March 7, 2007

Planning Tips

Most children loathe long car journeys, and will distract you endlessly with queries about: "When are we there..."

Where possible, plan destinations that have a short transfer time from the airport or the ferry.

If you do choose a touring holiday, make sure you are not in the car for more than three or four hours a day, and ensure you have lots of breaks in between: a sight-seeing holiday in a car is no holiday for children.

A "staying put" holiday can be the best option, because this will give them time to make friends (if they aren't going away with other children).

Aged four to 12 they can cope with hotter conditions and climate, and as long as they aren't unusually timid, will adore activities that test their skills, such as fishing trips, whitewater rafting, biking, horse riding and sailing.

A safari would be a memorable experience for a child of this age, combining a foreign culture with their love of animals.

If you are intending a cultural break, to Paris, for example, keep sight-seeing to a couple of days: the threshold before which they become bored of museums and busy city centres is very brief.

Combine it with a place they can run around and let off steam, such as Disneyland Paris. That way you both feed your souls - you with culture, history and monuments, they with Mickey Mouse.

Here are some helpful planning tips:

  • Involve children in the planning stage of the holiday. Talk about where you're thinking of going, what you will see and do and ask what they would like to do. It will double their anticipation!
  • Take into account the type of children you have. If you have timid, clingy children, do not book them into a full-time kids' club while you laze by the pool. What are their interests and hobbies?
  • Holidays at this age are all about compromise. If you want to relax by the pool while your partner wants to play golf and your children are mad on football and horse-riding, choose a resort which offers all four
  • Holiday companies such as Mark Warner or Club Med are excellent for this age group, because they offer an all-inclusive price combined with endless children's activities
  • You probably won't want to isolate yourself in a rural villa, unless you go with friends. The children will play in the pool, but will quickly get bored and want to go off and do something
  • Think carefully about your children's ages - a four-year-old has quite different needs to a ten-year-old.

If you choose a resort, it will need to cater for these differences - independence and challenge for the elder, safe yet fun activities for the younger.

  • Buy books and tapes about where you are going, and let your child look up the destination on a map or globe
  • School is a big part of children's lives at this age, so find out which projects or subjects they have been learning about, and build this interest into the holiday: if they've been studying the Romans, for example, and you're going to Italy or the Med, there's bound to be an ancient villa or temple nearby
  • If you promise to do something exciting, such as swimming with dolphins, try to make sure it happens. Promises are very important to children of this age, and failure to keep them will colour their entire holiday
  • Don't force your child to do something they don't want to do. If they are not confident swimmers, they will not enjoy whitewater rafting.

Similarly, it is not a sensible thing to introduce your children to an activity such as horse-riding on holiday. It is potentially scary, and might put them off for life.

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