We’ve all been there. The kids are screaming in the back of the car, you can’t find the map and now it looks like you won’t be in the resort until late. When you finally arrive, your hotel turns out to be is at the far end of the village with the ski school and kindergarten at the other. And maybe the resort you’ve chosen isn’t very well suited to families – full of partygoers or romantic couples?
To help make your ski holiday run as smoothly as possible, we’ve put together some tips to make sure your family skiing trip runs as smoothly as possible – five for the journey and five for the resort.
1. Layers are best
Layers are best for travelling (and for skiing). Be sure to dress them them in comfortable clothing (T-shirts and tracksuit bottoms are good), and bring neck pillows (the memory foam ones are the most comfortable) if you’re going on a long journey – or a jumper and jacket that could double as a pillow.
The younger your child, the more likely you are to need an easily accessible spare set of clothing – ideally packed into your hand luggage.
2. Try and keep the kids busy on the journey
Ask children over six to pack their own rucksack with a small selection of favourite books and toys for the journey.
If your child responds well to bribery, buy some small, cheap stocking-fillers to put in a goody bag, and award one of the toys as a prize at regular intervals if they manage not to whine or fight each other on the journey!
3. Avoid sticky messes
Bring sandwiches, snacks and drinks if you’re going to miss a meal while you’re travelling. Water flasks or screw-top bottles of juice are less likely to spill than cans and cartons. Avoid anything too laden with sugar, as it will just ending up making your child more hyperactive!
4. Don’t buy anything that crumbles
If you’re driving out to the Alps and care about your car, don’t buy anything that crumbles. Also avoid chocolate as it will end up on the upholstery; a healthy cereal bar or banana makes a lot less mess. Take some wipes or kitchen roll and plastic bags for spills and accidents on the journey. Play car games (I-spy or animal-mineral-vegetable) for extremely short periods only, if parents want to stay sane.
5. Provide musical entertainment for the trip
Children probably won’t forget their iPhones or iPads, if they have them, but if you’re going by car bring some sing-along or story CDs that everyone can listen to. Amazon have a wide range of CDs of songs for kids.
…and then there’s the preparation for the holiday itself…
6. Make sure they’re properly kitted out
Borrow or hire clothing whenever possible, and rent rather than buy equipment. Goggles are more practical and protective than sunglasses, and helmets are vital but can often be hired in the resort. Mittens are warmer than gloves, and don’t forget to pack thermal base layers and a scarf or fleece neck warmer.
Take extra gloves and separate indoor and outdoor shoes (with good slip-proof soles) for the evening, as your child may get involved in some very wet snowball fights. Skiing children will need a helmet, which can be hired along with skis and poles.
7. If you’re taking a baby you’ll need to come prepared
If you are bringing your baby or toddler with you to stay in a chalet or hotel, remember to pre-book the extras such as cots and high chairs. Larger-sized family rooms or two linked rooms are bonuses.
Bring your own nappies and milk formula as buying the right nappy size or favourite brand of baby milk in a ski resort can be difficult. If you decide to stay in a hotel with very young children, you’ll need to book a one that’s within easy reach of the resort kindergarten or ski school.
8. For all ages, remember the bare necessities
Make up your own medical kit and take as many of the following as you can: waterproof plasters, antiseptic cream or wipes, Calpol or similar, antihistamine for any allergies, Arnica cream for bumps and bruises, travel sickness pills.
Most important of all is sunscreen of a minimum SPF30 – or SPF50 for babies and very fair skins.
9. What to leave behind
Don’t bring any tiny toys and games with small pieces they your children would hate to lose. These can disappear between the car, train or plane seats, down the back of a chalet sofa or under the bed in a hotel room. Remember to check every nook and cranny, and backs of bathroom doors before you leave for home!
Over the years my own children have left many favourite toys behind: including a toy monkey on a railway platform near Geilo, a favourite teddy on a hotel terrace in Tremblant, another bear under a table at an en route cafe (we went back for it on our way home – it was still at the restaurant), and a toy mouse at a hotel in Wengen. Thanks to caring hotel staff, all but the monkey made it home again. Check our lost property feature for some of the quirky tour operator finds.
10. Chalets are a good family solution
Tea after skiing and an early children’s supper are both included when staying in a chalet, along with baby-listening, nursery and evening babysitting (normally at extra cost).
Remember that proximity to the nursery slopes, the lifts and ski school is a great energy-saver. See some suggested resorts in our guide to the best resorts for family skiing.
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