Family Holidays - Travelling With Children
Taking the kids or grandchildren away for a spring break or summer holiday? Family trips are becoming more popular than ever, but they can be tricky when you’re used to travelling alone or in small groups with likeminded friends.
Different generations often have very different ideas of the perfect holiday, and when children are involved there are many more details to consider and prepare for ahead of time. Try these survival tips to keep sunny smiles on the whole family’s faces…
- Permission for children to travel
Some countries require extra documentation for children travelling without both parents, such as grandparents taking grandchildren on a holiday. The rules are different in many destinations and they can change quickly, so it’s best to get everything ready well ahead of time and check again before you depart.
- A birth certificate is one of the standard requirements for countries with these regulations.
- A signed and attested letter of consent from parents may be required too.
- If one parent is travelling with you and the kids, you may still need a letter from the other parent, and/or their marriage certificate.
- If the other parent is no longer alive, you may need proof of this.
Check with your travel agent, or with the embassies of the countries you’ll be visiting.
- Passports and Visas
With Brexit fast approaching, we’re all too aware of potential new passport requirements for Europe if we leave with no deal. But just to be sure, let’s look at those requirements again:
- Minimum of 6 months validity on your passport (from the day your holiday starts) – This applies to most international travel, including Europe in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
- If your passport will have less than 6 months validity at the start of your holiday, you need to get a new passport. We suggest applying as soon as possible to avoid the rush!
- We probably won’t be able to use the quick passport lanes after 29 March, with or without a deal, so allow some extra time to get through passport control if you’re booking an onward journey.
- If there’s no deal, UK passport holders will probably be subject to the same rules as travellers with US and Japanese passports, says The Independent. This means we can stay in the Schengen region for up to 90 days out of any 180-day period.
- Check all passports’ validity well ahead of time – this applies to children’s passports too. If even one person’s passport is invalid, your holiday could end before it begins.
- For all non-EU countries, please check visa requirements with the relevant embassies.
Who will be choosing the holiday destination? Deciding where to go together can be a big part of the fun!
Be aware of kids’ safety though, as we can take for granted that we know how to stay out of harm’s way when we travel. For example, will there be large crowds and markets where children can easily get lost? Will there be safe playgrounds and play areas that they’ll be able to enjoy? Small, peaceful villages and fine dining may not be ideal for a large, noisy family jaunt…
There are also seemingly small details that can make all the difference. For example, is the tap water safe to drink where you’re going? Adults can handle this just fine, but small children may not understand that they can’t drink from the tap when they’re used to doing that at home.
If you all have similar interests it’s quite easy to find a destination that suits everyone, but if you want to visit museums and galleries but the kids are likely to get bored after the first 10 minutes, you should look at other options.
Can different family members split up for different activities some of the time? Or how about finding a resort that offers something for everyone – kids’ activities, a selection of sports and games, somewhere for the teenagers to hang out and listen to music – and then you all meet up to enjoy lunch and/or dinner together.
You can all enjoy walks together and quality time by the pool, but sometimes space is good for everyone!
- Health and Allergies
Make a note of everyone’s allergies and health conditions, even if they aren’t serious. These should already be on your travel insurance health declaration but keep a list handy and have it translated if you’re visiting a non-English-speaking country.
And remember, don’t just ask if something contains peanuts/milk/other allergens – be very clear that you’re checking because someone is allergic and it’s serious.
Make a list of every single person’s medication and health conditions, and include dosages and times they take the medication. Vitamins, heart tablets… the whole lot! Use these lists to check that everyone has packed all their medication, and to check that kids are taking their medication while you’re on holiday.
As with your destination, the type of accommodation you choose should suit the whole family.
An AirBnB is often a good idea for a larger group, but make sure it’s exactly what you need. If there are reviews from other families who have stayed there with young children, they’ll probably mention any concerns such as loose railings or staircases that are easy for toddlers (or grown-ups) to fall on.
Be aware that hotels and apartments may say they sleep 8 people (or other large numbers), but that often includes two or more sleeping on sofa-beds. That’s fine for smaller children, but make sure older members of the family don’t end up sleeping on a sofa for a week and going home with a new neck or back complaint.
If there are sofa-beds, are they in a lounge or family room, or is the sofa in the main bedroom? And in an apartment or AirBnb, is there space for the whole family to sit and eat breakfast together?
When travelling with the family you’re also far more likely to need laundry facilities, shops close by, and a good WiFi connection.
- Travel Insurance
Kids need travel insurance too!
- Our policies will allow grandparents to add their grandchildren onto their policy. This is important because if one person in the party gets ill or injured, then the same policy will take care of the entire group.
- It means that if one person is hospitalised, the group does not need to split up with some heading home separately.
- We’ve seen instances in the industry where parents have to fly out to accompany minors home, whilst grandparents have to return later because one of them gets ill. This would be covered in our policy for minors travelling with their grandparents.
- Everyone going on a holiday together should be on the same policy, as having different policies is problematic and can make stress levels rise even higher.
- It’s absolutely essential that everyone who is travelling is named on the policy.
- You can’t buy travel insurance for some members of your family and use it for someone else, whether they fall ill or lose a suitcase. Cover is very specific to each individual and it’s not transferrable under any circumstances.
- Getting Around
More people means more luggage, more time to get moving, more time to get from A to B, and more potential delays. This doesn’t have to be a problem though – it just takes a bit more planning and some extra time allowances.
- Assume that not everyone will be able to stick to carry-on suitcases, so allow time to collect from the baggage carousel.
- Prams and some carry-on items may be put in the hold when you board the plane too if there’s a group of you travelling together.
- Tempted to leave prams or pushchairs behind? The Guardian made an excellent point – even if children don’t use those pushchairs often, it can be a lot easier to wheel them around than to carry them if they get tired.
- Plan to leave earlier than you normally would – so often a grandchild suddenly has to go to the loo as you’re about to get into the taxi, or an adult child has to rush back for their passport. (You suggested making a list but did they? Of course not!)
- Talk about meeting points for each part of your journey, in case anyone gets lost or there’s some sort of emergency.
We never intend for children to get lost, but it does happen. Make sure they’re easily identifiable and have your contact details on them at all times. Whether they wear a card on a lanyard around their neck (this should be underneath clothing so it’s unlikely to fall off or attract unwanted attention), or have a contact number sewn into their clothing,
Momondo suggests a GPS tracker for kids – it’s a watch-style device that alerts you when they stray too far, and which can beep to help you locate them.
- Worst Case Scenario
Momodo also recommends writing down all the things that could possibly go wrong, as well as what you should do in each case.
Think about the entire trip – booking, packing, getting to the airport, daily activities, and getting back home.
- What do you need to pack so you feel more prepared?
- What does everyone else need to pack or prepare? Don’t shoulder all the stress!
- Have Fun
All the “travelling with children” lists have different versions of these tips and suggestions, but they all agree on one thing: make sure you all have a fantastic time and create amazing memories!
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