Book something with separate sleeping areas for the kids. It’s tempting to save money by piling into one room, but chances are you won’t go to bed at the same time. The adults may want to wind down with a drink or some TV, which is difficult to do while over-tired kids squirm nearby.
Ensure there is a fridge and cooking facilities available to keep costs down. Eating out is a fun part of travel but it gets expensive. Also, it’s nice to make some toast while still in pyjamas or heat up baked beans for an easy dinner after a big day.
Book ahead whenever possible. This includes all hotels, transport, that extra cot and even activities. It’s fun to wing it when you’re single but kids have a different comfort threshold and are easily deflated if things don’t turn out as promised.
Make a list – days, even weeks in advance and update it whenever something springs to mind.
Get the children involved. Depending on their age you can give them a basic packing list of their own. Make sure you check the results though, a certain kid I know disregarded the list and stuffed her backpack with teddies, a cheeky move that was noticed far too late.
At the very least have them contribute to their carry-on bag for plane or car.
If your kids are tantrum-prone and you are planning a flight or similar, make little goodie bags for nearby passengers. It’s amazing how tolerant fellow travellers can be if you offer an advance apology, some lollies and a little note of thanks for their understanding.
If showering separately (e.g. in a caravan park), give children their own toiletry bags and thongs. The Sea to Summit Lightweight Large Toiletry Bag Cell is a great option.
Think ahead with regards to strollers and car seats, and whether you can carry or hire them.
Take lots of snacks. Food soothes both the boredom of long car trips and the fatigue of sightseeing. The Russbe Inner Seal Bento Lunch Box does a great job of separating nibbles in a sealed container. Good water bottles are also essential.
Whether each family member gets their own bag or not, Packing Organisation Travel Cubes are an amazing way to keep items categorised. Nobody wants dirty socks mixed in with the puzzles.
Memory foam neck pillows are heaps nicer than the bouncy inflatable ones. My children love the Deluxe Memory Foam Neck Travel Pillow, and what kind of parent wouldn’t want their kids drifting off to sleep in transit?
As well as their old favourites, pack some new things the children have never played with, especially for long car rides. The power of novelty cannot be underestimated.
Load up your iPad. Again, some tried and trusted viewing and some fresh content. Make sure there are games on there, and also some white noise to help them sleep in unfamiliar places.
However, don’t rely on an internet signal too much on car trips. It can be unreliable outside of cities and towns.
Ask the kids to research and set up an activity they are interested in. Whether it’s a day trip or just billy carts at the resort, it’s a great opportunity to get them involved.
Don’t over-schedule. One outing a day is more than enough, and ideally you should leave a couple of days empty for rest and/or spontaneous activities. Factor in lazy afternoons and ice cream stops.
Manage your expectations. Epic hikes and adult-focused activities may need to be on hold this time.
Don’t forget to take a few photos. Not just of the sunset, either. My kids love reminiscing about interesting bedrooms they have slept in and the fun cereal they were allowed.
A music playlist set up with the kids and played throughout the holiday can be a great clutter-free memory-prompt for years to come.