If like me the moment you return from a family holiday there becomes immediate pressure from your partner and children to plan your next holiday. This normally happens just as I put the case down in the hallway upon returning or if I’m lucky the question of where and when our next family holiday will be does not happen until our first morning back at work. This is when without fail my inbox will get bombarded with holiday ideas for our next family holiday from my wife.
Hopefully over the next few paragraphs, I will assist in providing ideas of how to holiday with kids within Europe.
PACKAGE OR DIY HOLIDAYS
So you’ve decided where you wish to go on holiday for your two weeks in the Summer than the next question I ask myself is what is our budget for our family holiday. Working out what your budget is for your family holiday establishes two things:
- Whether you can afford to holiday in your chosen destination
- Whether you wish to save time and purchase a package holiday or whether you will have to shop around and customize your own holiday
If you have quite a sizable budget for your chosen holiday than you may wish to save time and enjoy the personnel service of the “one stop shop” of utilising a travel company for all your holiday needs. However, if using a travel company I would still shop around to find the best deal by researching online and visiting a high street store. I would also recommend visiting a local independent travel agency as these can quite often have some hidden gems.
However, if like me you choose a holiday destination and the next thought is “how are we going to afford that” than you are probably going to be looking at customizing your own holiday by arranging your own transport, accommodation and holiday extras separately.
HOW TO TRAVEL WITH KIDS
The first thing I do when we have decided on our next holiday destination and concluded that we will be customizing our own holiday is to break down the holiday into different components such as:
- How are we going to travel – cost vs travel time
- What type of Accommodation we wish to stay in
- What we require from our Accommodation such as location, facilities, service, entertainment etc
- If staying in a Hotel what type of board we require
- If holidaying in a resort what type of transfer we require
- Is there any bonuses to staying at a certain holiday such as discounts to local theme parks, discount at restaurants or tickets to local shows
Personally I like to spend time researching all available options in order to ensure that I have located the best deal available to suit my family. For example if we are having an adventure holiday and staying on campsites in Northern Europe than I will look at the most cost-efficient way to travel to the continent from the UK.
First and foremost, I will compare all boat travel costs to the continent from the various ports around the country as well as the Channel Tunnel. The next step is to work out the cost in fuel of getting to the chosen port to make sure that it is the best available route to the continent.
If we are having a family holiday in Europe where mobility is required, I will also look at the cost of flights and car hire however if traveling with children this may not be practical if taking your own items such as food, specialised equipment or cots.
Finally, and most importantly I than decide whether this is the most suitable route for my family. If traveling with young children it is vital you take this into consideration as speaking from personal experience if you keep your kids contained within a vehicle for too long than it can adverse effect both on the journey as they bored and irritable as well as when you get to your final destination where the negative mood can be prolonged.
If traveling by air, I will list all the domestic airports within a suitable travel distance from our home that we would be prepared to use and also locate which destination airport we would prefer to fly to. Where possible, I also try to be flexible with the dates of our flights to give us a better opportunity of getting the best deal.
I will than utilise as many flight comparison sites as possible to identify the best flight deal for my family. When looking at the best deal although I will primarily be looking at the price there are other things to consider when traveling with a young family such as:
- Are the flight times suitable as if the flights are early in the morning or late at night than you risk having some tired children on your hands
- Reputation of airline – if an airline does not have a good reputation for customer service or a reputation for canceling many of its flights than this may not be the best option to choose.
- Cost of hidden extras such as baggage – always check out additional costs of taking suitcases and pre booking your seat compared to other airlines as there maybe a cheaper alternative elsewhere.
Once I am satisfied I have located the best travel option for my family than I will proceed to book our mode of transport before researching where we will be staying for our holiday.
WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION TO CHOOSE
Now that the transportation is sorted for our holiday destination, the next step is to book our accommodation. As family holidays are exciting, I am likely to have gotten a little carried away when researching transportation and will have roughly decided where we wish to stay however as a rule I will still not book our accommodation until I am satisfied that either plain, train or plane is fully booked.
Choosing what type of accommodation to stay in is largely going to depend on your circumstances for example if you are traveling with a young baby than you may wish to stay in an apartment where you will have access to full kitchen facilities such as a microwave to warm milk up in the middle of the night for a feed.
Alternatively if you have children who are around primary school age than you may require something with a kids club and swimming pool to keep them entertained and for kids a little older you may require something a little more adventure orientated such as a campsite or themed accommodation therefore it is vital that you find something suitable for all.
As a family we like to plan holidays at least a few months in advance therefore once our transportation is booked I will normally research accommodation at our chosen destination and narrow it down to a few of preferred places to stay. Once we have decided where we would like to stay, I will than research many comparison sites and either the actual hotel/campsites own website in order to get the best deal.
It is also worth looking out to see if any accommodation offer any extras such as free/discounted days out if staying at their hotel, access to any local shows or free upgrades.
I will normally set myself a deadline of around 8 weeks before a holiday to book our chosen accommodation in order to ensure that we can arrange suitable method of payment and to give us enough time to book any necessary add-ons such as transfers.
TRANSFERS WITH KIDS
If you have customised your own holiday to a resort than the next step will be to arrange your transportation to your accommodation. Similar to booking your accommodation the type of transfer you wish to choose will depend on your own personnel circumstances.
There are normally many options available for transferring you to your accommodation such as:
- Coach Transfer with unlimited stops – normally the cheapest option but can leave young children exhausted especially straight after a flight
- Coach Transfer with limited stops – normally these coach transfers come with a maximum 3 stops and although slightly more expensive than a coach transfer with unlimited stops it can be worth paying a few extra pennies to ensure your children and wife arrive at your accommodation with smiles on their faces.
- Private Taxi – what should be the most luxurious and expensive option to transfer your family to your accommodation. Although this mode of transport should take you directly to your hotel, the standard of the vehicle in some countries can be questionable and caution should be offered especially when traveling with a young family
- Public Transport – for the more adventurous there will always be a local bus, train or tram route to get you close to your accommodation. This is also likely to be one of the cheaper options though if traveling with children, suitcases and prams this may not be the most suitable.
- Car Hire – Dependent on the country you are visiting this can either be the most expensive or cheapest option available. If you have a driving license and are confident driving abroad than this is always an option worth looking at.
Personally I have recently noted that hiring a car for a family of four can be comparable if not much cheaper than utilising any other for of transfer where you may be required to purchase individual tickets plus it provides you with your very own independence throughout your stay.
When going on a family holiday it should go without saying that you should always have your Travel Insurance in place before you travel. Travel Insurance can be acquired for most individual circumstances and can most commonly be bought as a one trip or annual policy. Again the regularity which you go abroad will dictate the type of insurance you purchase.
When looking for Travel Insurance, I will always look at a variety of comparison sites on the internet and will also often use a cashback website to lower the cost even further. In regard to cashback sites, I will also use these when booking flights, accommodation and transfers where possible.
BUDGETING FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
As shown above no matter what type of destination we are visiting my routine will always be the same:
- Establish budget for family holiday and choose destination
- Research and select mode of transport
- Select accommodation
- Purchase additional extras such as transfers, insurance and theme park/event tickets
- Enjoy your family holiday and make memories that will last a lifetime
For each of the above, I will also have a budget for each category which will have a ceiling of what I am prepared to spend. My budget will normally be taken from my own personal circumstances as well as some rough research on average cost of each category to establish a feel of what it may all cost.
Having sorted all the above you should now be ready for your perfect family holiday on a budget and be ready to have a great time.