Summer is fast approaching. It is generally the perfect time to have a getaway if you can. Being able to get away on a holiday abroad is a real luxury, nonetheless planning a relaxing family holiday abroad can be stressful. That said, getting stressed out over a holiday seems a little bit of a contradiction. Keep the stress levels down with these 7 easy steps to a stress free build up to a relaxing holiday abroad.
Setting a budget for your holiday is essential before any plans are made. This will determine how far you can travel, what type of accommodation you can get and how much is left to bring away to spend. My husband is fantastic at budgeting and sets aside a bit of money each month to put in a “holiday fund”. We are very clear from day one how much is in the kitty. The only down side is looking at all the fabulous exotic five star holidays that are so far off our budget! A girl can dream.
2. Travel arrangements and Accommodation
Once you know how much money you have, you need to decide where to go, how to get there and where to stay once you are there. Of course this is a total personal preference although a bit of online research goes a long way to finding a location that will suit what you are looking for out of your holiday; City or beach resort? Sun and relaxation or something a little bit more active and adventurous?
If you plan on going abroad ferry or flying will be the only options to get off the island of Ireland. Flying with kids can be stressful. Then again travelling in general with kids is not exactly a walk in the park. Booking flights directly with the airline online is usually a good option and watching for offers. There is often a seat sale around March or look at the budget airline options and try to get flights sorted then. Particularly if you have school aged children and need to travel in high season.
When the kids were younger travelling in early summer (May or June) or late summer (September) was a great option. Cooler temperatures, cheaper prices and less crowded. I would recommend anyone not tied to a school year to go off-season while you can.
Now that we are a family of 5 getting a hotel room is just not practical anymore. I cast my mind back to a holiday when our oldest was 11 months old and we got a standard hotel room and just requested a cot. With three kids now we prefer to go self-catering and try to find 2 bedroom apartments to give us the extra space. Even within Ireland I look for hotels that have self-catering on-site or if it is just for a weekend or couple of nights I may try to find a hotel that does large family rooms (although they can be difficult to find and book out quickly). There are other options such as renting directly from owners of villas or apartments abroad or the ever popular www.airbnb.com. It might take a bit of research but there are some great little gems out there to be found.
If it is all too much hassle then grab a few holiday brochures from your local travel agent and find a location and accommodation that you like (and can afford) and get the travel agent to do the rest.
3. Travel documentation and requirements
These days most bookings require a print out of e-mail confirmations or reference numbers. There is however still the requirement to have a passport if going outside of Ireland. You will get away with a Driver’s License if popping across to the UK via Ferry or with certain airlines. If you are Irish even more important is that kids now also need to have their own passport. It is no longer good enough to have them named on a parents’ passport. To get a passport takes a couple of weeks so check well in advance any passport requirements.
Finally, we get an annual travel insurance policy which means we are all insured for any trips we may take throughout the year. We managed to source annual insurance for all of us (Europe travel only) for less than €60.
For other destinations there may be visa or vaccination requirements. Check all of these things out early to ensure they are out-of-the-way.
Once the above three steps are complete then holidays are happening and you can sit back and relax until a little closer to departure day. While it is counter productive starting the countdown too early (don’t need to be hearing “how many sleeps until we go Mum?” for too long) I like to give myself plenty of time. It’s no mean feat to pack up for two adults and three kids. My general guide is at least 10 days in advance. At this point I can dig out the details of arrangements made weeks earlier and start the nitty-gritty of the countdown.
4. Make a list
I live by lists. I am at my most productive when I have a list to guide me through what I need to do. Without one I tend to be like a boat without a paddle just drifting around and tend to procrastinate. For holidays I will literally list out everything everyone needs to bring.
5. Stock take and shopping
Once I know what I want to bring I need to determine if there is anything I don’t have. With the kids growing so fast or needing things they would not normally have in their day-to-day wardrobe there is generally a holiday shopping list each year. Items such as UV suits, hats and sandals tend to be on the list to buy as, more often than not, last year’s pieces are too small. Other items such as bottles of sun cream generally need to be bought too. I try to get the shopping done well in advance so there are no last-minute panics. Funny how each year I like to buy myself a few new pieces (even just a couple of vest tops or T-shirts) when I go away. Something about having a new item when on holidays (but maybe that is just me!).
Now comes the tricky part. Fitting it all in. These days with luggage as an extra cost we tend to try to minimise our load. For a two week holiday we have taken three cases with our flights so we get two-thirds of a case each. We also have a hand luggage each but I try to minimise hand luggage to the bare essentials as there is enough going on getting the kids through the airport without worrying about awkward bags too. I organise my packing in various categories and within each category will be each family member’s things.
I tend to find the clothes bit easy (although I ALWAYS bring too much). If going to a warm climate we take a stack of T-shirts and shorts and then some summer dresses and skirts for the girls (that includes Mammy) going out. Finally there is the swimwear (UV suits for the kids, bikinis for mum), underwear and hats. If the weather might be a bit more changeable than it is best to throw in a few warmer pieces and maybe some rain gear.
Again, with a warm climate I have learned from experience that bringing a pile of going out shoes is fruitless. I will literally bring flip-flops for the pool and my wedges for going out. I will probably even wear my flip-flops out too on some occasions – so maybe I’ll bring a second pair! I may just wear a pair of runners on the plane but they might not see the light of day over there. For the kids I picked up some cheap flip-flops and they will also bring a pair of runners.
I have given up bringing makeup on holidays. Before I had kids I used to pack half my makeup bag and never use it, as after a day or two my face would have a tan and I wouldn’t need foundation or blush. So now I just go au natural. I will bring the basics – cleanser, toner and moisturizer, deodorant, hair brush and accessories. There is always the toothpaste and tooth brushes too being thrown in at the last-minute.
• Medications and First Aid
Unless you are planning a trip to Outer Mongolia most places have pharmacies. That said I like to have the basics with me just in case. Pain relief (adults and kids), plasters, antiseptic cream, a bite cream, burns cream, and some medication in case of any dodgy belly.
I let the kids pick their own toys. They must fit in their hand luggage. I do filter a bit but only if I see it going out of control. At the end of the day they don’t play with them too much. I find having colours and colouring books and an iPad or two does us fine. And a favourite night-time teddy of course.
As we mostly go self-catering I like to pack some basics. Mainly kids’ stuff like non-perishable snacks – space dependent. When the kids were smaller I would have brought jars of baby food as I found the baby food abroad not as good but that is all gone now. We always hit the supermarket when we arrive to stock up. Just be aware what time you will be arriving. If it is late at night you might just need some water and basics for the morning until you get a chance to find the nearest supermarket.
• Everything else!
It is all the rest of the bits and pieces that are the hardest. Sunglasses, arm bands for the pool, beach towels, phones, iPads, chargers for the phone and iPads, camera, adaptors. There is always something to forget. And always too much brought.
7. Me, myself and I
I try to fit in a few minutes of Mammy time to sort myself out too. There are nails to be done, bodily hair to be removed and skin to be pampered in preparation for its annual public appearance. If I can get to a professional beautician I will try to get my hand nails done with a 2 week manicure – save me worrying about them for the whole holiday. Everything else I will do myself in a rush, probably the night before we go.
Then it’s off to the airport and off to enjoy some quality family time! There is definitely a holiday needed after all that preparation.