These are generic tips as each child is different. Some need constant engaging, while others require free time for their own pursuits. Some like organised activities like theme parks, while others prefer more relaxed tours. Some kids walk, others don’t. Some eat everything, while others are a bit picky. One thing am sure all parents would agree is that if your kids are happy (rather not cranky or grumpy!) it’s a well planned holiday. While planning trips most travellers go through FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and that is when you end up planning an hectic and rushed up itinerary. Don’t mean to be prejudiced here, but most Asians have this problem and hence we have 7 countries in 10 nights / 11 days tours to Europe!
1. Picking the right destination
With some many countries on our bucket list and hearing friends and relatives about their wonderful holidays to different places, this can be the most challenging part. Go with what your heart says or if your kids have a certain wish, go by that. If it doesn’t match with your choice, most of us know how to convince them to change their preference (unless they are teens!).
Choose wisely, don’t take very young kids on an expensive safari holiday which they will not enjoy and unless you are travelling with a nanny you will be stuck in the lodge too. If you have toddlers, pick a beach destination like Mauritius / Greece / Corsica / South of Spain, etc. With 7 – 12 years, there are many options as they are old enough to understand historical sights too with the help of kid friendly guides. This is where you need to find out what interests them.
2. Book your flights
Once you have decided on the destination and know the number of days you can spare, look for good flight deals and book them. You can keep pondering over what to do there later. The flight fares are dynamic and the sooner you book it, the better the deal.
2. Check the weather
Going to Greece in early May to swim in the ocean is a bad idea. The water will be too cold for you to enjoy. Please don’t look at the average weather charts on websites as with the climate change phenomenon, most are no longer applicable. Instead read a few reviews of people who have visited the place previous year and go by their experience. If going to Europe, please carry rain gear and warm clothes as if it rains, the weather cools down drastically. Needless to say, hotel rates are much cheaper when the weather is harsher. Hence, Egypt would cost much less during summer but the heat will make you rush back to your air-conditioned room without enjoying the sights.
3. Holiday season
If your tour has theme parks, zoos, child oriented museums included, always try to visit the parks on a weekday as the crowds will be lesser. Also if you can, visit when there are holidays in India, but the places neighbouring the theme park don’t.
Fortunately, with growing awareness about vegetarianism and people going vegan, food is not a problem for vegetarians. You will find an Indian restaurant in all major tourist areas. Please remember, in Europe most vegetarians eat fish and eggs, so their concept of being a vegetarian is different from ours. Please try to eat some local food and encourage your child to try it too. Pick a time when he / she is in a good mood if your child is a very fussy eater. Most places have their own special sweet treat, it would be a good idea to start with that and then go for a full authentic local meal. Ensure the restaurant is kid friendly and not very snooty to make you feel uncomfortable. You don’t have to sacrifice your evening out, ask the concierge and in most cities you will find a place where there is some music / entertainment where kids are allowed. There are interesting food tours like the tapas tours in Spain or boulangerie hopping in France, which can be done with kids.
This depends entirely on your budget. At most beach places, the hotels have kids camp facilities to keep your child / teens engaged. When picking hotels in big cities, ideally pick one close to the tourist sites or what they call city centre. If it doesn’t suit your pocket, then choose a hotel which is away but has some form of transport close to the hotel. Remember, your child would not like to walk back from the station / bus stop after a long day out.
6. Sightseeing / tours
Personally, I am a big fan of walking tours as they are more immersive and my daughter doesn’t mind it too. There are Hop On Hop Off buses, but honestly I don’t find them very practical with kids. These are mostly for back packers with guide books in their hands who just want to make whistle stops and click pictures and finish 15 monuments in a day. Pick guided coach tours which are a good option if you do not like biking / walking / running tours. If you would like to do a walking tour but you are not sure if you child would walk, rent a scooter for him or if he skated carry his skates along. For kids upto 6 / 7 years you can also rent strollers.
While choosing long day tours, ensure you get your child is excited about it. Tell him in advance what to expect. We do know the art of glorifying things, even if we know it is not something of their interest! Here a good guide can really make or mar the trip. Like the huge Palace of Versailles trip can be very tiring and boring, if you do not have a good guide engaging you with a wonderful story woven with facts and trivia. Take a mini train or rent a golf cart as the complex is huge and tiring for the tiny feet. Take a break and give them free time to just run around the gardens and do their own thing, else they are bound to be cranky after a few hours.
For all your sightseeing tours ensure you have a prepaid entrance tickets. You don’t want to waste your time standing in queues and begin on boring note.
7. Free time
Don’t pack your holiday with organised tours and activities, that you don’t have time to relax at a local parks or have long coffee / wine breaks watching people go by and interact with the locals and spend some good quality time with the family. Most likely, it is the things you experience during your free time which would be your most memorable memories.
8. Inter-city transport
Though some transport system is very practical and tempting, I would still pick a car and drive through scenic alpine villages. But if you were commuting between 2 big cities like Paris – Zurich, I would advice taking a train or pick a low cost flight. Especially in Europe, low cost airlines are sometimes cheaper than train tickets too. But kids enjoy train rides, also you can save on hotel costs by taking an overnight train journey. In Greece, you can take an ferry for visiting different islands.
Do not forget to read books and watch movies with your children on the places you are going for a holiday, this will not only get them excited about the place, but also educate them on the monuments and interact to the guide.
Hope this blog is useful in planning your holiday! Happy planning…