Holidays are a vital part of life: not only for a change of scenery and the chance to do something different, but also for the opportunity to recharge your batteries and spend quality time with your family.
The catch is that holidays can be big, black holes as far as money goes. Once you’ve paid for transport and accommodation, you’ve still got to pay for meals and entertainment for the whole family. For this reason, resorts are ideal for families because everything is there under one roof. Many also offer package deals which include the cost of airfares, some meals, and free kids’ club membership to make them even more affordable. It is worth checking out a few different options as many resorts offer great value specials from time to time. Value for money is the goal and, while airport transfers and some of the extras may not sound very exciting, they all add up if you have to pay them as you go.
What are you looking for?
There are times in your lives when all you want is to send the kids to a kids’ club so you can rest, read a book or have a massage. Other times you might be hoping for some family bonding time. Most parents will be looking for a balance between these options, so they’ll need to find a destination with organised activities for the kids but also plenty of things the whole family can do together.
The other important considerations when choosing a destination are the age of your children and your budget.
- Beach holidays are excellent for children of all ages and beach-side resorts with child-care facilities are particularly good for families with infants and toddlers.
- Overseas destinations are great for introducing kids to different cultures.
- Farm-stays are great fun for kids aged between 4 and 12 years, allowing them to become involved with farming while you enjoy the fresh country air.
- Activity holidays such as skiing, cycling or trekking are perfect for older kids and create an excellent opportunity for some family bonding.
- Theme parks are irresistible for all children – and a lot of fun for most parents too. Family holiday destinations such as the Gold Coast and Disneyland are guaranteed winners for kids of all ages.
Choosing the perfect destination
- Work out your budget and ask around for packages and deals. Try a few different places for ideas.
- Don’t rule out a destination because it seemed too expensive last time you checked. Seasonal specials are always on offer somewhere – a new resort might be opening, or an airline might be promoting a new route.
- Thinking overseas? Check the exchange rates before you do anything else. Also, make sure car hire etc. is booked from Australia – it is much cheaper to book from home.
- Involve older kids in choosing the destination. What do they want to do?
- Travel agents actually visit places to check them out for you, so take the time to chat to your agent as they might come up with ideas you haven’t thought of. The Internet is a good source of information once you have an idea of where you want to go.
- Ask friends for personal recommendations from recent holidays.
- Looks like an exhausting list, but if you’ve planned the holiday, you will be able to relax when you’re there.
- Passports and visas – check validity of current documents and order new passports for children and infants. Check visa requirements, order travellers cheques, make sure you know how to access cash overseas (are there ATMs for your credit card?).
- Take out travel insurance.
- Consult your doctor about any medical requirements.
- Pack enough for everyone but not the dishwasher, too!
- Buying holiday clothes at your destination can be fun – T-shirts become souvenirs. Add to the holiday fun by exploring local markets for bargains.
- Take two suitcases – one for you and one for the kids (it makes life on the road a whole lot easier).
- Take backpacks so the kids can carry some of their own holiday stuff.
- Check ahead about car seats and other equipment you may need.
Questions to ask before you leave home
- Does the resort have family or adjoining rooms and facilities such as cots, highchairs and bottle warmers?
- Does the adjoining room have access to the corridor? This can pose a security risk even for small children.
- Does the resort have an accredited or professionally-run child-care centre with facilities for infants/toddlers and activity programs for older children?
- Is there a children’s menu and kids’ meal plan (preferable nutritious)?
- Are activities such as windsurfing and tennis included in the room fee? (Otherwise your teenage children may run up a hefty bill.)
- Does the room have a VCR or in-house list of kids’ movies?
- Is there a guest laundry?
- Does the hotel shop stock essentials such as nappies and milk?
- Does your room have a fridge in which to store milk and cold drinks?
- Are there tea/coffee facilities and a toaster for DIY breakfasts?
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