Anyone with kids will know that going on holiday with young children is often not the most relaxing of experiences. When we went to Cape Verde earlier this year when Taylor was 12 months old, relaxing moments were admittedly few and far between. There was the odd snatched moment by the pool or on the beach when we’d finally got her to nap in her buggy, but for the most part the hubby and I could be found taking it in turns doing laps of the resort willing a grumpy and tired toddler to ‘please just go to sleep!’
Perhaps it wasn’t the best of ages for Taylor to venture on our first package holiday abroad – too curious to fall asleep when she needed it, yet too young to miss sleep without becoming grumpy and irritable. When we took her away at four months old it was much easier, and now that she’s almost 18 months we can get away with missing a nap time or keeping her up past her usual bedtime every now and then.
However, there are a few lessons I’ve learned from our holidays so far and things I’d do differently the next time we go abroad…
How to have a relaxing holiday with young children
1. Holiday with friends and family
The holiday to Cape Verde was probably our least relaxing because it was just the three of us. As lovely as it was to get away, we did spend a lot of time ‘taking it in turns’ – turns to get up and get a plate of dinner, turns to go in the pool with Taylor, turns to go and get the drinks…which is not much fun really.
We went to visit my sister who lives in Dubai when Taylor was 4 months old, and when it was my 31st birthday we had a week in Spain with my parents. Both of these holidays worked so much better because there were more adults to help with looking after Taylor and it was definitely a case of the more the merrier. It was also great for Taylor to have her cousin to play with in Dubai so the adults weren’t having to constantly entertain her – having other kids to play with is a no-brainer really – more fun for them, more relaxing for you!
2. Stay in a villa
Staying in a villa is ideal with young children as it provides a home from home. The best thing about it is that you can stick to the same routines and have the convenience of having everything at your fingertips – so the kids won’t be too out of sync. Sitting in the hotel room for an hour whilst Taylor slept just wasn’t something we wanted to do on our holiday…But the idea of putting her to bed in a villa whilst stealing an hour alone poolside? Pure bliss!
I also love the idea of being able to cook your own food at any time of day. As much as Taylor loved chicken nuggets and chips for the first couple of days at our all-inclusive hotel, the mum guilt did start to kick in by day five! Leisurely meals outside without the hassle of finding a table and ‘taking it in turns’ to grab a plate of food is so much more appealing.
I’ve recently discovered Tots to Travel which has a fantastic selection of family-friendly villas. Each villa has blackout blinds, hand blenders, baby monitors, toys and everything you need so that you can leave all of your baby and toddler essentials at home. I love the look of this child-friendly farmhouse in Italy which sleeps 10 with two infant cots and has an indoor play area, a toddler pool and a sand pit. Really, what more could you want?
Okay, so I know this is easier said than done with young children and you sometimes feel as though you’ve left home with everything but the kitchen sink…but think about how much you’re realistically going to need and don’t take excessive amounts of luggage if you can help it. I find that if I pack too much I can forget where I’ve put everything and I’m a lot more organised when I’ve been more selective. You can stock up on items like nappies and toiletries once you get to your destination. As for clothes, the kids will mostly be in their swimwear every day, so you really don’t need to take every outfit in the wardrobe. Having said that, it really is important that you don’t forget any of your essentials (I once forgot to take a sunhat #badmother), so carefully planning your items in advance is key.
4. Keep new toys and games for later
It can be so tempting to get out all of the new toys and activities you’ve brought during the first hour of the flight as soon as you hear the first moan. But keeping a secret stash of new toys and treats can really help to avert any tantrums further down the line – whether it’s when you’re trying to enjoy a nice meal out, or keep them occupied during a car journey to the local town, you’ll be thankful that you held out and didn’t exhaust all of your options early on! Taylor’s always been more about food than toys, so keeping a handy stash of raisins and bread sticks has really been a life saver for us at times!
5. Allow yourself to relax!
As parents it can be difficult to relax when we’ve always got a little one(s) to look out for – you can never completely switch off. But I’ve found that on holiday, you really do have to allow yourself to just go with the flow and not get too caught up with routines and parenting the same way you do at home.
When we went to Dubai with Taylor, we threw her usual routine out the window and just let her nap throughout the day whenever she wanted to and eat at the same times as us. We’ve always taken her out with us in her buggy in the evenings during holidays and on most evenings she’d fall asleep after her usual 7pm bedtime – giving us at least a few hours to let our hair down a little. Other nights weren’t so successful and she refused to drop off – but we soon learnt that it was easier to just let her be awake rather than waste time trying to rock her back to sleep. Just enjoy the novelty of being on holiday and let the kids enjoy it too.
What are your tips for having a holiday with young children? Have you been abroad with your kids? Did you get chance to relax?
Post written in collaboration