Thinking it Through Making the Choice
The Underlying Choices
Weather and Seasonal Issues
What Children want
What Parents want
Making the Booking
Practicalities Thinking it Through The Underlying Choices
Once you know what you want, you have to make further choices. These are based on external factors.
Too hot, too cold or too wet can all ruin a holiday. There is no guaranteeing the weather but it is worth thinking about what would be most comfortable.
Note that temperature charts in brochures are generally designed to sell the destination. In hotter destinations they will probably give temperatures in the shade, not out on the sand, in city centres, or on archaeological sites and it will be a lot hotter in the middle of the day.
Where the weather may be cooler the quoted temperature may be the daily maximum, reached only around midday. Winds are seldom taken into account but as well as being cooling can be irritating, especially on a sandy beach.
Different parents and children have different needs when it comes to this. If you have young children it is sensible when making a holiday booking to spell out your requirements on the subject of stairs, hard floors, balconies, walls, drops, neighbouring roads and more. Nowhere is completely safe but you will make life easier for yourself if you know what you are getting. See Safety for more thoughts.
If you have any concerns about these you need to pick your destination with care. Even holiday resorts do not always offer major hospitals, or many English-speaking doctors.
If you are a parent who visits the GP regularly with your child, you need to think particularly carefully about what holiday destinations are suitable. For your own peace of mind you will need to know you have access to a doctor and the back-up of a reliable medical service and pharmaceutical supplies.
This rules out Third World destinations. (One mother felt travel in India with her family was like playing Russian Roulette with her children because of the absence of decent medical services.) Most second world destinations (Russia, Latin America) are also not advisable if you have any concerns.
If you want to be sure of access to an appropriate doctor you should pick a travel operator which can provide details of one, or consider a cruise which will have a doctor on board and probably a couple of nurses as well.
Make sure you get contact details before or as soon as you arrive so you know you have them if there is a need. However, bear in mind that any visits are almost certainly going to have to be paid for and, unless the condition is serious, will probably not cost quite enough to exceed the excess on your travel insurance policy.
If your child is prone to any particular childhood ailments, choose a holiday on which they wouldn't be catastrophic.
This means, if given to ear infections, avoid anything which involves flying. Cancelling the holiday if you can't leave home is bad enough, but what if your child gets an infection at the end of the holiday and you can't get back?
If colds are a common problem, look for somewhere where there is more in the way of entertainment than sun and swimming, which might not be suitable for a few days.
See also Health.
How long you are willing to travel will depend on your children (Getting There - Overview). Driving (Getting There - Car) or flying (Getting There - Flying) for any significant length of time is no fun for parents or children unless the latter are reasonably good at sitting still/sleeping/amusing themselves. You need to take into account on all sectors of the trip, including airport/station waits and transfers at the other end. It is wise to check this out before booking.
You can plan to take all the nappies, formula, wipes etc that you are going to need and the space that leaves in your luggage can be useful for taking home anything you buy. However, if you want to be on the safe side you might like to think about how easy it is to obtain such things on the spot.
Not all festivals or events will suit those with children but there are a few which might appeal such as the German Christmas markets.
There are a number of issues connected to the time of year you choose to travel:
- Budget Though the obvious choice is always the school holidays and half terms, holidays are naturally cheaper outside those periods.
- Crowds Go off season and of course there will be fewer other tourists about. In dedicated resorts this can bee a little sad but in less touristy destinations it can be a bonus.
- Weather The disadvantage of travelling other than in summer is that if you do want warmth, you have to travel farther to find it. Any destination closer than north Africa may well be chilly, even at Easter.
- School Objections As head teachers are becoming keener to improve their rating in the absentee tables, it is becoming harder to take children out of school. One way of getting round this is to discuss with the school what the learning benefits of the trip might be and if possible come up with a format for this acceptable to the school (A Learning Opportunity). However, the more high-flying private schools may well not agree to this if they have a strict programme of expected progression for their pupils.
(updated 15 April, 2006)