Keep calm and carry-on: top tips for happy trips

Considering the investment of time and money we make in the family holiday, it might sound churlish to talk of “survival” tips. But here are some pointers, nonetheless:

Manage expectations

Unrealistic expectations of a “perfect holiday” can be a big problem. No one wants to dampen children’s excitement, but parents might want to do a reality check between themselves, so they’re better prepared to take the rough with the smooth.

Do your homework

It might sound counterintuitive to the idea of a carefree holiday, but certain practicalities need to be considered: such as what, and what not, to bring. If you didn’t check when booking, find out now what you are allowed to bring in terms of luggage and equipment, as policies and charges vary between airlines.

Involve older children in researching your destination on the internet – the local facilities and shops, where to swim, things to do and see.


Travel lightly

That’s easier said than done with smaller children because you need to be stocked up with healthy snacks, drinks, nappies and entertainment to cope with travel delays. But there’s really no need, for instance, to buy up a pharmacy beforehand for every eventuality; the chances are your destination will have everything you need if a problem arises.

Favour a stroller over a heavy buggy and leave the car seat at home if flying abroad – unless it’s approved for inflight use – and then inform the airline, as they are restricted to certain rows.

Keep calm

Children take their cues from parents so they are going to handle delays, queues and other setbacks much better if Mum or Dad isn’t fuming at the airport, taking issue with fellow hotel guests or arguing with waiters.

Routine helps

Small children thrive on routine so keep some elements of home life – such as playtime with a favourite toy and stories at bedtime – in a newly constructed holiday routine to which they will quickly adapt.


Relationships counsellor Tony Moore calls it “the big C”. Whether you are holidaying with small children, teenagers or as a couple alone – making sure everybody gets at least a bit of what they want is key.

If that means doing some things separately, that’s absolutely fine. But it may also mean tolerating a waterpark one day so that you can read a book under a tree the next, or balancing sightseeing with shopping.

Crowd control

If you’ve ever lost your child on a beach or in a crowded street, you’ll know you never want to experience that sense of sick panic again. One mother who has, now dresses her three boys in similar, brightly coloured T-shirts so they’re easy to spot, and writes a parent’s phone number on their arms.

It’s also a good idea to coach your children in what to do if they become separated from you – the action plan will vary with age and circumstances but having an agreed meeting point can help.

Go easy on alcohol

Yes, it’s cheap and you’ve earned it, but parents on holiday with their children are never totally free of responsibility. So drinking heavily is not on; and just one overindulging is a recipe for resentment and rows. If you’ve already booked a resort where drinks are included, it’s too late to warn you against it. You or your partner may not overindulge but the chances are there will be guests around you getting their money’s worth. Not something children should see or hear.