I’m off to the south of France soon – yay! I’m travelling with my husband and 18-month old son, as well as my sister, brother-in-law and their 2.5 year old boy. Oh and of course, my six-month old baby bump!
We’ll be away for a week, but I’ve been prepping and planning for much longer to ensure (or as much as I can) that we have the best time out there. I’m a natural organiser and I always find that the more effort I put into a trip before I leave the more fun and relaxation I can have whilst I’m away. This is especially true since I entered the world of family travel. My days of spontaneity have definitely reduced and anything to reduce family travel stress is most welcomed in my opinion!
So for those of you who have been asking, here’s how I book and prep for a family holiday.
Book as early as possible
I book my flights and accommodation as early as possible. I try to be flexible with my dates so that I can still get a good deal, but once I’ve found a good package or offer I go for it. I think we booked this particular trip 5/6 months in advance and I purposefully tailored it for the last week that it’s recommended I fly (as I’m pregnant).
Get a bargain
If you find a good special offer make sure you check the expiry date so that you don’t end up missing out whilst you check availability with the rest of the group. There’s nothing worse than getting the go ahead from everyone to then find out the deal is no longer there! MyVoucherCodes tends to be my go-to and they currently have some good holiday deals as part of #MVCxThomson
I always book online, so I also clear the cookies on my browser before clicking book. If you’re not familiar with this tip, it’s because when you’re searching and browsing deals many sites hold your data. It’s often why one day the flights might be £60 and the next day £72.
Use a credit card
I usually book everything using my 0% credit card as you seem to get a bit more security by paying that way. In basic terms, you’re covered by ‘section 75’ of the Consumer Credit Act, which means the credit card company has equal responsibility with the seller if there’s a problem with the holiday you’ve bought or the company you’ve bought it from fails.
I clear the balance or at least the minimum payments so that I don’t incur any interest charges. By doing it this way I also earn cash back due to the type of credit card I have.
Add a reminder
Depending on the cost of the trip I also try to book the car hire and airport parking at the same time as I find it gets more expensive nearer the time of the trip. If money is tight though, I usually set up a task reminder in my phone to book it the next month once I’ve been paid again. I tend to forget until the last minute if I don’t set up a reminder. Oh and you can nearly always find a promo code for those bits of the trip too, so make sure you have a search online.
Two Months Before
I buy clothes for Nova a few months before the trip. Summer stuff always seems to come out so early and by the time it’s actually the summer holidays the good stuff has gone. I find that rash/UPF vests and float jackets sell out really quickly, so always make sure that I at least snap those bits up.
We went for a neoprene float jacket for Nova as it’s less irritating to the skin. He’s a water baby so I know that he can wear it all day without being uncomfortable. I found that Next online (not in store) has the best selection of fun and stylish rash vests.
Nova is almost there with his potty training now so we’ve gone for a shorts and vest combo, rather than the all-in one suits. The downside is that most of the sets seem to only have UPF in the tops as the shorts are swim ones. The suits on the other hand, usually have UPF throughout so that’s worth bearing in mind.
The only caveat to my two-month rule is his summer shoes and my own holiday clothes.
Baby shoe shopping
I buy Nova’s summer shoes in the weeks before the trip. As he is so young his feet change so much, so it’s hard to predict what size he will be. I get his feet measured at Clarks and then usually buy them from there as they offer different widths.
I’m six-months pregnant at the moment so clothes shopping has been a nightmare. Most maternity clothes are only available online, the selection is pretty rubbish and it’s hard to buy anything too far in advance because my bump is growing so quickly. I don’t want to spend loads of maternity clothes, but equally I need to wear something so that I’m not naked!
Last weekend I went shopping and must have tried on swimwear ranging from size 10 – 14. The difference in shapes and sizes at different shops is ridiculous. If like me you already have a little one(s) I’d definitely recommend leaving them with a loved one for a few hours so that you can go shopping and try things on without being distracted or rushed (especially if you’re also pregnant).
In the weeks before the trip I print off all the paperwork; boarding passes, accommodation voucher, directions, travel insurance contact details/policy number, car hire voucher, airport parking voucher and so on. I also make sure I have a copy on my phone just in case the paperwork goes missing. I find that printing it early on allows me to check I’ve definitely remembered to book everything and for the right dates.
One Week Before
I make a floor pile with all the things I want to take with me and every time I do a wash I add those clean clothes to the pile. I then pack about a week before the trip. I make sure that Nova is being looked after by someone else so I’m not distracted and I try to do it in the day so I’m not too tired.
Years ago I’d just chuck in everything, but now I’m more selective. I only pack a top if I have the bottoms to go with it and I’ll only pack enough outfits for the time I’m away. Having a toddler already creates enough washing to last a lifetime, without bringing home unworn clothes that smell from being in a case.
I scribble down any other bits that I’m using in the week and can’t pack until the day itself (straightners, face cream etc).
During the week before I also beautify, but I’ll share a separate post on that as it’s geared to fellow pregnant ladies and mamas.
By spreading out all these little tasks I feel like it takes some of the pre-trip stress away and encourages that exciting trip anticipation.
During the Trip
I’ve written about my tips for flying with babies and toddlers here and having travelled with my family for quite a few trips – Nova was just two-months old when we first went abroad – so you’ll find loads of tips, stories and suggestions in the mini-explorer section.
There are some more handy tips for you below, but if you’ve got any family travel tips do let me know. I’m always up for trying more!