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How to plan a family holiday in 2023

Planning the perfect family holiday has never been simple, but some preparation can make all the difference. Here’s our guide, complete with Mumsnetter advice, on how to plan a family holiday this year.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jan 6, 2023

Family smiling on a beach

Some of us are embracing a UK holiday again this year, but for this year and next, going abroad is no longer out of the question. Airports have put extra Covid safety measures in place and many holiday resorts have worked hard to ensure guests are safe while they enjoy their stay.

Lots of tourist hotspots rely on the income from the holiday season to support their economy, and many places are trying their best to ensure there’s still plenty to do and see once you are there, even if it’s a bit more of a bind than usual actually getting there. 

From Covid tests before you leave, to finding the right masks for the plane and more, travelling abroad is slightly more complex than it was in the summer of 2019, when all you had to worry about was stopping your child kicking the seat in front of you and whether you’d packed enough rice cakes to get through the journey. 

But let’s admit it – you’re much more likely to return with a post-holiday glow from a trip to Portugal than one to Skegness, so it’s got to be worth a go. And with some clever preparation and expert advice to follow, you’ll be sipping sundowners somewhere warmer before you know it. Here’s how to holiday abroad in 2023.

We’re lucky to have several million Mumsnetters visiting our site each day and sharing the benefit of their experience, and one of the areas in which they are continually reliable is tips on family travel. Whether it’s finding the best UK campsites, sourcing the perfect villa holiday in the sun, or navigating your way through airports with kids in tow, Mumsnetters will have the answer. So before we did anything else, we headed straight to the Talk forums to ask our resident experts for their honest recommendations, trusted reviews and top travel tips. 

We also sought advice from holiday experts, booking sites and consumer watchdogs such as Which? for information on finding and booking the best breaks away for families. 

Finally, we researched customer reviews across the internet, on holidays themselves and also travel products that would make your life easier, and analysed those to find the best products and services we could recommend to you. 

Hopefully, we’ve done all the legwork for you, to help you pick your perfect holiday. Safe travels! 

Before you book

Before you hit the shiny 'book now' button, ask yourself the following:

1. Have I researched the destination?

Everything’s changed over the last couple of years so it's more important than ever to do your research before you go to avoid tears in the departure lounge or a nasty shock on arrival.

For the Monicas among us, this one's a no-brainer. Consider putting an itinerary together with your must-sees and dos as well as information you need about your destination, such as the rules on entry to the country regarding Covid vaccinations (for you and your children), types of mask needed indoors, and any other restrictions. 

Once the boring stuff is out of the way, you can look at all the things you want to do while there. Getting the kids involved is a way to avoid future complaining of boredom – you insisted on the Argentinian rock museum, Adam. This one's on you. 

Don’t forget to check any new regulations for museums, bars, galleries and restaurants, and whether booking is required in advance. And check out reviews to make sure you’re happy with any new arrangements… Nothing like crawling around a packed theme park with someone in front of you coughing like the Major in Who Wants to be a Millionaire when you know you’re seeing your elderly parents the week you get home. 

What Mumsnet users say:

“I like to see what there is to see and do before we go, then decide when we are there on an ad hoc basis.” RampantIvy

“Research before we go so have a list of things it would be nice to do. Once arrived, see how we feel. Usually decide the night before if we are going to do something the next day.” Seeline

2. What are the local rules on social distancing?

Take the time to look at local restrictions so you know what to expect when you arrive. Parks and attractions may be opening at reduced capacity, depending on how the area is affected (or not) by Covid, so be aware that you might not be able to do as much as you’d like. Book day trips in advance and try to embrace days outside by a play area or the beach.

Depending on the country you’re travelling to, you may need to complete a passenger locator form. You can find out about local forms and restrictions on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website.

What Mumsnet users say:

“I would check with the relevant embassies and not just rely on the side. We found quite more details this way when we looked up the German embassy for our trip last month. It is also worth checking what requirements are for entry to venues and restaurants.” ReluctantBrit

3. Have I factored in tiredness?

Sightseeing and travelling is tiring enough for adults, so just think how pooped your children will be, especially if you’re in a warm climate. And that’s before you factor in jet lag and a strange bedroom. 

Try not to pack your days too full if you want to avoid whinges, whines, and – heaven forbid – full-on tantrums and try and, if you can, keep a bit of a routine going with meals and nap times to help your child feel a bit more ‘normal’ and secure while you’re away. 

