M, the girls and I recently got back from a week away in hot and sunny Jamaica. We stayed at the Jewel Runaway Bay which was a wonderful resort with good food, friendly staff and great amenities for the kids.
A humorous parenting book I once read referenced that travelling with kids is not a vacation, it’s a trip. Your holiday isn’t as relaxing as you want it to be and it sometimes feels like more hassle than it’s worth. Thankfully, our experience was a great one and I attribute it to plenty of planning. Despite having only 4 days to prepare for our getaway (we booked last minute), I used that time to gather advice from fellow parent travellers to make sure I was ready for anything this trip could throw at me.
I want to share my tips for travel with kids but because there is so much information, I will be writing 3 separate posts. Here is the first with tips specific to planning.
1. Do plenty of research. Consider the following when deciding where to go and where to stay:
Where to go:
- Amount of travel – how long can your child tolerate being confined in a car/plane seat?
- Method of travel – car travel offers more flexibility because you can decide when to stop but it also takes longer.
- Time change – if your child is scheduled, this will impact how your days play out. While we were away, our girls stuck to Toronto time for the am and were up at 5:30 every morning.
- Weather – be aware of extreme temperatures as well as any inclement conditions that could be expected (such as hurricane season)
- Activities you want to do – do you want to hang out on a beach? Go shopping? Visit amusements parks?
- Travel warnings – see #2 below
Where to stay:
- Hotel/resort reviews – we checked multiple review sites but Trip Advisor is a great one.
- Size of hotel/resort – we wanted something smaller so there wouldn’t be as many people and the restaurants/pools/beach wouldn’t be as busy. We also didn’t want to have to walk far to access all the different components of the resort. The resort we went with only had about 200 rooms and we lucked out with them only being at 60% capacity for the duration of our stay.
- Food availability – this is something you’ll want to consider if you are staying at a resort. Is there food available all day long? Some resorts only have food at for the breakfast, lunch and dinner windows. Also, is there food that your kids will eat? A buffet is a safe bet but it’s nice to have some other options too.
- Amenities for kids – what is important for your family and its day-to-day functioning? Our resort had a kids’ pool and a daycare/kids’ club while the room had a crib, bathtub (some only have showers) and a mini-fridge to store baby food.
2. Look into travel advisories. It’s important to be aware of anything that may impact your health and personal safety. The Government of Canada has a really great website which lets you know where it is safe to travel and important things to consider. The Public Health Agency of Canada also has a great website which identifies important health information for your destination including vaccines to get, food and water-bourne diseases and insects and illness.
3. Get trip cancellation and health insurance. Travel is expensive and it sucks to have to pay even more for coverage that you probably won’t even use but it’s not worth the risk. Kids are unpredictable and you don’t want to have to cancel your vacation (while still paying for it) because someone came down with a case of chicken pox or pay expensive medical fees if someone falls and breaks their arm. Getting insurance when booking your trip is often the easiest and most cost effective option. While your employer may offer travel health insurance, make sure it is valid for out-of-country travel. Also make sure all of your children have been added to your plan.
4. Make sure you have all appropriate travel documents. In Canada, a passport is required for all children who travel, including infants. Give yourself plenty of time to obtain this document as you will need time for the paperwork to be processed. If travelling on an existing passport, make sure it doesn’t expire anytime soon. Many countries require that your passport be valid for several months after your planned departure date from that country.
5. Ensure you aren’t actively promoting an empty house. Have a neighbour pick up your mail, cancel your paper, install timers on your lights, etc. As difficult as it may be, don’t post on social media to strangers that you are going away. The last thing you want is to come home and find out you’ve been robbed!
6. Set a budget. Trips are expensive and travel, lodging and food add up quickly. Even at an all-inclusive, you’ll need to factor in taxes, excursions and souvenirs. While vacation memories are awesome to have, it’s not worth going into debt to pay for them!
Stay tuned for tips specific to packing and travelling in the next few days.