One stylish boutique hotel, 33 mums, countless cappuccinos, dozens of dilemmas solved… Contributing social editor Molly Gunn reports back from our first Mothers Meeting family-travel clinic.
We love a collaboration here at Smith & Family – which is why we teamed up with hip mamas’ community Mothers Meeting to host a coffee morning and informal travel clinic for stylish London mothers. Thirty local ladies arrived at High Road House, Chiswick, with tots in tow, keen to hear tips on family holidays from globetrotting travel-savant Juliet Kinsman, Smith’s editor-in-chief (pictured top right), and to meet inspiring Mothers Meeting founder Jenny Scott (bottom left).
Juliet has travelled to the corners of the earth in the name of Mr & Mrs Smith, and has taken six-year-old daughter Kitty on jaunts to Smith & Family hotels including Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily, Polurrian Bay Hotel in Cornwall, Babington House in Somerset and Fellah Hotel in Marrakech.
As the assembled mamas sipped coffee and their kids added a little chaos, Juliet gave insight into her personal trips and shared insider tips on our hotel collection, from hotels that supply nappies on arrival to fun family activities, including cooking lessons at Jnane Tamsna in Marrakech, or the ultimate kids’ club at Gleneagles Hotel.
Soon conversation turned to one hot topic: how to travel with young children – babies and toddlers especially. The Mothers Meeting ladies confessed that however much they love to travel, the trickiest part of any trip was being confined to a small space in the sky with plenty of onlookers and an unpredictable child.
It turned out that everyone had great advice to share; the group did a round-table, with all the ladies pitching in amazing tips for stress-free navigation of airplanes, airports and hotels. We’ve collated the top tips below, and added a few of our own, too.
TOP TOT-FRIENDLY TRAVEL TIPS
Use your child’s baggage allowance
If a child has a seat on a plane it means they have hand-baggage allowance, too, which can be handy if you want to ‘carry on’. Simply split your luggage across a few bags and take it on the plane with you.
Remember: hotels have laundry
… so you don’t need to over-pack your suitcase! Take clothes for a few days and have them washed while you’re away.
AT THE AIRPORT
Ask to queue-jump
If your baby is upset or needs feeding while you’re queuing for a security check, walk to the front of the queue and ask the security man if you can go next. The likelihood is, they will say yes, and save you a lot of stress.
Use the lounges
If you have a credit card, you may be granted access to airport lounges automatically (check your card details), which can be super handy with kids at the airport.
The kids’ playzones at Heathrow (for example) require kids to wear socks, so don’t be stuck without them. Pack them into your hand-luggage so there are no obstacles to them having fun.
ON THE PLANE
Choose aisle seats
Ensure that you can get in and out of your seat/to the loo/to your bag as quickly as possible on a plane by always booking seats that straddle an aisle. Also, this means your kid can escape if they want to stretch their legs. Don’t book a window seat.
Take lots of food
Pack a snack bag full of healthy treats such as Eat Natural bars and bread sticks so that your child can happily munch away to their heart’s content on a plane… and keep quiet all the while.
Wrap a few ‘lucky dip’ presents in advance to keep your children amused mid-flight, and eke the experience out by letting them unwrap the gifts themselves… and then they can play with them.
Bring herbal tea
It’s a win-win. Take sachets of your favourite herbal teas to keep you relaxed and also take cold, weak chamomile tea in a bottle to give to your baby, as this will go a little way to keeping them calm during the flight.
Load up your tablet
Make sure your tablet is stocked with children’s programmes that your child loves (you can download them from CBeebies for free). If other kids are making a racket, don’t be scared to share it!
AT THE HOTEL
Use FaceTime as a baby monitor
If your hotel doesn’t have a baby-listening service but you want to pop down for dinner in the restaurant then why not use your FaceTime as a baby monitor? This way you can not only hear, but see, what your sleeping bubba is getting up to.
Don’t try to stick to your usual routine if you don’t want to. Holidays are meant to be fun, so throw out the rulebook and let your children stay up a little later than usual in true Continental style. The best thing is that they’ll probably sleep in later too…. so your whole family might have a lie-in!