As part of our weekly series Family Travel Tales, we pick the brains of some of the most inspirational travelling families, so they can share their top travel tips, bucket list of destinations and favourite travel memories.
This week, we are introducing you to the Millars, a family of four from London. James, Editor at Working Dads and his partner has 2 children (12 and 9).
1. What is the first trip you remember taking as a family?
We went to Italy when our daughter was about five months old. We didn’t realise it then but going outside school holidays is a huge benefit – we stayed in a castle in a place called Vico Equense. There was a lift through the cliffs to a private beach. We were still getting to grips with the whole parenting thing so although we loved the wine and cheese and ice cream and pizza we probably didn’t appreciate everything as much as we could or ought to have done. Plus we were really tired!
2. Which are some of your most favourite destinations, activities, and hotels?
Good food is really important to a good holiday for us. So Italy and Greece are places we’re drawn back to time and again. Particularly Greece because it’s generally so relaxed and the food is great.
And since we visited a water park to liven up a fairly dull holiday in Ibiza a few years ago we now try to include a trip to a local water park in our holiday every summer. The one we went to in Crete was the pick of the bunch.
With the children now getting older, we can be a bit more adventurous in our holidays and include city breaks. We particularly enjoyed Madrid. Again, great food and a really nice atmosphere with a really good combination of history, modernity and a bit of sport thrown in too.
3. Any tips you would give to other family travellers?
In the early days I broke down the trip into chunks to make it less overwhelming. So stage one was getting to the airport, stage two would be in the airport, stage three would be the flight, stage four getting out the airport at the other end and stage five was getting home/to the destination. You could plan for each bit and knock off one stage at a time. Travelling with small children can be hard work, but holidaying with them doesn’t need to be.
And be prepared to go with the flow. When we went to Barcelona a couple of years ago I really wanted to visit the Olympic Park because I remember it from 1992, but the kids wanted to go to the zoo. We had a much better day because we let them do what they wanted to do.
Also, always carry a plastic bag (for sick or wet clothes), baby wipes, and a few bits of Lego® in your rucksack. Kids can be kept entertained for ages with just a few bricks of Lego®.
4. Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
When we went to DisneyWorld a few years ago there’s no doubt my partner and I, both cynical journalists, were not particularly looking forward to it. My whole extended family were going and we didn’t want to spoil the party by sitting it out. But we were expecting a festival of overpriced tat and naff capitalism. But from the moment we went to collect our tickets on the first day at Epcot and the staff member was overwhelmingly nice we were bitten by the bug. Some sort of Disney magic overcame us. So much so we’re going back this year!
“No family should go on holiday without baby wipes”
5. Do you have any funny travel stories?
As we prepared to leave our hotel in Greece back in 2012 we were packing the suitcases and clearing up and not giving our then one-year-old son our full attention. We turned for one last look at the room to make sure we’d got everything to find he’d decorated the walls with a green crayon! Turns out getting crayon off hotel walls is yet another use for baby wipes – no family should go on holiday without baby wipes!
6. Tell us something unexpected that has happened to you on your travels
We once caught a flight to Greece and as we were lining up to board I noticed a member of the House of Lords a few people in front of us. I was writing about politics at the time and I’d only a couple of weeks earlier put her on the front page of the paper I was working for at the time reporting some fairly controversial remarks she’d made to me. I decided to keep my head down and stayed shrunk into my seat for the flight!
7. If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would it be and why?
Japan. It’s so different to the UK. But if possible I’d not go tomorrow, I’d wait until the summer when the Olympics are on when Tokyo is bound to be really buzzing.
8. What are your top 3 family friendly hotels or holiday homes?
We stayed in a family friendly hotel in the Isle of Wight when the children were small. It had baby listening and children’s tea and, best of all, badgers that came up to the patio to feast on the kitchen scraps every night. Unfortunately I can’t find what it was called!
The Dear Hotel in Madrid was brilliantly located right in the centre of town and it had a great rooftop pool. The staff were nice and the breakfasts were really good – something the children in particular really care about when staying at a hotel!
The Clarendon Hotel in Deal. This is an up and coming spot in Kent and this hotel was really good. The family room had a sort of separate room with bunk beds. As our children get older they are at an age where they are not ready for their own room but it’s good if they can have their own space. And we all loved little touches like the telescope in the room that allowed you to look at France over the Channel. Plus it was a really comfy bed!
9. Where is the best family meal you had in a restaurant?
We went to Bath last year and had fish and chips at The Scallop Shell. Fish and chips on the beach usually can’t be beat but this was the best fish and chips any of us had had. My son had chicken and chips and he said that was the best ever too. Not sure what made it so good but it really was out of this world. Plus they have an old bath full of seafood that the kids loved gawping at.
10. If you had a bucket list of 5 destinations to discover with your children, what would be on the list?
#1 Venice – I love it there and I’d like to show it to the children because it’s so unlike anywhere else in the world. (And I guess because we can’t be sure just how long it’ll endure)
#2 New York – It’s a great city with great food and the scene for so many family films we’ve watched together over the years
#3 Ko Phi Phi – My daughter’s got a thing for this bit of Thailand after a teacher told her about it. We’ve talked about all learning to scuba dive when the children are old enough and this would seem a good place to start.
#4 Columbia – I’ve heard the beaches on the Pacific coast are stunning and I’ve yet to get to South America so I’d like to go check it out before the crowds get there.
#5 Iceland – I went to Finland when I was younger and I’m told Iceland has a similar sort of relaxed vibe (unlike some of the other Scandinavian countries that can be a bit hung up). Plus the Northern Lights!
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