I have just booked our fifth family holiday, which we are all super excited about! This year we will be going to Mauritius, somewhere I have been on my elective placement as a medical student, many years ago. I’m sure the experience will differ somewhat, going as a family of four.
We really look forward to our annual holiday – spending quality time with the boys and not having to worry about cooking, cleaning, washing and all the daily chores, which consume so much of our time and energy. It’s just the four of us and it’s perfect.
But what I don’t look forward to so much, is the actual process of booking it. Finding the perfect destination, the best airline to travel with, the hotel, the transfers….the list goes on. I will never book anything without shopping around, because if you can get the same holiday for a couple of hundred pounds cheaper, why wouldn’t you? Well, you wouldn’t bother if you were my husband, because in his eyes, it’s not worth the stress and he’d rather book and be done with it. This is why I take sole responsibility for all of the above.
I thought I’d share how I go about doing it, because it may just help some of you out there and make your booking process a little less stressful.
Firstly, find a destination. I know it sounds obvious but it is very easy to go onto a website and keep your search very broad and end up a lot more confused than when you started.
We like to travel long haul and go somewhere nice and hot in April-May. The boys have been on a few flights now, with the shortest being 7 hours from London to Dubai and the longest just short of 10 hours to Cancun. We wanted them to get used to air travel so that we are not restricted on where we can go.
I literally google “where’s hot in April” and there you have it, a list of ideal destinations appears. After selecting a couple of our favourites from the list, I look into the weather in more detail, by visiting websites such as Holidayweather.com. I want to know the average number of days of rainfall in the month and the average daily temperature.
Once we’ve got our destination, I go onto a website such as British Airways or Virgin Holidays to get an idea of what sort of price range we are looking at for an all inclusive. We like to go all inclusive as it seems to work out best for us with the boys being picky eaters. It just enables them to try a lot more and with the option of food being available all throughout the day at no additional cost, it’s less of a worry to us if they don’t eat a meal so well, as we can easily grab something a bit later. This was definitely a perk when we went to Mexico, as there were plenty of burgers, chips and pizzas at the ready whenever they were hungry outside of our usual meal times (any child’s dream!).
Next, I read lots of Tripadvisor reviews to get a general idea about hotels. I have found that even the most luxurious hotels can get negative reviews, but in general, if most people have positive things to say, it’s likely to be a decent hotel. Also, take notes from what people say, for example, if there is a particular part of the hotel, which is better, then send the hotel an email in advance and request it! Take a look at the photographs as well…”traveller”, rather than “management” photos as these will give a much more realistic idea of what the hotel is like.
Booking the perfect hotel is by far the most difficult task I face. Four family holidays later, I have realised that all the boys actually want is a swimming pool. They love splashing in the pool and it’s a struggle to get them out. A kid’s club is also now a must, as it really helps to break the day up. Particularly if the weather is either too hot to be out in the sun, or even if you’re unlucky enough to have a rainy day.
My priority is having a good selection of restaurants, which cater well for children. I’m always much more relaxed when the boys have eaten well. This is mainly because I know they’ll then sleep much better, which in turn means that I will sleep much better!
Read blogs! Family travel blogs can be one of the most useful resources out there so take the time to read them. They are full of helpful tips, which can make your holiday that much more enjoyable.
My favourite blogs include:
This is an amazing family travel blog, covering mainly Asia. There are lots of hotel reviews, which are very informative. It also has a fab destination guide, with just enough information to help make a decision as to where exactly to go. So Thailand, for example, can be very overwhelming…..should you go to Phuket, Koh Samui or Langkawi?! Well this blog will give you the information you need to decide where is best for you and your family.
This is another great family travel blog, which covers a wide range of European destinations, from Majorca to skiing in Les Gets. It has a great section on Orlando too!
I also find reading the “Family Holidays” section of the Telegraph Online a fantastic starting point for family travel inspo. With headings such as “The family travel bucket list” and “The best family holidays for May half term,” it’s always going to be a winner.
Next, its the flight. We have always tried to travel on night flights and so far, we have been lucky in that the boys have slept for most of the flight. We usually travel in Economy, however opted to upgrade to Business Class on our way out to Mexico, as it was a day flight and we thought it would be a much more comfortable journey out, as the boys would have more room to move about. Rhys was under 2 so didn’t have a seat, but the three of us (both boys and I) shared 2 seats more than comfortably, with us all being able lie flat as well. In fact it was so comfortable that they were asleep for most of the flight! It was, in my opinion, money well spent.
For a day flight I would definitely recommend trying to adjust your child’s body clock before travelling. The boys went to bed quite late the day before we travelled to Mexico and we woke them up quite early on our departure date, so that they would be tired enough to sleep a bit on board. It worked a treat!
Finally, take the time to shop around because you really can find some great deals and save yourselves hundreds of pounds! Look at both package holidays and booking the flight and hotel separately. Also, call a couple of travel agents once you’ve found the best price you can online, as they can quite often price match, or even offer you a better deal.
I hope you have found this post useful. Happy holiday planning everyone!
Take a look at my travel blog posts, in which there are lots of top tips and family holiday ideas: