How to travel with children – Times Travel – The Times

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Cathy Adams
Friday August 12 2022, 10:14am
Travelling with children can be both a blessing and a curse. While there’s pleasure in showing children the world and lifting yourselves out of the daily routine, that very act of leaving the daily routine comes heaped with hassle — and that’s before you’ve factored in flights, activities and meals. What was supposed to be a holiday can end up being anything but.
Don’t listen to me: it’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of family-friendly destinations and experiences in every corner of the world that will delight both children and adults. But you will need to be prepared.
Whether it’s figuring out what to pack; the world’s most family-friendly destinations; where to stay; and how to hold on to your patience while you’re doing it — here’s our guide to making unforgettable memories with your family and keeping a bit of your sanity at the end of it.
Main photo: by the sea in A Coruna in Galicia, Spain (Getty Images)
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Since becoming a parent in 2020, this is the question I get asked more than any other. I’ve had a handful of successful holidays over the past few years; but I’ve had a lot of bad ones too. It all depends on the age of your children too. What works for a younger baby will not work for a toddler, and what works for an older child will revolt teenagers.
For a fly-and-flop break, ease is the top priority — and making sure both adults and children have enough to do on the ground. I’ve found it’s hard to beat the ease of an all-inclusive resort here, and destinations such as Turkey, Greece, Spain and Dubai have plenty of great options, with excellent kids’ clubs too.
The best trips we’ve had have been to Dubai, which is shockingly family-friendly — right from being able to order cabs with car seats to the activities on offer in the city, from the beach to air-conditioned soft play in one of the many malls — and southern European countries such as Greece and Spain, where children are made to feel welcome in all settings.
As for the worst? Various trips to Paris have persuaded me it’s the most family-unfriendly city break — the metro has no lifts, brasseries are snooty with children and you have to pay to use the one good playground — and anywhere that involves a lot of driving (a road trip we did from Belfast to Derry with a then-14-month-old was not one of my finest ideas) is usually a no-no.
Those with children will be familiar with the age-old toss-up between the flexibility of self-catering or the facilities and on-tap services of a hotel. There are benefits to both.
For younger children, access to a kitchen and (importantly) a washing machine is a great idea, which means self-catering is usually a better fit. An apartment or villa — have a look at options on platforms such as Airbnb, Vrbo and the Plum Guide — is also useful if you’re travelling with more than one child, or in a bigger group. (Just make sure you select a family-friendly option with no sharp edges or open access to the swimming pool.)
On the other hand, hotels offer the full gamut of facilities and — to state the obvious — there’s always someone on hand to help, either with activities or problems, even though you won’t have as much space as in an apartment. 
There is a big difference between a hotel that accepts children, and others that are actively family-friendly, though: I’ve sat through excruciating formal dinners with my toddler with other guests who aren’t a day younger than 30, which is a painful experience for all involved. Most hotels will have cots, baby monitors and highchairs as standard; the really good ones dispense personalised gifts for children. Bear in mind that unless you book interconnecting rooms, you’ll be in one room together — which means that after they’ve gone to bed, you’ll either have to decamp to the bathroom or lie quietly until 10pm.
Then there’s the holy grail of kid-friendly accommodation: a self-contained apartment within a hotel complex, meaning you get the best of both worlds.
How long is a piece of string? It all depends on the age of your child. From experience with my two-year-old, I don’t leave without packing:
• Suncream
• Hat and sunglasses
• Comforter or cuddly toy
• White noise machine
• Toys
• Amazon Fire Tablet pre-loaded with shows and charger
• Two outfits per day to cover spills
• Enough snacks to sink the Titanic
• Nappies and wipes, although check whether you can buy these in the destination
It all depends on where you’re going and when. The 2022 Post Office Money Report found that Turkey and Bulgaria were the cheapest countries for holidays, with travel to Turkish resort Marmaris down 37 per cent year-on-year. In the Eurozone, the report put Portugal’s Algarve as the cheapest destination, with a holiday there costing 25 per cent less than Spain’s Costa del Sol. Long haul, it found Cape Town the best value this year.
Montenegro, Croatia and Cyprus all offer value for money too. And if you’re after a city break, Madrid and Berlin are surprisingly affordable. But if your heart is set on Greece or Spain, head inland rather than the coast for the best bargains.
Think outside the box, too: Poland and Germany both have stunning coastlines that are little-visited, so there’s a bit of an under-the-radar flavour too. And go out of season. The Middle East is sweltering in the summer, but if you have a family that wants to to go to waterparks/indoor activities, it’s a very cheap time of year to visit.
Travel prices spike in school holidays, particularly in the peak August travel month. A week-long all-inclusive holiday to Bulgaria with Tui for a family of four can cost as much as £3,500 in August, but drops to £1,500 in September. Likewise, a family holiday to Marmaris in Turkey with Jet2 hovers around the same price in August, but falls by around £2,000 in autumn.
Based on personal experience: spending a lot of time and sharing space with other family members for an extended period of time always leads to arguments; as does stacking the holiday with too many activities. A longed-for family holiday also comes with unrealistic expectations. What I’m trying to say is — relax, don’t expect too much, and when you’re travelling with children, chances are it’ll all be enjoyable in retrospect anyway.
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