What Mumsnet users say:

“The key is to fix your schedule around meals and naps. Get those right and the rest will fall into place.” LadyCordeliaFitzgerald

how to plan a family holiday

4. Have we got adequate travel insurance?

Booking adequate travel insurance is more important than ever since the pandemic. If there’s one thing more disappointing than missing out on a holiday it’s missing out on a holiday that you still have to pay for. 

Buy your travel insurance ahead of time and make sure you store the details in a safe place in case you need them. Some holiday providers are offering extra booking guarantees for added peace of mind. Read through the terms and conditions carefully so you understand what will happen if you need to cancel or make changes to your booking.

What Mumsnet users say:

“Have you had your booster jab? I remember seeing a post from someone who said their insurance cover only applied under her policy if all available Covid vaccinations had been received.” LilyPond2

Take the stress out of planning a child-friendly holiday by booking a bespoke break with Take the Family

Toddlers holding hands in the sea

Looking to book a family holiday but keen for someone else to take charge of flights, transfers, hotels and activities? Mumsnet has partnered with Take the Family, a travel agency that specialises in putting together memorable trips for 

families. Using a travel agent can take the stress out of booking holidays and offers ATOL protection for peace of mind. As an added incentive, Take the Family is offering Mumsnet users a £5 John Lewis voucher (for every £1000 of holiday value booked). Speak to a family travel expert to get a bespoke family holiday quote.

5. What times are the flights?

Choosing a cheap 7am flight might seem like a grand idea when you book, but do you really want to wake up at 3am and trundle to the airport with an exhausted toddler in tow? 

Sometimes a later flight is worth the extra money. Think about what time you’ll be landing in your destination too and whether that works well with your check-in time at your accommodation. You don’t want to be killing several hours in the airport, waiting to be able to get into your hotel or apartment. 

New social distancing rules mean you’ll probably need more time at the airport so factor that in before you book your flights, and don't forget to check-in online before you leave to reduce waiting times.

What Mumsnet users say:

“Overnight flights can work well if the flight is long enough and you think your DC will actually sleep. They’ll be rested when you land and your fellow passengers will be pleased as well. It also reduces the amount of time you have to keep them occupied on the plane.” RiceKrispie22

6. Are we sitting together?

Although you might have to pay a little extra to choose your seat allocations, it is worth it. It's also wise to check that you're not the furthest possible point away from the toilet (on short-haul flights, usually the middle of the plane), especially with younger bladders.

What Mumsnet users say:

“I work in the business. More and more people are going on holiday now and planes are really busy , people who haven’t booked seats are being separated. £44 each is worth it and I’m sure only a small fraction of your holiday cost.” llm24

7. Should I bring a buggy?

Hotter climes mean tired toddlers, so consider taking your pram along with you. If you take yours, you'll need to call the airline ahead and check their policy. Some airlines will let you put yours in the hold (in addition to your baggage) free of charge.

Double-check with them on this – you don't want a surprise charge in the midst of all the other airport stress.

Bring a buggy bag with you for it to travel in, and consider insuring your pushchair. Airlines are generally liable for damage to a certain degree, but – especially if it's an expensive pram – some extra coverage won't go amiss.

What Mumsnet users say:

“Yes take one! My DC napped on holidays as it was so hot and it was handy staying out later at night and she was too tired to walk home. You don’t want a tired child having a tantrum or carry her around. Also As PP said airport queues! We came back from a trip abroad in February half term and spent an hour in the passport queue at 9pm!! (Flight was delayed).” AdriannaP

8. How long will it take to get from the airport to my accommodation?

That remote hotel might look less glorious after a few hours in the car with some tired, bored children. 

Think about how long your kids might be up to sitting in a taxi after a long flight and how interesting (or not) the journey from the airport might be. A hotel or AirBnB within an hour of the airport is your best bet, particularly when flying with young children. 

What Mumsnet users say:

“Then you have to think about how you get from the airport to where you're staying. Cheap companies often fly into inconvenient airports. And you have to consider whether you'll feel safe arriving somewhere in the middle of the night.” Gwenhwyfar

9. Should I book all-inclusive accommodation?

For many parents, having all-inclusive accommodation makes a real difference. You'll know exactly how much you'll be spending before you go, and won't have the hassle of planning or sourcing meals.

Some resorts have put extra safety measures in place, such as limiting restaurant capacity and extending hotel facility opening hours, to make sure your whole family has a great time. Find out what measures your hotel has put in place before you go and make sure the facilities that are important to you will be available to use.

