Planning a family holiday to the snow? Take heed of this expert advice from Lifestyle’s Travel Expert and mum-of-two, Rose Jacobs, who has lived to tell the tale.
Think the idea of hurtling dangerously out of control down a black-grade ski slope is the worst possible scenario you could face from a trip to the snow? You’re wrong. When it’s a family ski holiday there are several moments that can be far more horrifying.
Here are the essential tips you need to know to avoid potential disaster.
1. THE DRIVE
Let’s face it, when you’re travelling with youngsters who require Michelin style padding of every form, purely because they’re going to be exposed to the elements, you’re most likely going to choose to drive yourselves and your overloaded car to the snow as opposed to flying / hiring a car / getting a bus etc.
If this is the case, I strongly suggest you book your car in for a thorough checkup with your trustworthy mechanic at least a week before departure. The last thing you need enroute is to discover that your brakes are about to go, your windscreen wipers or headlights are faulty, your tyres are bald or you have a serious oil leak. Even if all you need is a top up of anti-freeze then you’re still better off – and you can drive with confidence knowing your family is in a safe vehicle.
2. CHAIN UP
This one’s quite self-explanatory but you’d be amazed how many families get halfway up the mountain only to be turned back by National Parks for not having chains with them. Unless you’re in a 4WD or all-wheel drive then you must hire chains and have them with you in the car for the drive into the mountains. And seriously, after a long drive with the kids screaming, you’re not going to want to extend this part of your journey for anything in the world.
I’m not kidding when I say the drive is the hardest part! Make sure you pack plenty of kids' entertainment (and noise cancelling headphones for their DVD players to save your sanity) as well as healthy (sugarless) snacks. Factor in extra pit stops for your drive so you don’t start stressing about wasted time when kids need to pee, eat, stretch their legs, pee again and look at dead wombats.
4. RUG UP BUTTERCUP
Kids at home on a winter’s night will happily run naked through the house, refusing to put clothes on. But put them in the snow and suddenly they will whinge about their pinky finger touching the ice. At the same time, they will also complain about being too hot and too heavily loaded up with puff. Go figure! The best thing you can do is to purchase one decent pair of thermals for the kids and to reduce the number of layers beyond that. The gloves, socks, beanies and carves are guaranteed to go missing on the first day (just one of each pair) and anything that survives the journey intact will be outgrown by the next years’ trip anyway. Aldi has some fantastic sales in the lead-ups to ski seasons.
5. SKI SCHOOL DRAMA
If it’s the first year you’re attempting to get your kids into some form of kids club or ski lessons, be wary. Don’t prepay for the entire trip until they’ve successfully survived the first day. Most decent resorts understand this concept and can either offer a refund if your kids completely freak out, or they suggest you try before you buy. Speaking from experience, the little ones love the idea of snow but when it comes to the hard part of falling, getting back up, falling again and doing it all with a stranger, they don’t exactly embrace it!
6. CHOOSE WISELY
Perhaps you and your loved one met at the snow and have skiied together year after year at the same awesome resort. This doesn’t mean it is the best option for you now you have little ones. You need to choose wisely when it comes to the best ski resort that caters for families. Think: discounts, kids clubs, family friendly restaurants, live music, child friendly après-areas, family sized rooms, calm slopes, blue runs, magic carpet rides. Remember the golden rule: a happy child equals happy parents.
7. STRESS LESS
If you’re expecting a family ski trip where the kids yodel cheerily down the slopes with their instructors all day, while you and your partner snuggle in the chair lift and glide side-by-side down the black runs, you’re in for a shock. Expect the worst. The kids might get sick, throw tantrums, break a leg and be banned from the bar for rowdy behavior. While you’ll end up arguing with your partner over who has had more solo ski time, barely a schnapps will pass your lips and romantic fire-lit dinners will be overshadowed by highchairs and candles smothered with chocolate moose and potato mash. All before 7pm.
So, manage your expectations. With any luck you’ll achieve one decent ski of your own during the entire trip but the rest of the time could be spent stressing less and savouring the amazing moments: Seeing your kids dance under snowflakes, throw snowballs at Dad’s head, build a wicked snowman at the top of the mountain, take some amazing family photos, ride the chairlift and wave at every oncoming person, attempt a family toboggan race and generally have some good ol' fashioned fun.
Let’s face it, if the very best thing you’ve achieved from the entire trip is that you’ve made snow fun, then you’ve won.
Oh, and lastly, don’t forget to charge the DVD players for the car trip home!