As an experienced traveller with four children, travel journalist, broadcaster and author Rosie Millard knows better than most that taking children on holiday is never easy.
“As a working mum I spend a lot of time, energy and cash sorting out childcare while I’m in the office. I therefore see holidays as a great time for families to have those unforgettable experiences as a unit and the trips I treasure most are the ones that have moments full of the ‘shock’ of the new”, explains Rosie.
Here Rosie shares some of her tips for parents considering trying something a little more adventurous than a traditional beach break during the school holidays.
1: Don't overpack. Put everything you are thinking of taking on the bed then halve it. It really makes such a difference to the quality of your holiday, and means your room won’t be hopelessly overcluttered when you arrive. It also will save your back.
2: Don’t panic if there is no kids' club to fall back on. What children really like on holiday is having full access to your attention, so try to share the moment with them. Holidays are a precious time when weekly life, with its strict timetable, is put to one side and as a parent you can simply relax and play I-Spy out of a train window or go riding on a camel over the Saharan dunes together. Most kids' clubs are large televison sets and DVDs anyway, and children spend an awful lot of time in front of their screens, so it’s more fun to be outdoors.
3: Use wristbands to eradicate travel sickness; they are reusable, involve no medication and work brilliantly.
4: Don’t make elaborate efforts to entertain the kids. On a long journey, a ringbound pad of paper and a huge supply of felt tips is better than any electronic game. I also find a poetry book preferable to a storybook when travelling with younger children – it's something that you don’t mind reading again and again.
5: Don’t feel duty-bound to take every single option going once you arrive. Your children will still enjoy the trip without that dawn balloon ride. Gentle acclimatisation is just as valuable.
6: Don’t worry about the language barrier. Learn a few phrases of the local language and be prepared for your children to laugh at you. You’ll find you’ll be really appreciated by your hosts.
7: Use your common sense; if you are unsure of the surroundings, its probably not a great idea to venture a long way from your base without the guide after dark. If on the other hand you are in a busy area accustomed to tourists, then go and have a bit of an adventure with your family.
8: Don't worry about catering for different age groups. My children are 7, 9, 12 and 14, so I never bother – we do everything together and it works really well. (I’ve had to let the older two have my camera, however.)
9: Ask yourself 'What is an adventure?'. In my mind, it's something that takes you out of your comfort zone and demands something new – in a good way! So whitewater-rafting in the Pyrenees is just as adventurous as voyaging to the Galapagos. And a single night under canvas was a huge adventure for my city-bred children.
10: Think about the importance of a bit of adventure. It's the spice of life; it broadens your mind, and your childrens’ too. Having an adventure brings you together, whether by crossing a river, riding camels or taking down a tent at dawn. And don’t forget those memories. Family adventures are with you all, for life.
Check out our picks for the best family adventure holidays with children of all ages.