What Mumsnet users say:

“We've only ever done Holiday Village (Tui) - pre kids would have been my idea of hell but I've been pretty impressed and it is perfect for kids. They have family rooms so there is a divide between your room and the kids.” NearlySpringYay

10. Should I book self-catered accommodation?

On the other hand, self-catering might be worth the extra hassle if you're a savvy shopper and can do it on a budget. You'll know exactly what your children will and won't eat, too – always a plus. It’s also nice to be able to make the most of the local food scene and try different restaurants every night. Plus there’s nothing more exciting for kids than going to a ‘foreign’ supermarket and seeing what all the different foods are like. 

What Mumsnet users say:

“Research where your nearest supermarket is or consider doing an online food shop before you go and get it delivered to your villa on your first full day. Now that my dc are a little older, we no longer do this because it’s quite fun browsing round foreign supermarkets TBH! Take your own tea and coffee, little sachets of condiments, Tupperware (for packed lunches or leftovers) and sandwich bags.

Work out in advance what meals you’re going to have so you can take small amounts of any necessary dry ingredients (like herbs and spices), instead of buying way more than you’ll need when you get out there.” FiveMoreMinutes1

how to plan a family holiday

11. What facilities do I need?

A pool? Wifi? Are there highchairs? A changing table? A travel cot? Make a list of must-have facilities and double-check their availability before you book.

What Mumsnet users say:

“A travel cot is handy, one that you can pack away into a cupboard. A bath, not just a shower as I find it easier to wash younger children in the bath. A high chair, IKEA do a decent, cheap one. A stair gate if there are stairs.” TibTab

12. Do I want separate rooms?

All bunking together may sound fun, but it's not all that practical. Even if you're a tiny family, consider booking more than one room so that in the evenings the adults can have a glass of wine and a chat without waking the kids and in the mornings at least one of you can have a lie-in. Also (sshhh!) holidays are still for rampant sex, right? THAT’s not happening with the kids on a trundle bed inches away from you. So give it some thought!

What Mumsnet users say:

“Somewhere that you have two bedrooms and a living space and kitchenette. A hotel room is hell - you want to be able to put them to bed and have some adult time, plus one person gets up in the morning and entertains/feeds them while the other sleeps in peace.” CMOTDibbler

Check out our video for tips on flying with kids

This video was filmed before the Coronavirus pandemic began. 

13. Have I read the reviews?

Hotel reviews: very important. It's easy to see some glossy photos when planning the perfect holiday and hit 'book', but you don't want to arrive only to find that your accommodation is next to a fireworks factory. Yes, that is unlikely. But it's probably happened to somebody. Check for reviews that are up to date, too, as a change in circumstances or ownership can make a huge difference. Some bad reviews can be discounted as people having had bad luck and wanting to let off steam, but if you see more than one person complaining about the same issue, steer clear. TripAdvisor is a good place to check out what previous holidaymakers have thought about hotels and destinations. 

What Mumsnet users say:

“Read reviews not just on TripAdvisor but on Facebook, Google etc. Work out what is important to you in a hotel, is it location, service, facilities etc and perhaps look at review pictures to check the thing that is important is as you would expect. Read the reviews objectively, is the writer of the same demographic as you? Look at official star ratings and what they mean. In some countries stars are given for facilities that I would never use so I have found beautifully clean and plush 3 stars and have also stayed in sad, tired 5 stars. Consider if the best room in a lower grade hotel is better than the worst room in a higher rated accommodation. Be realistic with your expectations versus spend.” CeeCeeBloomingdale

Before you depart

Before you board your flight and say goodbye to the rainy old UK, ask yourself these questions:

14. Can we check-in online?

Avoid unnecessary queuing or waiting around by checking in online for your flights where you can. Most airlines will have details on how to do this on their website, in fact lots of flights these days insist on it. 

What Mumsnet users say:

“It’s much quicker. Yes you have to check your luggage in but that only takes a short time. Also, depending on who you fly with you will get to select your seats. If you leave it until you get to the airport you will run the risk of crappy seats.” LarryGreysonsDoor

15. Have we got enough face masks?

Some airlines no longer insist on face masks. You can get an idea of which do and don’t require them from this list Which? has put together but it’s worth checking with your airline. And read up on what the rules are in your accommodation at your destination and on any national restrictions which you may need to know about when getting out and about. 

It would be a good idea to take plenty of spares with you, regardless.

Don’t forget to check on the type of mask, too. Some countries currently have a requirement for FFFP2 masks, for example. 

