The best you can do to optimize your vacation as a mom is to plan 80% of your trip ahead. For when you’re with kids, either you can enjoy the day with them or you waste time thinking about things to do after you get up in the last 10 minutes before the free hotel breakfast ends. Along with all the mess, you have to think hard what your toddler can possibly eat from the buffet simultaneously, before your partner starts blaming you for ruining the day.
Here are a few categories that need to be scheduled, or at the minimum listed somewhere a month or two ahead to avoid wasting quality time with your family.
When choosing the hotel, keep in mind
- Location– Look at the map view, list in your mind the attractions near your hotel. My favorite hotel booking website is www.booking.com which has maps, reviews and great deals if you plan ahead. Try looking for the city center district as it is easy to access the attractions without wasting time. The more you pay for staying in the heart of the city , the lesser is the cost of traveling and time wasted on the way + which saves you some time to visit nearby markets for souvenir shopping and discovering street food.
- Make sure you filter your search by selecting “family rooms” in the hotel facility section, otherwise you might end up in a non-kid-friendly atmosphere which will make others and yourself uncomfortable.
- I personally prefer room with a kitchenette as I never know what my toddlers might want in the middle of the night.
- Always consider the room size before choosing the room, as kids need space to move. My preferred size is always more than 20-25 msq.
- ALWAYS READ REVIEWS! – Read hotel reviews thoroughly, especially any negative ones that are below 5 stars. Read reviews on TripAdvisor, your booking website and on one search engine e.g Google too. The random visitors only can give you actual insight of the property, e.g the rooms might seem perfect in the photographed pictures and stars rating, but one visitor wrote “the bathroom ceiling was so low my head was touching it” or “the wooden floor shown in the picture does not exist in every room”, or “the hotel was perfect, but the neighborhood was slightly shady, prostitutes were roaming around every corner”. These might seem little things but are a useless source of discomfort which you never want to face especially with kids.
- Try to book a hotel instead of guesthouse/apartment. They might be cheap, but do not offer all facilities a family could need. Plus you are mostly unaware which floor is the apartment and the elevator conditions. So book a hotel in advance to save money.
- Last but not the least- request your hotel for airport shuttle/pickup service, no-matter how much they charge you. It becomes much easier to get to the hotel when you’re in a new city for the first time with kids.
Things to consider while booking your flights:
- Read airline reviews– Not every airline is child friendly. My best are airline experience so far is Qatar airways which is excellent in every aspect.
- Confirm first if they have bassinet seats available.
- Chose minimum stopover time.
- Flight timings– try getting night flights so that the kid’s sleep routine is not affected. In case of connecting flights, chose the longer leg of the flight to be closest to your kid’s home sleep time instead of the smaller one.
- Book in advance-save lots!
- Never compromise on any of the above for getting cheap flights because they always have hidden details which are not at all recommended for families with kids. Plus get your bookings from the airline’s official website instead of cheap flight finder websites as they offer only non-refundable, inflexible flights and have a lot of restrictions.
What to pack
In my earlier article about back-pack list for traveling with toddlers I mentioned a detailed list of essentials to pack before leaving the house with toddlers. Other than that, there are a few more things which help a lot during travel of more than a weeks time, which are:
- Pack some basic grains, tiny packets of jam/spreads, instant noodles, oats sachets, etc, e.g my kids favorite meal is “khichri” for which I usually pack 200 gm each of rice and two types of lentils in a zip lock bag. If your’e unable to find any sort of toddler food some day, your room kitchenette and small grain packets can save them from sleeping hungry.
- Get small 100 gm packet of detergent, for when your kids have soiled the last clothes, you can save on expensive hotel laundry service.
- Buy swimwear and floaters ahead, as the water parks and tourist destinations sell them with a lot of margin.
- Your travel kit must have a section of essential medicines, band-aid and antibacterial whichever you use regularly. Some countries don’t sell specific medicines without prescription. Also keep a pair of calf/ankle supports in case of an unexpected long walking day.
- Look for weather forecast and pack shoes and clothes accordingly.
- The most important thing which makes up my husband’s mornings is tea. And trust me there is no place in the whole wide world which can serve you your desired Pakistani morning tea, so recently we discovered Tapal’s 3 in 1 instant tea sachets, which are closest to our blend and are a blessing indeed.
- Download offline maps of the places you’re visiting so that it’s easy to explain taxi drivers where to go even if you haven’t bought any local data package.