When queuing to check-in at an airport, those travelling with a young family are easy to spot. They are the ones with a trolley stacked precariously high with numerous suitcases, nappy bags, a Bugaboo in bits, a baby car seat and various toys. We have all over-packed at some stage in our lives. Yet, when you have children, deciding what to take can make you stressed even before the holiday begins.
So how should you approach packing for a family break? “It might sound obvious but think about what kind of things you are going to be doing while away and make sure everyone has the right clothes for it,” says Catherine Cooper, author of Travelling With Children:A Parent’s Guide.
“So if you want to go walking, make sure older children have walking shoes and you have a back-pack for the baby.
“Also, find out exactly what is available at your destination – there is no point taking a travel cot if there is one already there.”
There are some basic rules that can apply to everyone. “Taking the essentials for the first few days is helpful – such as nappies and formula milk,” adds Catherine.
“When it comes to packing clothes for children my advice is to consider packing for half the time you are away, especially for longer trips, as they can always be washed and, unlike their parents, children don’t normally get tired of wearing the same outfits.”
Babies and toddlers
For babies and toddlers on holiday, you really don’t need to pack the kitchen sink. Some accommodation will even supply a pack of baby goods for your arrival.
“It’s worth checking in advance exactly what is in it though,” adds Catherine,
“Or you could use a service like www.bebebel.co.uk which delivers your chosen brands of baby goods direct to your accommodation.”
Many hotels (such as the Almyra in Cyprus) have a ‘Baby Go Lightly’ programme, where everything a travelling baby might need can be pre-booked from sterilisers to nappies and warm milk at bedtime.
Yet even with such an option, it does help to take a few home comforts with you such as the night light they are used to or their favourite teddy. A sheet from home for a baby’s cot is also a good idea as this will smell familiar to them and make it easier for them to settle.
When packing toys, take a few small ones rather than one or two bigger ones as little ones are easily bored.
Portable highchairs to strap little tots into at restaurants can help make dining out a more relaxing experience.
From four to 12 Trunkis or other wheelie suitcases can be packed with books or paper to keep kids entertained.
“They are just brilliant,” says Jackie Dane of Bespokevacations.com. “You can pack them with things for kids to do but when they are little you can pull them along on them too – they come into their own at airports.”
A basic first aid kit including Calpol is a must. Plasters and Savlon can usually be bought while you are away of course but, if you don’t take it, you can guarantee it will be needed when the pharmacies are closed.
Children of about eight upwards can be encouraged to do their own packing. “Get them to put out what they plan to take on their beds and check it before it is packed – I didn’t check carefully enough last time and my son ended up taking away just one pair of shorts so we had to buy another,” says Catherine.
“A portable DVD player is ideal for travel but also to watch in the morning and give you a lie-in.”
Travel with teens
Books and the odd board game for the whole family are great, but don’t pack for this age group with too many ideals. As much as you may want your teen to leave behind their DS, Ipad or laptop, it will only cause family ructions. Instead, compromise and come to an agreement about how much they can be played (and don’t forget the travel adaptors).
“Pick a colour palate and stick to it,”says Jackie Dane. “I once went skiing with a lady who had one small bag.
“Everything in the bag was grey or cream and interchangeable so she looked different every day without taking many clothes.”
One mistake women often make when they go to hot destinations is they don’t pack for colder evenings or to protect themselves from insect bites. “Long linen trousers and a linen shirt with long sleeves are a really good stand-by for these situations,” adds Jackie.
Men on holiday sometimes get caught out by dress codes – so check whether you need a tie or jacket to go into a hotel restaurant for example.
By Lucy Elkins