Travelling with children is an infinitely rewarding experience, both for you and your young ones. It gives you the chance to open their eyes to new cultures and landscapes whilst having fun at the beach and larking about in the pool. A family villa holiday is one of those rare times when everyone can let their hair down and leave the worries of everyday life far behind.
Yet it’s not that easy, is it? Sometimes things don’t go to plan and let’s face it, kids aren’t always a delight. When issues arise, being far from home doesn’t help the matter either. We’ve travelled far and wide with our families and have learnt – often the hard way – how to make trips run like a breeze. So, we’ve put together these simple guidelines to help you and your tribe have a stress-free villa holiday with children.
1. Keep packing to a minimum
If you don’t want to spend your trip feeling like an overworked packhorse, consider leaving most of the non-essentials behind. It’s likely that you aren’t travelling to the back of beyond and will in fact be able to buy bits and bobs if required whilst you’re away. There are plenty of shops to be found everywhere from Paphos to Paxos.
Of course, you’ll need to take the fundamentals, like children’s swimming gear, sunscreen, and a few changes of clothing for each person. However, there’s no need to pack new outfits for every day of the week as many private villa holidays include the use of a washing machine.
It’s tempting to take a suitcase full of toys to keep the kids amused, but as the mini explorers are about to discover a whole new playground, there’s really no need. They’ll have beaches, pools, and attractions at their fingertips, which are far more exciting than the latest Buzz Lightyear and Princess Elsa paraphernalia. Ask the children to choose a couple of their favourite things and keep it at that.
2. Stick to sociable flight times
We all know that early-bird and late-night flights are often the cheapest option but consider how these irregular hours will affect your children’s sleep routines. You don’t want them to begin the villa holiday feeling wiped out and grouchy, as this could impact your stay. And no one wants that!
Destinations in Europe like Spain, Croatia and Italy all have several flights a day, so you should have plenty of choice when it comes to scheduling your journey. Aim for a mid-morning or afternoon departure, to avoid bleary-eyed starts and late nights. If you do have an early flight, consider booking into an airport hotel the evening before so that everyone enjoys a decent night’s sleep.
3. Allow extra time for everything
If you have young kids, you’ll already know that time is never on your side. Things always seem to take a bit longer when you have 3-year-old Ryan hanging off your left leg, while baby Olivia reaches decibel levels that are likely to shatter all chandeliers within a 10-mile radius. Villa holidays with children are no different. Only this time you’re in unfamiliar territory with even more things to think about.
Checking in at the airport and passing through security will take infinitely longer with young children in tow. You’ll have to allow more time than you’d need if you were traveling without the kids. The same applies to your daily activities. While you might feel up to undertaking multiple museum visits, a boat trip, and a cable car ride in one fell swoop, the chances are that 8-year-old Maddie might unleash her lower lip at the mere thought. The trick is to keep things flexible with room to maneuver should plans need to change.
4. Keep the snacks handy
No parent is above a little food-related bribery, especially if it leads to a quieter life when overseas. In that vein, it’s a good idea to carry around a few snacks – they can be healthy ones! – to whip out when the need arises. Use the promise of ice cream as a reward, to help manage behavior during the trip. No one is judging!
Children might not always appreciate the delicious delicacies that will be served in the local restaurants. They’ll often leave unfamiliar cuisine untouched, especially if they’re fussy eaters. Whilst it’s important that the kids try new flavors and don’t rely on pizza and chicken nuggets all the time, it makes things easier if they aren’t constantly hungry because of their gastronomic reticence. Having a few snacks in your arsenal for such occasions will be a godsend for all.
5. Manage expectations
Managing expectations and letting the children know what they’ll be doing whilst away is key to an argument-free trip. By making them feel like they’ve had an input into the planning of the villa holiday, kids will be more emotionally invested. They can enjoy the anticipation of building sandcastles in Dalyan or snorkeling with Nemo in Naxos, and when the time comes for the vacation, you’ll already be in their good books.
You will also be able to deal with potential tantrums over activity suggestions before you leave home, ensuring that the trip itself is all about smiles and good times. Of course, it doesn’t always work like this, but if the youngsters know what to expect, they’ll hopefully have less unrealistic demands when you’re away.
A stress-free family villa holiday awaits
It can be a daunting prospect to travel abroad with young children, especially if you’ve not done it before. Yet the rewards far outweigh the potential hassles. Seeing the faces of your young explorers light up when they spot the beach for the first time is worth all the hours of planning that you put in behind the scenes. Just assume that everything will take longer than expected and don’t pack too much. If in doubt, remember that ice cream solves almost everything!