- Choose your destination wisely
- Share the love with family or friends
- Don't ditch downtime – it’s your holiday too
Once the pitter-patter of tiny feet comes along, holidays as we know them change forever. You might have to wave goodbye to lazy rosé-fuelled lunches and romantic strolls along the beach, and say hello to competitive sandcastle building and a daily dawn chorus of toddlers demanding breakfast!
The most important factor is to choose your destination wisely – two weeks in the Caribbean may seem alluring, but a nine-hour flight with three young children will make a Cornish caravan holiday all the more inviting.
Arrive with your sanity intact
'Navigating Gatwick Airport with twin toddlers and a feral five year-old is never fun, but you can get the holiday off to a good start by planning ahead for the journey.' says Jane Anderson, editor of Family Traveller magazine.
'If you're flying, check out the airport in advance to see if it has any family facilities such as play zones, family lounges (there's one at Heathrow) or fast-track queues for families. Take the usual iPods and iPads, but don't forget more traditional entertainment such as books, drawing pads and, of course, lots of snacks.'
Avoid 'hangry' tantrums
We've all been there. A delightful morning's sightseeing scuppered by the lack of suitable lunch options, and 'POW!' – your toddler throws an Olympic-size meltdown.
'It's not exciting to spend your pre-holiday days making plans, more plans and back-up plans, but knowing that you're covered for most eventualities will mean a less stressed holiday,' says Cathy Winston, travel writer and author of award-winning blog, Mummytravels.com.
'Whether it's knowing where you'll lunch or working out a buggy-friendly route to soothe an overtired toddler, it's worth planning so you won't be on edge.'
Schedule some downtime
It's tempting for us parents to cram the holiday with sightseeing and day trips, but it's a rare kid who'll happily ditch a day by the pool to traipse around a church or an art gallery.
'It sounds odd to actually plan downtime while you're away (a holiday is supposed to be relaxing, after all) but it's easy to pack too much in,' says Cathy Winston, a mother of one.
'For every morning you have plans, try to spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool or on the beach. And while they're paddling or building sandcastles, you can kick back with a magazine and a glass of vino.'
Keep the kids entertained
A successful family holiday means keeping everyone happy and entertained. This may mean a little bargaining on your part – agreeing to do something the kids want to do after you've visited the sights you really want to see.
You could even get the kids involved in all the typical holiday activities: challenge them to find the perfect postcards and gifts, or appoint them as the official holiday photographer.
However, while little nippers will spend endless hours upending a bucket on the beach, older children and teenagers may need more amusement. Enrol them into clubs that offer tennis, windsurfing or sailing lessons, or treat them to jet skiing or parasailing – just make sure you're all fully covered for any adventurous activities.
'There's nothing like a great kids' club to take the strain off the parents on holiday,' says Jane Anderson, a mother of two. 'But kids' clubs can vary greatly, so investigate what they offer beforehand. In my experience, the best ones get the kids out and about, and put an emphasis on local culture.'
Take your mates or go multi-gen
There's been a real shift in how families holiday over the past decade, and inviting several clans into sprawling villas has become increasingly popular.
'Holiday with other families and the kids will have readymade playmates,' says Rhonda Carrier, travel writer and head of editorial at Takethefamily.com. 'If the kids are very young, adults can take it in turns to keep them entertained.
'Or, if they're old enough, they will happily entertain themselves, leaving you to socialise or simply flop by the pool with a book,' adds Rhonda, a mother to three boys.
Multi-generational holidays are also proving popular with many families, and holiday companies have already identified it as a trend to take advantage of.*
'Bringing the grandparents along not only gives you the chance to have the odd evening off, but they might also chip in with the cost,' says Jane Anderson.
Holidays are the main thing we look forward to after working hard all year, so choose well, plan ahead and, most importantly, relax and enjoy making those special holiday memories.