Over the years we have travelled a lot with our four kids and now we have Granddaughter we are doing it all over again. You can make the journey as easy or as stressful as you want. The key is to be prepared, be organised and to keep things simple.
1. Research Your Journey - If flying make sure transfers are included in your booking or if you are travelling independently book them yourself ahead of your holiday to guarantee a seat. If you are more adventurous you could travel by public transport. In the days before kids I wouldn't bother booking seats, instead choosing to live by the seat of my pants, in those days I didn't care if I had to plonk my bum on the floor but with a brood in tow my advice is to research your journey thoroughly and book seats. If travelling by train buy a family railcard, it will save you a small fortune.
2. Pack A Snack Bag - Pack a bag of snacks with drinks, biscuits, dried fruit, crisps etc. Whatever your kids like to snack on, just in case you end up delayed and the kids get hungry. Station and airport prices can be a bit expensive and sometimes you might be stuck somewhere with no shop in sight, so a bag of snacks is essential. The best drinks to pack are capri suns as they are not as heavy to carry as bottles and cartons. N.B - Restrict drinks as much as you can though, as toilets are not always readily available.
3. Kids Backpacks - Give each child their own small backpack and include some activities inside for the journey. Things like, Colouring pens, pencils or crayons, colouring book, note pad for writing (you could encourage them to write a journal about their trip), a teddy bear or comforter, a blow up neck rest or pillow, Hand held games console, ipod with audio books, a book and travel games like Connect 4, chess, playing cards etc.
4. Don't Forget the Teens - They need entertaining too so make sure wherever you stay they have good facilities for teenagers like a disco, teen sports, local adventure/theme parks, a great pool and cool local attractions. If you can afford to squeeze in an extra one, then let your teen bring along a friend, trust me they will love you forever as they enjoy their holiday much more with their best friend. Just think no teen whinging "I'm bored!" when they have someone to disco with.
5. Research Local Attractions - If you research your destination thoroughly, finding out where all the local hot spots are it will help you make decisions about the best places to visit with kids and who offer the best facilities for the ages of your kids. Get your teens involved by asking them to find a cool local attraction on Google before you leave. Discussing local historical sites with them will encourage them to gain an interest and some knowledge about your destination. I remember when I was a kid, my Mum pointing out local architecture every where we went, and at the time I would roll my eyes but now I'm a 'grown up' I love old buildings and do the same to my own kids. Buy them a fun kids local map to get them excited about the area. All kids love maps!
6. Don't Forget Ted - Whatever you do, don't forget your child's favourite teddy and/or comforter. Bedtime in a strange bed can be horrendous for some kids (and parents) and their ted or blankie can help them settle. Make sure you tie a label around its neck with your email address just in case your child loses it or leaves it behind.
7. Essentials Bag - Make sure you have a bag with wipes, sun cream, hand wash, tissues, sick bag, travel sickness tablets, a fleece, spare socks, mints or barley sugars for bigger kids & a dummy for toddlers to suck on your flight (to help prevent ears popping during take off & landing).
8. Research the local Dishes - This is particularly important if you have a fussy eater and you are travelling abroad. If you make a note of local popular foods, then establish what your fussy eater would like, it could help with any expected melt downs in the restaurant.
9. Keep Luggage To A Minimum - The last thing you want when travelling with kids is to struggle with big heavy bags. Keep suitcases small and preferably on wheels. Keep your packing to a minimum and resist taking too many pairs of shoes, handbags and unnecessary items. I'd rather do some washing on my holiday than drag heavy bags around when travelling.
10. Packing - Roll clothes to prevent creasing, pack medicines like calpol, piriton and pain killers, insect repellent, antiseptic cream, plasters, re-hydration salts and medicine for diarrhea. Remember to take a few pegs, travel wash, needle & cotton. Pack swimwear in your hand luggage so you can use the pool while you are waiting for your room to be ready.