The beginner's guide to choosing a long haul holiday
There's nothing quite so wonderful as leaving the UK on a dark, damp day and clambering down the plane steps several hours later into glorious sunshine. But before you turn your dream of blue skies and golden sands into a reality, it's worth taking a moment to work out what it is you want from your long haul holiday and how you're going to get it.
Long or short haul?
So you want guaranteed sunshine, but are you prepared to sacrifice a day of precious holiday, not to mention a potential lifetime at the osteopaths by travelling long haul in economy (and let's face it unless you're seriously rich, or related to airline staff, economy's as good as it gets for most of us)? If the answer is no, then you need to look slightly closer to home than, say, the Caribbean and opt for somewhere like Dubai or Eilat, which is also relatively handy at only five hours flying time.
If you do decide to take the plunge and head further afield think about the flight timings. Mauritius and Malaysia may have longer flight times than the Caribbean, but it's sometimes possible to fly overnight both ways, whereas the Caribbean always means at least one day-time leg on your journey. Fine if you have children prepared to sit still and read or study the in-flight entertainment (if there is any), not so great for boisterous toddlers.
The last thing you need after a long haul flight is a long transfer. So although the wonderful Windjammer Landing offers a great family holiday and is only eight hours by plane, one reviewer moaned: "the one and a half hour transfer on dodgy roads is a bit tedious." Whereas the Pelangi Beach may look a lifetime away in terms of hours on a plane, but once you're off the plane it's only ten minutes by taxi. But be warned, close to the airport can mean "underneath the flightpath", so ask your tour operator about the risk of aircraft noise if you know it will bother you.
Like food and accommodation, childcare quality varies from place to place. While noone can legislate for individual nannies, it seems that some companies repeatedly get better write ups than others. Look closely at the childcare scores and nutshell comments and remember that childcare is only worth having if it's high quality. Unfortunately the best childcare doesn't always come with the best beach/accommodation/food etc - so you need to weigh up what's going to have the most positive impact on your holiday. If it doesn't really matter to you if your child doesn't like (and therefore won't go to) the kids' club, or you only want them to spend an hour or so a day there, then you may feel able to compromise. If it's the single most important factor in you having a good holiday, then it's worth putting up with dodgy décor to achieve it. As one rueful reviewer wrote: "we ended up taking ours out of the creche because they hated it so much, which left all our carefully-laid plans to learn to scuba dive in tatters."
Don't feel guilty about leaving your child in good childcare. Even the most child-friendly places don't take your kids 24 hours a day, so you will spend at least some of your time with them, and hopefully you'll be so rested you'll be happy to build sandcastles/play football/read books in the time you have together. If you do find you're missing them too much there's no law against taking a day off from the kids' club, though the experience of many Mumsnet reviewers was once the kids had settled in, they didn't want to leave.
Look at the age restrictions on the kids' clubs and the times the childcare operates: "Beware of shifting nap patterns when booking creche and nursery times in advance, ask if there's a chance of changing the times if your toddler has changed her sleeping habits." Check that the kids' club takes babes in arms - some of them will only accept under threes if they're potty trained or accompanied by a parent, which kind of defeats the object of the exercise!
Catered or self-catering?
The vast majority of the long haul recommendations are hotels with restaurants, but there are a couple that offer self-catering. Hotels have that wonderful habit of transporting you away from the daily grind of washing up, shopping, cooking, making the bed, cleaning the bath.
On the downside, your children may not like the food, you can't just rustle up a favourite snack and you may be self-conscious about the noise of a crying baby/tempestous non-eating toddler: "Try and anticipate what stage your child might be at by the time you go on holiday - we took a babe in arms to a swanky hotel and it was fine. We rebooked to go back six months later, by which time he was crawling, and it was chaos."
Whilst there are some great long haul deals around - particularly if you can travel at short notice - most of us are tied to the school holidays and, thus, inflated prices. No wonder then that even a relatively modest break can burn a big hole in your pocket. So don't forget, if you've found a bargain long haul break just post a review and spread the good news!
If you have any anxieties or queries, try and sort them out before you go. If you have any questions or concerns from nappy/baby-food supplies to the best transatlantic airlines, you can always ask other mumsnet members on Talk.
Last updated: almost 2 years ago