a lot more relaxing. The best days we’ve had on holidays is when we’ve found a random beach and stopped and let the kids play with no time limit.
Kids love the simple things – child friendly breaks work best when you have the simple things to entertain them. My kids are the most happiest when there is a swimming pool, a play park closeby, and somewhere that they can dig in the sand until their heart is content.
Enjoy – all kids have their moments, and not every moment of every day will be sunshine and roses, but try to breathe through any meltdowns and tantrums – the lack of routine on holiday, whilst fun can be unsettling, so relax try not to stress about it too much.
I hope you find these tips and tricks helpful. I’m counting down the days to half term, and I can’t wait to plan our next family adventure.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Center Parcs.
All photographs and opinions are as always my own.