We are not only introverts, we’re introverts with rebellious streak, so we don’t like to follow other people’s schedule while having a vacation. That also means we do all planning, booking, navigating, communicating, and itinerary completely on our own, and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. It may seem daunting if you’re not big on planning, and it may involves some trial and errors, but the more you do it the more you recognise your family travel style, and the better you can focus on your future planning on what’s relevant.
Some simple guideline that we have adopted so far. We’re still perfecting it, but it’s pretty fool-proof as it is now:
- Plan the basics very thoroughly, that is mainly how to get there and where to stay, how to get around, and travel documents (never assume, always check on your destination’s travel document requirement, there are quirky ones). I always try to get everything booked, checked and being ready at least 1 month in advance. It takes a big chunk off the travel anxiety when I know we can get there, have somewhere to stay while there, and come back. Everything else is secondary.
- Have a (short) list of what you would like to do on your destination, but don’t over-schedule. I prefer not to plan anything ahead at all once we get to our destination, except a short list of what I really think we can’t skip, but even that’s a rough guide rather than a must-do.
- Holiday accommodation is not only a place to sleep, it should also be livable. Once I had a child, I prefer staying in smaller hotels or a self-catering accommodation where it’s possible to spend some time in and not feel cooped up. Possibility to make simple meals ourselves is a bonus and most importantly, we should be able to go outdoor without having to negotiate corridors where 100 other people sleep and lifts 12 floors up/down. You’ll less likely to have trouble with other rowdy guests as well if you stay somewhere small/residential. Do a bit of Google Map research on the location of the place you’re staying at, and try to learn where the nearest shops/supermarket is. It makes a huge difference when you know you can just walk a block or drive half-an-hour to get some supplies for the kids.
- Get the direct flights whenever possible, or if you have to have a connection, look for connecting flights that doesn’t get you stranded in the airport with small children at 3 am your local time, but also not one that requires you to make a mad dash through a huge airport to make it in time to the other flight.
- Travelling is not supposed to be more stressful than staying at home, and it is supposed to be enjoyable to every member of the family, which includes the kids, but not only the kids. If the children don’t enjoy being sent to the Kids Club everyday, maybe it’s better to leave them home with the grandparents (or any relatives who are willing to take them), if Mum doesn’t feel like doing the family meal routine on the vacation, maybe a self-catering accommodation is not the best idea, if nobody wants to drive in a completely foreign country, maybe it’s best to stay in the center of city and take public transport.
- Leave some time for unstructured activity. Especially for kids who live in the city like ours, it is a novelty for them to be able to roam (supervised) with no structured schedule, collecting bugs, climbing trees. Sometimes you might want to take a picnic blanket and spend the afternoon reading a book somewhere in the sun, or walking around in the town aimlessly just to see where it gets you, or like the Hubby who likes to go for a jog or a hike on his own. I also prefer my child to understand that sometimes she needs to be able to entertain herself and that we are not responsible to engage her in activities her whole waking hour.
- Skimp on popular tourist attractions. We don’t always hide from other people, we do go to tourist attractions as well, but only if we think it’s worth it. We also try to get tickets ahead of time if necessary, look for time when it’s less crowded, and limit it to 1-2 per week or per location. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s going to mean anything to you personally.
- Leave a buffer day or two when you get back to recover from your trip. It might seem to be a waste of time to leave your trip earlier to be able to spend time back at home before work/school starts again, but we always appreciate the fact that we get to spend some time at home, being back in our own beds and eating home food again before we have to start our routine again. This is even more necessary if you’re travelling from several time zones away, and need to readjust your sleeping pattern.