Family Holiday Travel Tips – from a Mum who’s had her share of epic parenting fails!

As a family we love travelling on holiday.  Along the way, we’ve made a load of mistakes and endured epic parenting fails.  Here are our top travel tips for a stress-free family holiday.


Rock, Paper, Scissors….

Trying to encourage independence and a travelling spirit in our kids from a young age, we would read articles like this about travel tips and let them pack their own rucksacks for the holiday.  You know the kind of thing, a few books and a couple of toys.  In hindsight it would have been better to check these carry-on bags before we hit Security and the Officer found the kiddie scissors that our daughter planned to cut up her magazine with.  Another time there was the saga of the water-filled toy that our son didn’t want to be parted from.  The looks of shame from the other travellers!

Get a stand-in (or a look-a-like)

Our kids always want to take their favourite teddy, which they’ve had since birth and this is high risk.  We are still looking for ‘blanky’ who fell out of the car somewhere between France and Switzerland on a road trip four years ago.  If you don’t want to spend the whole of your holiday checking that Tigger is still with you, then have a backup teddy!!

I can admit it.

Back everyone else away from the main packing.  This is one area where I don’t let everyone get involved.  Maybe I’m a bit of a control freak but I am old enough now to bravely admit that I am ‘A List Person’.  I’ve made lists for all kinds of holidays – Devon beach holiday Winter (I have another one for Summer), Hot holiday, Skiing, Camping kit list, Poolside kit etc. I know, so sad, shoot me now.  What it means is that I have a list of the majority of the stuff we’ll need and I refine it over time and take stuff off the list that we didn’t use.

We abandoned an inflatable unicorn and x-wing at the packing stage last time as their weight alone was more than one person’s allowance – doh – what was I thinking?  I add any stuff that we needed (refillable water bottle for by the pool and walkie talkies).

Plan ahead and then let the kids take charge.

We went to the Azores last summer and did some amazing hikes, we were a bit apprehensive, but it turned out the kids loved it!! We found some route maps and let the kids take it turns leading our hikes. It got them involved in planning the route and spared us the ‘how much further?’ whinging. Try to plan ahead and book some kids activities in advance, this means this you can get them excited about some of the adventures they are going to have.  It also avoids doing it all on your phone when you get there or wasting precious family holiday time in queues.

Step to it

If you’re planning to do much walking, take a step tracker.  We stumbled on this idea by chance but taking a step tracker (even a really basic one which literally just counts steps) transformed our hikes.  It was even great on the trek through the airport.  It turned a slog into a challenge and they ended up happily walking further so they could beat their step target. Result.  When it came to putting these travel tips together, this one had to make the cut.

Holiday Screen-time

Hmmmm, this is always a challenge in our house and the cause of many battles – the kids want more and we want less but secretly it is handy at times and I’m guilty of relaxing the rules when it suits me.  Travelling brings another dimension as suddenly tablets can be your new best friend. We try to download movies onto their tablets and take head-phones, so they can watch whilst on long car journeys or plane trips – the upside of this is that you get to listen to the music you want in the car!! And not the kids play list for the thousandth time.

Once you arrive at your destination the usual screen-time battles emerge. Apologies for the shameless plug at this point, but one of the reasons we created DiaryZapp was that we believe that if our children are going to spend time on their tablet then as parents we want to make sure they are also learning something. DiaryZapp is an interactive and fun kids holiday diary app, which allows kids to capture timeless memories and gives you some guilt free screen time and a few minutes peace. You can take 20 minutes for yourself, have a glass of wine in peace, finish the chapter of your holiday book or chill.  To download and get more information go to or search for DiaryZapp in your App Store. Don’t just take my word for it check out the reviews.


Sunscreen, I know this is obvious but make sure you have super good sunscreen protection for kids.  We’ve found that a reluctant small person who argues about sun-cream will probably be happy with a cool rash vest with a hidden SPF of 50 and this reduces the areas that need covering!! If you get any bright ideas on how to get boys to wear sun hats and keep them on, I’d love to hear them!

Healing Power

When we travel we always take the basics and plasters are an essential.  Currently Star Wars are the favourite, which is a relief to my Husband as last year he ended up sporting a Disney princess plaster as it was all we had available! Other key items are the mandatory bottle of Calpol, not sure how we would have got through the early years without it, some kids antihistamine and antiseptic wipes  If you’re off somewhere exotic then spray to keep the bugs at bay is an essential.  Oh and I always take the precaution of picking up a bottle of gin in Duty Free if we’re going abroad (not sure that counts as medical kit but it certainly helps to counteract my own holiday trauma).

Think of it as an investment

Take photos of your travel documents.  Yawn.  This sounds like a pain to do and most of the time it will be unnecessary but if something happened and you lost your passport, bag or hire car, then having this info to hand will really help.  It also means then when you need a reference number or an address it’s all on your phone rather than buried in reems of paper.

Go Tactical on car journeys

If you’ve got a lot of miles to cover, write the day off as a travel day and plan a visit on the way that everyone will enjoy.  Going to see Grandad 6 hours away is a lot more appealing if there’s a stop at a country park or a pub with a garden to look forward to.

The other option, and we did this lots when the kids were tiny is to Go Tactical and drive through the night.  Get the kids ready for bed as normal, even into pj’s or something comfy, then into the car and drive.  Get going and cover the miles while the goings good and the kids are asleep.  Take shifts and share the driving if you can – I made the mistake of thinking it would be a great surprise to have covered loads more miles then expected on my shift while everyone was asleep but at 3 am I missed a turning and overshot the motorway and ended up adding another 6 hours and an accidental tour of Europe.  They still haven’t let me forget about it.

I’ll just chalk it up alongside the other parenting fails.

DiaryZapp is available in all app stores now for £2.99 with no in-app purchases or ads click here to buy now  If you want to find out more about DiaryZapp or the madcap parents that are behind it