This post is being used as part of a travelling with kids feature on Anytrip for more tips check out what other parent bloggers had to say.
There's a reason they publish specific books about travelling with kids - it's different.
So my first and most important tip to anyone travelling with kids is forget everything you know. Forget the holidays you had before. Forget the expression 'carry on only'. Travelling with children is wonderful and fulfilling and can be every bit as enjoyable - it's just different and you need to be prepared for that.
I am no expert but I have learnt some things along the way and I've been asked to share them so here goes.
If it's feasible and affordable get 2 adjoining rooms or a room with 2 bedrooms. The first time we stayed in a hotel with Noah it was a self contained 1 bedroom apartment. We had thought a lot about wanting a fridge and cooking facilities and a washing machine. What we didn't think about was that at 6.30 every night when Noah (11 months) went to bed we would essentially have to sit in near silence and darkness while he slept. The only thing that saved our sanity was a laptop and Season 2 of Underbelly!
Our second foray into hotel accommodation we remembered what we had learnt and booked a much more spacious 2 bedroom 2 storey apartment. We live in a two storey house and Noah (18 months) was fine with stairs so we thought we had hit the jackpot. We didn't ask about what kind of staircase it was and when we got there we discovered it was a very stylish polished wood floating staircase with void spaces between each step and no way to attach the safety rail we had smartly brought along.
Ask questions when booking accommodation. Ask if balconies are child friendly. Ask if they have any safety equipment they can offer you.
When you get there do a reconnaissance of the room. Move things out of drawers and cupboards and put them in safe places. Don't be afraid to re-arrange the room to suit your family's needs and your children's safety. Blu Tack can be your best friend. It can be used to subdue sharp corners on furniture, cover power outlets and also to assist to keep drawers and cupboards shut.
We have travelled with Noah by plane, boat, bus, train and car with varying degrees of success. It all depends on the ages of the children and the times and distances being travelled.
I have always found that if kids are tired the fact of being restrained in a car means they relax and go to sleep so I think for car travel it's all about personal preference. It certainly pays to be prepared - bring snacks, favourite toys, cd's, books, spare dummies - whatever you need.
We have one of those portable DVD players that straps onto the back of the headrest but so far even though we have done some pretty substantial driving holidays we've barely used it. Engage your child - talk about the scenery, spot cows, sing songs, count, dance in your seat. Take the opportunity to talk, discuss, teach. Enjoy - isn't that why you're all on holidays together anyway?
We tried to stick to some routine's while driving so we gave Noah his bedtime 'snuggly' and his milk when it was time to nap and for the most part it has been successful.
Travelling by plane for us though has been a whole different beast. For us we have learnt that it does not pay to fly with a tired child. If it is at all possible fly at a time they should normally be awake and entertain them with books/movies/drawing. We were under the mistaken assumption that if we jumped on a plane at bedtime he would go off to sleep and everyone would travel happy. WRONG - the atmosphere going through airports and boarding planes is all very disruptive and overstimulating so what happens is you have an overtired child way past the point of sleep in a locked capsule with hundreds of people and fluorescent lighting - disaster.
There are a million more things I could tell you about travelling with kids but the most important thing of all is to just go out and do it. It will not be like any holiday you have ever had before. You will more than likely not sip any cocktails by the pool - or if you do it won't be in peace. You will do things you may never have done before. (like be in your hotel room safe and sound by 6.30 every night) You will see things through fresh eyes and best of all no matter whether it's a road trip and sleeping in a tent or you're travelling overseas in fancy hotels you will be giving your child an invaluable education.