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Five top tips for happy family travels

With many of us mums and dads ourselves at Holiday Extras, we know about the ways of the little people, and the not-so-little ones too. From painful personal experience, we can understand the amazing highs and inevitable lows of family holidays. Happily there are ways to avoid total family meltdown when you embark on your long-awaited trip.

Family travels and how to survive them!

Canny planning

Family travels, beach kids

Travelling with kids isn't always fun and games. Image: Daquella Manera under Creative Commons licence.

It may sound obvious, but spend some valuable time researching family-friendly destinations and accommodation before you book. We don’t all head for all-inclusive resorts with children’s clubs, so if you prefer a more tailor-made stay, make sure that your villa, hotel, or apartment is geared up for the rigours of family life. Have a look at specialist sites such as Tots to Travel and Baby-friendly Boltholes, particularly if you have very young children.

Don’t just assume that local restaurants will provide high chairs and a healthy kids’ menu, check it out first. And highlight a few activities your brood might enjoy in the region before you go - not all holiday villas will offer local tourist information in English.

If you’re going to be self-catering it’s also worth finding out where the local supermarkets are before you set off. A late night arrival with no basic provisions will not fill everyone with holiday cheer. Many self-catering providers offer a welcome pack - say yes to this even if you don’t think you’ll need it.

And don't forget those hours at the airport before you fly. An airport lounge is actually very affordable, and a welcome escape from the stresses of the departure lounge for all of you.

The No 1 Lounges at Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted and Birmingham are well set up for family travellers, with table football, board games, TVs and free unlimited wifi. Please note that young people over the age of 12 are classed as adults.

Safety in numbers - travel with friends or family

This isn’t always practical, but if you have friends or family with children of similar ages who get on, a whole raft of common holiday issues can be avoided. It’s brilliant how much fun little ones can have on the flight, exploring their temporary home, sharing a room, visiting new places, and eating different foods when they have a partner in crime or two - and how draining they can be when they are tired of travelling, bored of their own family and missing their own things. Be prepared for disputes though!

The grown-ups may well appreciate some varied adult company during the evenings too, and there may even be the possibility of a babysitter and the rare opportunity to venture out after dark.

Thank you iPad

A world of family entertainment is at your fingertips with Apple's ubiquitous tablet (or an alternative brand of course). It's not cheap but may well prove a treasured long-term investment, if you don't already own one. Fully loaded with Peppa Pig, Alvin and the Chipmunks, music and games galore, it is possible to entertain an almost two-year old and a five-year old for at least two hours on a plane - tried and tested!

And during your holiday this sort of device can be a life-saver, whether dealing with determined early risers or reluctant restaurant diners. It’s not bad for entertaining the big people either.

Old school activities

It’s not all about technology; games you remember from your childhood still work today. I-spy, count the red cars, ten green bottles, kids love them. You might be losing the will to live after the tenth round of I-spy, but it’s easier to bear than Justin Fletcher’s greatest hits on repeat. Books, small toys from home, and a drawing pad and some pens will always come in handy on holiday, as will some well-timed treats.

Water and snacks - don’t get caught without them, ever!

Despite being an obsessively well-organised parent at home, one summer I made the classic error of ending up with no water or snacks late at night at a car hire office near Malaga airport. Something to note, this does not make sweaty, tired, hungry children happy or nice. No one was happy or nice by the time we reached our villa two hours later, but thankfully the owners had provided an amazingly generous welcome pack which filled the fridge for days.

How do you keep everyone sane during your family travels? Share your top tips for a harmonious holiday with us below, and if you enjoyed this post like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Google+

Written by Maxine Clarke, follow her on Twitter @travellingmax, or email maxine.clarke@holidayextras.com

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