Here’s what to think about before making your first family vacation plans with hubby and baby – so that everyone can have fun.
Where to go
Don’t venture too far. While your child gets to travel for almost free to Europe (most airlines only charge taxes for children under two years old), don’t forget the 13 hours it takes to ﬂy to London.
Blocked ears are likely to result in him getting fussy, and soothing him in a cramped space when you’re tired and jetlagged isn’t fun. Plus, fellow passengers who might be less understanding could be an additional stressor.
To help your child be as comfortable as possible on his ﬁrst ﬂight, bring along some snacks and toys to keep him busy. During take-off and landing, give him some milk, water, or something to suck on to ease his popping ears. For infants, try to reserve a bassinet (call the airline directly if it isn’t possible to secure this during your online booking). For toddlers, ask for a window seat so that he can have fun peering outside.
Where to stay
Themed hotels are always a winner. There are usually exclusive in-house activities for guests, specially manufactured merchandise (or toiletries, at least), fun themed restaurants and sometimes even chances for photo ops with characters.
Alternatively, stay at hotels with a kids club. Other than play facilities, the kids club typically offers babysitting services (age limits might apply for child-minding) for a few hours so you can sneak in some spa time with hubby.
Both themed hotels and those with a kids club don’t come cheap, though. If you prefer to spend on play and save on accommodation, get any regular hotel (most kids can stay for free if they don’t need an extra bed or cot) or even Airbnb (ask if children are allowed on the property). Just check reviews and conﬁrm that the lodging has reliable security, is clean (no record of bed bugs!) and has nearby amenities like a convenience store, in case Junior gets hungry in the dead of the night.
What to do
Make sure activities are age-appropriate. So leave snorkelling in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or discovering Vietnam’s Chu Chi Tunnels for when the kids are older. Also, avoid a jam-packed itinerary. Schedule break or nap times, and factor in travelling times too.
Set some ground rules so your toddlers know what to expect. For instance, if it’s a theme park, prepare them for the crowds and get them to choose between joining the queue for a ride (no complaining!) or head to a less popular one (where they can go twice). For popular attractions, try to book admission tickets beforehand; see if there’s a fast pass option for rides (like those in Disneyland, where you can reserve a slot and come back later); and bring or rent a stroller so everyone is less tired.
Those who prefer to go off the beaten track can consider an easy trek at the nearby national park (borrow a backpack carrier to bring babies around), or go cycling at the suburbs (get child seats for the younger ones). These are fun ways for the family to bond and escape the hordes of tourists. Plus, the kids get to expend their energy and will sleep really soundly that night!
How to go around
Public transport might be the cheapest form of transport, but not the best option for families with young children. Some train stations don’t have elevators so a stroller quickly becomes a nightmare on wheels. Bus stops could be a 10- to 15-minute walk away from your destination, which seems like an expedition after a long day out.
For convenience’s sake, hire a private driver to bring the family around (you might have to tip him on top of the agreed fee). Or if you’re up for it, do a road trip for a more leisurely pace or unplanned stops along the way. Just remember to include a GPS unit with your car rental, have upbeat tunes to keep the driver alert during the journey, and games or snacks to keep the little ones happy on long car rides.
Of course, remember to have fun and enjoy the holiday (optional: bring along a selﬁe stick for family photos).