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Family holidays are the best. Family travel? Not so much

From fast passes to fully charged devices, experts offer the best advice when travelling with children

Perhaps the most important thing you can do on a family holiday is get to the airport early, so that the whole experience is relaxed and not anxiety-inducing, says Caroline Quigley, general manager of Keith Prowse Travel and mother to two children, aged eight and 10 years old.

“I’d recommend booking Fast Track. It’s not that expensive but is very helpful when you’re flying with kids, because a lot of the stress for them comes from waiting in queues. Considering what you are going to be spending on a holiday, it’s well worth it,” Quigley says.

On the aeroplane, provide entertainment. “Puzzle books and sticker books are great. I keep a bunch in my bag and pull out a new one every half-hour,” she says.

People may frown at giving youngsters tablets and phones. “Nuh uh,” Quigley reckons. “If ever there’s a time to give a device to children, it’s on a plane. So keep your phone or tablet charged up with a movie downloaded.”


Have a bag of snacks on the go too. “Not just for the flight. Bringing snacks to the airport can be a huge help too, because it means you don’t have to spend time queuing at restaurants where lines can be long,” she says.

Also, make sure to choose your destination wisely. Where possible it is best to avoid resorts that require a lengthy transfer from the airport. “You have to choose the right holiday for your family too. Mine love city breaks, for example,” Quigley says.

The trick for Quigley is to go sightseeing in the morning, when the kids are fresh. “And always book a hotel with a pool, because kids love to come back and have a play in the pool after,” she advises.

Theme parks are a family fail-safe, guaranteeing fun for kids of all ages. “If you’re going to a theme park, stay on site if you can,” says Quigley.

Florida is the top destination for theme parks. Even if people are spending two weeks in a villa, if they plan to explore parks such as Universal, Quigley suggests they try to stay on-site, even if it is just for a couple of days. “It gives you easy access, early access and the express passes that come with your key card,” she explains.

Wherever you go, if you are travelling with teens make sure the hotel has free and fast wifi. “Some charge a daily fee – per device,” Quigley cautions.

It is often said that if you want your kids to holiday with you forever, get them skiing. “For a magical and activity-filled family trip, equally as fun for every age group, you simply can’t beat a ski holiday,” says Michelle Anderson, marketing manager at Topflight, an award-winning ski operator.

She too believes preparation is key. “Talk to a travel consultant. Our team is full of passionate skiers who have skied with their own families and know what it takes to create the perfect family getaway,” Anderson says.

First off, “decide well in advance if this is a break predominantly for the adults in the party, with the kids looked after in nursery or attending ski school, or if the idea is to spend days skiing and playing together,” she advises.

“This decision will depend on the ages of the children and their ski abilities, but will have a real bearing on resort and accommodation choice.”

Stay as close to the slopes as possible. “Moving any distance with children in ski boots, with parents carrying several sets of skis, is a recipe for tears before piste-time – and that’s just the adults,” Anderson says.

“Check out the location of ski schools and nursery slopes before booking and then choose accommodation that’s just a few steps away, or from where families can ski-in/ski-out. For non-beginners this is less of a consideration as they will be accustomed to taking lifts and walking in ski boots and carrying skis.”

Book ski packs in advance. “It takes the pressure and stress away and cuts time sourcing all the elements on the first morning, meaning that everyone can get to the slopes quicker. Also your tour operator can advise on what you need. If you are a family of beginners a local area lift pass will suffice for the week, so buying a whole area lift pass may not be needed,” Anderson says.

Your tour operator will be able to advise what is included in each lift pass option and help you make the decision. Ski school should be booked in advance, particularly during school holiday periods as availability may be difficult if you leave it to the last minute, she warns.

“Invest in warm ski wear for the whole family, making sure to buy warm thin layers rather than over heavy individual pieces,” says Anderson. Don’t forget sunscreen and eye protection, and don’t underestimate the value of having in-resort support from your travel agent.

“They are on hand throughout the holiday for advice on simple practical things such as where to go on the first morning, what are the must-sees in resorts, and advice on additional non-ski activities. They are an extra set of hands on the first morning when everyone is picking up equipment for the first time and everything feels busy,” says Anderson.

“For families this support is great as you always know that there is someone there to answer any questions.”

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times