Travelling abroad with young children can be challenging at the best of times.
Even if you have a brood of the most well-behaved children in tow, there's always the risk that something may go wrong — an accident, an illness, a costly mistake that will ruin the family holiday.
Will Ashcroft, chief sales officer for insurer Allianz Worldwide Partners New Zealand, says falling ill, closely followed by accidents, are the most common reasons for claims made by families with young children.
"We receive claims every year relating to children who fall ill overseas — typically cold and flu, stomach-related issues or ear infections," he says.
"We recommend you don't clean your teeth with tap water, do sterilise bottles extensively, and know where your nearest medical centre is, in case you need assistance."
Although you can't always prevent illness or accidents, there are some easy ways to help prepare your family for an overseas trip.
Three months out, or when booking:
• Ask your doctor whether your family needs any specific vaccines for your planned holiday destination, and monitor your kids to ensure they don't fall sick before travelling.
• Look out for any fun and useful travel accessories, such as ride-on suitcases or airplane cushions that bridge the gap between the seat in front of you, giving you a small single bed for your little ones to lie flat on. However, check with your airline first as some have banned these devices.
• Work out if you need to purchase any specific clothing beforehand, eg long sleeves to protect against mosquitos.
• Organise identity bracelets (and medical alert bracelets if required).
• Purchase travel insurance and read the policy wording carefully.
Two weeks beforehand:
• Locate important information for your travel destination, such as medical services, emergency phone numbers and supermarkets to buy essentials such as nappies. Save these (and share with your partner) so you both have easy access via your smartphones.
• Load your iPad with apps that will keep children entertained while in transit.
• Register your travel plans at safetravel.govt.nz.
• Make photocopies of your passports to take with you.
The day before:
• Double check your baggage allowance, including the allowance for any connecting flights on budget airlines. Weigh your luggage if you think you may be over, as there's nothing worse than being surprised with a baggage charge before you even depart.
• If you are flying long-haul, you may like to bring a couple of treats for attendants and fellow travellers seated next to your kids, to start the journey on a positive note.
The day of:
• Some flights allow you to take fresh and dried food on flights (such as sandwiches, bananas, raisins and crackers), and liquids as long as they don't exceed 100ml per container. If you're allowed to take these with you, pack lots of healthy snacks including fruit, as this will keep hunger at bay. To avoid breaking any biosecurity
laws, don't forget to discard any uneaten fresh snacks at the end of the flight or declare them before you go through customs.
• Leave plenty of time to get to the airport, and through customs - even if they have special lanes for families, it may take longer than you expect to clear customs with your kids.
Do you have any tips for making overseas family holidays run smoothly? Like our new Facebook page and leave us a comment with your best tip: facebook.com/nzhtravel. We'll publish some of the best in an upcoming issue of Sunday Travel.