What Mumsnet users say:

“I had to wear an FFP2 mask for a shorthaul flight last weekend. I actually found it better than the surgical masks we have to wear all day for work - cooler and also easier to breathe (I had Covid in February and sometimes find myself breathless if wearing a mask).” Lottie4

16. What should I take for the flight?

If Mumsnet users know one thing, it's this: flying with children ain't easy. Take all the entertainment to make life easier – be that a tablet, colouring books, and/or card games - or all of the above. 

Long-haul flights, particularly, are not the time to try to uphold parenting standards, so if an iPad is what’s keeping them happy, don’t try to limit it to short bursts. And if snacks are what’s required, do it (just remember that filling them with sugar and then expecting them to sit still for eight hours isn’t a good plan). 

Headphones are a must so they can play on tablets, consoles etc happily without disturbing anyone else. And it might be worth investing in a big-ticket item or two, such as a new computer game or some books on Audible. 

As well as that, lots of little things for them to find in your hand luggage go a long way - party bag tat can be endlessly entertaining on a plane - think tiny notebooks and pencils, fidget toys and the like. And look out for ‘small’ card games that can be played in your seats, puzzle books and quizzes that will pass the time. 

Be aware that the flight crew may not be able to help you with your hand luggage. So make sure you’re able to lift it into the hold easily enough by yourself.

What Mumsnet users say:

“Small games/gifts/activities etc- wrap them up and open one every hour. Four children 2 years apart, expats and lots of flights- in the days before iPads!” AWanderingMinstrel

Ideas for travel toys and games for kids

17. Have I packed all the essentials?

Nothing's worse than arriving in paradise without your sunglasses. To make sure you've got everything you need, there's a lot to be said about making a list and checking it twice. That includes the really boring stuff – like toothpaste and tweezers – as well as potential lifesavers like a first-aid kit.

Mumsnetters most oft-forgotten holiday items include: sun protection (always expensive at the airport), cork screw for self-catering, swimwear, plasters (for new sandals), medication, adapter plug, phone chargers and emergency snacks for the journey. 

More than ever, it’s essential that you have adequate travel insurance in place. Buy it ahead of time and make sure you store the details in a safe place in case you need them. And don’t forget proof of vaccinations if you need it and to organise and Covid tests you need to fly well in advance. 

What Mumsnet users say:

“I have a list on my phone. Every time I travel I update it. The other tip is to make a list and keep it in your suitcase. Most of the time the stuff you need is the same.” PriamFarrl

18. Have I packed too much?

Equally, don't take everything bar the kitchen sink. We're all guilty of packing 100 pairs of pants only to arrive and realise that – should there ever be a pant emergency – this country, too, sells underwear. However, if you do buy clothes or gifts, make sure you check you haven't inadvertently gone over your allowance on the way back.

Keep toys to a minimum if possible, and seek out a few compact things that provide lots of entertainment rather than just letting your kids choose what they take. 

What Mumsnet users say:

“Most countries have the equivalent of the pound shop - head there on your first full day and let your child choose some toys. The quality will be rubbish but they don't have to last long. Otherwise finger puppets and cars are compact. We travelled a lot at that age and just took colouring books plus a doll each, picking up little treats along the way eg bubbles, a $1 fishing net to pond dip, a bug hunting kit was particularly well used and managed to bring it back on the plane. Oh and Uno, they played that from age two. We also taught them lots of simple card games - we backpacked so space really was at a premium.” AnnieHM

19. How much extra time will we need for travelling?

Planes, trains and airport transfers will all be running with extra social distancing measures in place, so make sure you leave plenty of time to get through airport security and boarding.

What Mumsnet users say:

“I've flown twice this last two weeks out of Manchester. 3 hrs is plenty. Coming back into Manchester is a bloody nightmare. Passport control took almost two hours.” Maddy68

20. One final note… Have fun!

With all the logistics and airport pandemonium, it's easy to forget that you're doing this for fun. Both you and your children will probably look back on this with fondness (or at least laughter), so try not to become a slave to stress. 

If anyone deserves a holiday, it's a parent, so do yourself a favour and have a grand old time.

Having a great family holiday is all in the prep so start thinking and planning early. Here are a few things it’s worth considering before you plan. 

how to plan a family holiday (3)

How can I have a good family holiday?

