Considering we were away for four weeks during our summer holiday, we did quite well really.
But we did make some mistakes that caused us problems along the way. Hopefully listing them here will prevent other people from doing to the same.
1. Pack for the climate you are going to, not for the one you are leaving. We really didn’t need the three changes of warm clothes per person, or the wet weather gear that I insisted we pack ‘ just in case’.
2. If you buy new clothes for your holiday, try them on before you pack them. Make sure they are comfortable and the right size otherwise you may be stuck with a bunch of unwearable clothes. This also goes for clothes you bought for the kids; you may love the new top/skirt/shorts you bought for them, but if your offspring decide they hate the colour you want to be able to pack something else instead.
3. Don’t forget your swimming togs, especially if you wear a plus size. If you are visiting Europe and are over a size 16 you will not have a hope in hell of buying new swimwear on the road, so will spend your entire holiday miserably sweltering in the mid-day summer heat while jealously watching your family cavorting while cooling off in gorgeous lakes, rivers and pools.
4. Take note of the expiry date of sunscreen if you are going somewhere sunny. Expired sunscreen does not protect as well as in date cream and you will feel just awful if one of your children ends up burnt.
5. Leave in plenty of time to get to your airport, ferry terminal or car train. We found Google Maps consistently underestimated the time it took to get places. If you are travelling a motorway, then check for problems before you set off. We were late for both our Eurotunnel connections but the good thing about this method of getting to the continent is that they always seem to be able to fit you in on a later train.
6. If you are travelling via Eurotunnel, do not let your kids open and close the car doors, play with lights, wind the windows up and down and listen to the radio while you are crossing. If you do, you will have a flat battery when it comes time to exit the train and will be holding up the people behind you. This must happen quite a lot as Eurotunnel has a specially built little tow truck that can be speedily reversed into the train and will have you sorted out pretty quickly.
7. Make sure you carry jump leads with you at all times, especially if you are travelling in countries that require you to drive with your lights on during the day. You will need them. It might also be worth knowing how to say ‘Please help, I have a flat battery’ in the relevant language for the country you are travelling in.
8. If you are travelling from Slovenia to Croatia, be aware that the men standing by the toll booths trying to charge you a Euro to hand you the ticket are not officials. You can avoid having to pay by playing the dumb foreigner and saying sorry, shrugging a lot and grabbing the ticket yourself before driving off.
9. Double check that the items you need to keep the kids amused in the car ( Tablets, activity books, CDs, food and drink) are in the car, within reach of someone, before you head off for the day. There is nothing worse than hurtling smoothly down a German motorway with a bored or hungry child demanding something that you’ve put in the boot or roof box by mistake. Also keep the details of your next destination ( directions, booking number, contact details) close to hand of the adult who isn’t driving.
10. If you enter a country where you have to buy additional insurance at the border, then check that you buy enough that you have time on the policy to come back through that country on the way back too. Don’t assume you can buy the same insurance when travelling in the opposite direction!
11. If you are going to let your kids eat icecream, always carry wet wipes.