Avoiding hassle with the kids on holiday is not a flight of fancy
Package deals, insurance, snacks and portable DVD players are key to sparing yourself turbulence at 36,000 feet, says Sinead Ryan
You've finally booked the summer holiday. Now you can look forward to those long hot days, sipping cocktails on the beach, lingering over dinner in a local taverna and sightseeing in those lovely mountaintop villages.
Pity about the kids, then.
Travelling abroad with children is an entirely different prospect than going as a couple. If you're embarking to foreign parts for the first time, here are some tips to ensure an (almost) stress-free trip.
booking Forget the backpacking, carefree days of your youth. Don't fight the wisdom of thousands of parents; book a package holiday, preferably to a resort with children's facilities - it's only for a few years. If you book now you might still get discounted kids' places, or go self catering at a campsite or apartment.
l A bonded tour operator offers extra security if something goes wrong. l Fly in the wee hours. Planes are quieter, less full, and everyone wants to sleep. Book the back row - it's nearer the loo and galley, and crying kids will bother fewer passengers. l Consider travelling with another family. The kids play together and you can take turns babysitting. insurance
l Take out your policy when you book, not when you fly. Most claims are made prior to the holiday. Add-ons like Travel Disruption Cover include cancellations for weather, strikes, etc. l Consider an annual policy. Multitrip.com has a kids-go-free option and you can have passport loss included.
flying l Make sure passports are in date, and each child has his or her own. It might sound obvious but every summer parents show up at the airport thinking their kids are 'covered' on theirs. See dfa.ie. l You must book a separate seat for children over two years. Buggies etc, must go through security. Baby formula is allowed over the 100ml limit if deemed 'essential' for travel. You may be asked to taste it though.
l Allow far more time than you expect. Children are fascinated by airports. They'll want to see the planes, visit every loo and check out every shop. Dublin Airport has a Fast Track service from €5.99. l Hire baby equipment from The Stork Exchange (thestorkexchange.ie) located in Dublin Airport's car park, opposite T1 Arrivals. l Bring a selection of small toys and treats. Cut down on squabbles by having the same for everyone, e.g. a packet of crayons, box of raisins, etc. A cheap notebook and stickers is a great idea. Get over your aversion to screens, and bring a tablet or portable DVD player. l If kids have a special blanket or toy, bring it.
l Even if they're out of pull-ups, consider them for the flight. Bring a change of clothes in case they don't last the queue for the loo. l Let them pack their own cabin luggage: the schoolbag is better than a pull-along. Edit the contents for useful items rather than their entire collection of Lego.
on holiday l Consider a harness for small kids (it may go against your ethics, but it's better than losing them). Alternatively, invest in KoolioBandz (iserve.ie, €12.99), a waterproof wristband with a code. When a lost child is found, the number is entered on a database and you get a text. l Or do as I have and just write your mobile number in pen on their arms. It's not pretty, but effective and free! l Take sensible precautions, but do allow them freedom. Kids come on in leaps and bounds with new experiences.
l Use public transport where possible. It's cheaper and children love the adventure.