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House of Travel
Rachel O'Malley and her family of five, including husband Ryan and three kids aged seven, nine and 11, love to travel together. So much so they’re a dab hand at family getaways. We decided to document their most recent trip to the Gold Coast, to see exactly what makes a family holiday flow.
Booking the holiday
How do you choose a holiday that you know will be enjoyed by all family members?
Since we all surf and love adventures we often look to more interesting exotic locations that have a mix of surfing, different cultures, easy travel, great accommodation and the ocean. The beach is always an easy way to ensure the kids will have fun, know where we (their parents) are and provide time for us all to relax.
What key considerations do you take into account for a family getaway?We often look for a spot where travel is easy and not too time consuming, especially if it's just for the week, you don't want to spend the entire time adjusting to a new time zone. We need somewhere relaxed so we can make the most of hanging out together as a family.
How do you pick the right accommodation?
For us, somewhere that is affordable - a kitchen always makes it easier to cook meals together and self-catering makes it more affordable and relaxed. Having a pool for the kids is also high on the list. We have a great consultant at House of Travel, Carol, who knows location is important to us. Whether that's on the beach or somewhere for views and tranquility, Carol puts us where we need to be.
What key things do you do to prepare for a family getaway?
We triple check medical suggestions and buy things we need that might not be available to purchase once there, such as sport equipment. I check everyone's passports and buy travel insurance. Before we leave, I check what’s happening in the local area, Carol is great at this point because she usually gets us up to speed with key places for eating and shopping. Finally, I organise some fun games and take snacks to occupy kids on the flight.
What top items do you always buy before a family holiday?
Sunscreen, medical kit, drawing pad and pens for the kids and a decent mozzie repellant. When the children were very little I used to take a little mosquito net to put over their cot. We also take a trip to the library for any new books we want to read.
Do you find it necessary to plan for every eventuality when you have children in tow?
No, but we always make sure we have a great medical kit. Nowadays you can research anything you need to know before you go, or even while you're there.
Transfers, airports & planes
What’s your strategy for a stress free airport check-in?
Arrive early and get one adult to check-in while the other looks after the kids. Don't take too many bags and book airport parking ahead of your trip. It's a little more expensive but it saves on hassle. Another great tip is to create a scavenger hunt in the airport lounge, with things the kids have to mark off a list.
How do you keep your kids entertained on long plane journeys?
We don't tend to take electronic devices on-board but I always arm the kids with a carry-on bag crammed with healthy snacks, card games, reading book, drawing book and pens. Hopefully there's also a decent movie on the plane!
Have you learnt any travel hacks for a problem free journey?
Make a pact with your kids and husband that you wont lose your cool when things go wrong, because things always do! Split the responsibilities: keep all the stuff that is most important in one travel bag that only one person keeps ahold of, while the other only deals with the passports, papers and documents.
What are the main challenges you face when holidaying as a family?
The biggest challenge is to remain cool under pressure. Keep calm and don't turn anything into a drama.
How do you resolve stressful issues?
Often issues can be resolved even if it isn't the best or optimal outcome. Laughing through the things that go wrong can make the most lasting memories for your kids. It can be beneficial to leave one parent to sort out the problem while the other one takes the children to do something fun. Kids can make the drama worse if they are being annoying.
How do you ensure you enjoy the holiday as much as your children?
By picking places to enjoy time together as a family. In the past, Carol has highlighted destinations where we can plan activities together but also where the kids can explore safely. Once there, we'll book a babysitter and go out for dinner a couple of times. We also allocate some solo-time; my husband will go surfing whereas I'll go paddleboarding while the other watches the kids. We always ensure there's an equal balance between activity and chilling out.
Carol Sutton is co-owner of 5 HOT stores throughout the Waikato.
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