  • Sometimes you can overdo trying to have a good time to the point that it’s no longer fun but we’d way preparation before you go is key. Once you know you’ve covered all your bases, you can relax and enjoy it. 
  • Keep expectations realistic. Kids in particular may be picturing daily trips to theme parks, while you imagine eight hours a day on a sun lounger with a book in your hand. Try and think realistically about how it will be beforehand so there are no tears (from you or your child). 
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you usually hire a cottage in Dorset, taking off backpacking across Thailand with two pre-schoolers might need a bit of a run-up to it. Think about keeping your journeys short and easy, especially when kids are young.
  • But be open to new experiences. Trying new foods, activities and more are one of the best things about travelling abroad. Encourage your kids to broaden their horizons and be a bit adventurous, too. 
  • Get everyone on board with packing beforehand so it’s not all left to you. Write lists and guard them with your life so it’s easy to keep a watchful eye over what’s packed and what isn’t.
  • Clean the house before you leave. Or, better yet, pay someone to come in and clean it while you’re away and it’s empty. There’s nothing to beat the post-holiday blues like opening the door to a sparkling home and getting into clean sheets in your own bed. 

Which trip is best for the family?

Obviously, it depends on what you and your family enjoy! Some families love the ease of an all-inclusive break, while others feel hemmed in by that and want to find their own path, for example. 

You also need to think about whether you want a break that’s relaxing, adventurous or cultural. Do you want there to be lots to see and do, or are you happy with the kids in the pool while you watch with a cool drink in hand? 

Once you have an idea of the ‘sort’ of holiday you’re after, destinations start to leap out at you. Rough Guides, the travel guide publisher, recommends Slovenia, Costa Rica and Indonesia in its top three destinations for families, as well as Brittany, Puglia and Edinburgh a little closer to home. 

An easy place to start is with, where you can search for flights and accommodation anywhere in the world. If you’re planning to stay in the UK, try a company such as or which both have a discount for Mumsnetters.

Where is the cheapest place for a family holiday?

You can find bargains all over the place, but online travel agents, Travel Supermarket, listed the following destinations as the cheapest for a family holiday in 2020. 

How early should I start planning a family holiday?

For a big summer holiday or trip of a lifetime, six months to a year should give you enough time to do your research and bag the best deals as well as ensuring you have all had any necessary jabs, got visas etc. 

For shorter breaks or holidays closer to home you probably only need a month to 12 weeks (just check your passport is in date first!)

What needs to be done before you go on holiday?

It might not be the most exciting bit of booking a trip away, but holiday admin is a vital part of ensuring your break is a success and that you don’t get a nasty surprise at the boarding gate (like being turned away). Make sure you have the following items on your to-do list: 

  • Check your passports are valid (don’t forget in some countries you need at least six months to run on the passport in order to get in) and check whether there are any visa requirements for your destination. 
  • Book pets in for their holidays, too. Because if Fido’s staycation isn’t sorted, you’re not going anywhere!
  • Find out whether you need any vaccinations for your destinations and also book travel and health insurance. 
  • Check what the weight restrictions are on your luggage. 
  • Book your travel to the airport and onward transportation at your destination.
  • Organise house sitters or a neighbour to clear post away from the door and water your plants. 
  • Talk to your bank about how your cards will work abroad and make sure your phone contract allows calls, or put something in place so that you are still contactable abroad (assuming you want to be).

When’s the best time to pack for a family holiday?

Start making lists and getting a few things you don’t use daily together a couple of weeks in advance. 

In the week running up to your holiday, make sure you’re getting all the outfits you want to take with you washed, dried and set aside for packing, then you’ll have everything where you need it the day before you leave. 

It’s good to do this all the day before so you aren’t fishing things out again when you need them, but try and set aside a whole day for packing if you can. It always takes longer than you think. ‘

How to keep your home safe when you go on holiday

You want to completely relax when you’re away and not worry about anything at home so it’s worth spending time reassuring yourself that you’ve done all you can to deter thieves. 

  • Make sure your home is secure, that the windows lock and there are no places where it would be easy to affect an entry. If you can stretch to one, a Ring doorbell gives you peace of mind and also acts as a bit of a deterrent. 
  • Make your home look lived in. Ask a neighbour to pop in and switch lights on and off, open and close curtains, clear posts away from the letterbox and perhaps even park their car on your drive. If that’s not possible, buy a few timer switches so you can have the TV or a radio come on at intervals and set lights to go on and off. 
  • If you have a burglar alarm, make sure it’s in full working order and that someone nearby knows how to switch it off if it sounds. 
  • Turn off the water (no one wants to return to a burst pipe) and unplug any electricals that don’t need to be on to reduce the risk of fire. 

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