The summer holidays are almost here. Cue lots of excitement at ditching the school run followed by sheer panic at the thought of six weeks of entertaining your kids. We’ll be spending the final two weeks of the school holidays at the amazing Club Letoonia in Fethiye, Turkey and already the thought of packing is popping into my mind. If you’re going abroad for the first time with kids, or just need to refresh your memory since last year, here’s some tips on getting ready for a holiday with kids.
1. Make sure your passports are up to date. I know what you’re thinking. ‘Well, THAT’S obvious.‘ But it’s surprising how expiry dates creep up on you. If you’ve got a new addition to the family, make sure you’ve got them a passport in the first place. I mean, it would be just terrible if you had to leave one of your kids behind, wouldn’t it?
2. Start getting your kids’ clothes ready a month before.
I’m not kidding. After you’ve located last year’s summer clothes and realised that a) the moths have got to them b) they don’t fit and c) you hadn’t even realised because our summers are so rubbish you’re all still wearing jumpers in July (this week being the exception), you’ve now got the unenviable task of buying entire summer wardrobes for your kids. And you’ll be glad you didn’t leave it until a couple of days beforehand, like I did one year. Once you’ve got the clothes? The fun really begins. Because you continually have to explain to your kids why ‘NO ONE CAN WEAR ANYTHING THAT IS DESTINED FOR HOLIDAY BEFORE THE ACTUAL HOLIDAY.’
3. Start packing at least one week before.
Daddy Pig always rolls his eyes when I ask him to GET THE SUITCASES out the week before we go. If he had his way, we would scrabble around the night before wondering where we put them when we got back last time. ‘All you have to do is throw some pants in a case,’ is his standard response when I ask for the suitcases. ‘No, all YOU have to do is throw some pants in a case,‘ I say. ‘I have to do just a little bit more than that. Shopping, packing, toiletries, hand luggage, car parking, currency, catsitters…’ UGH.
4. Think about what you’re going to be doing when you’re there and pack appropriately.
In my experience, you always need less than you think. Kids are messy and it’s really tempting to take three million t-shirts, 400 pairs of shorts and a washing machine. But, at Club Letoonia, we spend all day at the pool and the beach and our kids live in their swimwear and hooded towels. Which means they’re really only wearing actual clothes in the evening to dinner, the mini-disco and the evening show. So for a two week holiday I pack 10-14 outfits each and that’s it. Sometimes, I’m so busy packing for the kids I completely forget to pack anything for myself. DISASTER. Also? It’s so hot in Turkey in August that our two year old toddler will live in nappies and t-shirts so I won’t even bother with the 400 pairs of shorts. Just the washing machine.
5. Take a kindle, NOT five books that you won’t even read.
The best bit about Club Letoonia is all the activities they have for the kids and the amazing boat boys who manage the sailing and pedaloes. This means that I manage to chill out on a sun lounger and read at least two books whilst we’re away. But five books? That weigh about 10 KG? That an airplane is charging you to transport? Even I’m not that unrealistic. If you don’t own a kindle yet, now’s the time to get one (make sure you buy the backlit one. I was a cheapskate and didn’t and now I totally wish I had.)
6. You do NOT need 12 bottles of suncream. If you go by the directions on the back of the suncream and the amount they say you should be using per person, this equates to 12 bottles of suncream for our family of five. 12! Our first year at Club Letoonia, I actually took this many and then brought about eight home with us. I’d forgotten that because my kids are still small, they wear sunsuits most of the time, which means that the only skin exposed is, erm, their faces, ears and toes. Still, it was great fun lugging the suncream there and back.
7. Research the resort and book things in advance. If it’s your first time going to a place, do a bit of research before you go. Because it’s often easier to do this stuff without tired, impatient kids hanging off you, as you struggle to get your bearings. This will be our third year at Club Letoonia, so we know exactly what to expect and with three kids under seven, that means our holiday starts the minute we step off the plane. Who am I kidding? It started the minute we got ON the plane and I ordered my first G&T.
8. Speaking of planes, make sure you have some in-flight entertainment. I can highly recommend calpol for them. And gin for you. It’s a combination I’ve personally tried and tested to get three kids under six across the ocean. In desperate times, I’ve also had the calpol.
9. Dress your kids in layers for the journey. Remember that feeling when you leave a very cool UK dressed for winter, then step off the plane as the heat hits you? Minimise the whining from hot and sweaty kids by dressing them in layers so you can whip off cardigans and leggings as soon as you land. You can also do the same, assuming you’re wearing layers and not just, erm, stripping off. No one likes a naked parent.
10. Mix your clothes up when you pack. We travel light because we hate ‘stuff’ (aside from the 12 bottles of suncream haha). We only take two suitcases and a holdall between five of us. I used to pack all the kids’ stuff in one suitcase and all our stuff in the other. Then one day it occurred to me that if we lost one of the suitcases, we’d be a bit stuffed (especially if it was the one with all MY clothes in). So now, I make sure that each suitcase has a mix of all our clothes. This is possibly the most pre-meditated, organised thing I do in our lives. Most of the time, I’m that mum that’s scrabbling around for a quid because I’ve forgotten it’s dressing-up charity day at school. AGAIN.
11. Don’t panic. Unless you’re going to the depths of the rainforest, which I’m thinking you probably wouldn’t be with kids, you’re not leaving complete civilisation. At Club Letoonia, there are shops. There are nappies. More importantly? There’s gin. So whatever you forget, you either didn’t really need it in the first place. Or you can buy it when you get there. Bon voyage!