We love a mini break and do several of these a year. We rarely do a full week away, so having a few mini breaks during half terms or Easter holidays, really helps break up the year. It also enables you to share different parts of the country with your children. I’d hate for N to reach teenage years and to have never set foot outside his county. He’s not been abroad yet, other than a trip to Jersey which I don’t really count, so I think it’s important for children to understand where they fit in to their own country.
A mini break also seems so much more accessible than having to organise a week long break. It also means that when you only have a week off school you still have time at the beginning and end of the week to do the chores you need to get done and for them to do their homework. If they’re not like N and actually do homework during school holidays.
Here’s my tips on how to have a successful short family break and prove you don’t have to leave the children at home.
How to have a successful short family break
Plan in advance
Think about where you have been before and enjoyed as a child yourself. It’s always easier to take a child somewhere that you know already.
Choose accommodation that will work for you
Some people prefer bed and breakfast, or for larger families opt for a cottage or apartment. We tend to go for hotels at the moment because they feel more flexible if you’re coming and going in the middle of the day, plus they’re a bit more special for N.
Ideally choose somewhere with parking on site because you don’t want to be tracking children and luggage backwards and forwards from a car parked elsewhere.
If you’re going to be eating out in the evenings it’s often easier to be within walking distance of places to eat. Sometimes you want to come back to your accommodation before going out again for food, especially if you’re somewhere where restaurants don’t open until later in the evening.
Bear in mind that if you’re staying in a city parking is often expensive so you’ll want to be either within walking distance or on a good bus route.
[bctt tweet=”Tips for a successful mini break with children. Don’t forget it’s not all about them or you, for an easy fun break” username=”etusty”]
Pick up plenty of tourist leaflets
I do like to pull together a spreadsheet or list of ideas of places that would like to visit before going, but visiting the tourist information office early on in your trip or asking at the hotel we’ll get you set up with other ideas and sometimes discount vouchers. Especially over the summer holidays many places have discounts on offer, just don’t forget to actually use the coupons you pick up like I often do.
Cater for your children
If you know that your children will only cope with one visit a day and don’t try to do too much. We very rarely stayed all day at one location where others may stay for 12 hours full stop so I make sure we have plenty of ideas often two or three places to visit in one day. If you plan on a map transport and timings this is often achievable if you stay a couple of hours in each place.
Obviously I choose the mini breaks that we go on and I choose them where there are places that I want to visit. But I do try to split our trips in places for both N and myself so we both have something of interest to both of us.
Include downtime on your list
When we’re away I always try and look out a couple of good parks to visit. This gives us a breather from all the visits and the cultural things that N might moan about. But give him a good park and remind him that he has had some time for himself give us me a chance to visit some places I want to see without him moaning too much.
Just sitting on a bench and watching the world go by or heading back to your accommodation for an hour or two also does the job.
But don’t think you need to fill your time all day if you don’t want to. You are on holiday after all and sometimes we forget how much children can actually do. We want them to have a good time as well as making the most of the time we have on our break.
Plan meal times
Breakfast is usually easily sorted within your hotel or bed and breakfast, but if you want to get out and about and make the most of your mini break, you need to be up and about early. That’s not always difficult if you have an early riser like myself.
But it’s always good to plan vaguely where or when your next meal will be when you have children with you. Even if it was just me going away, I would need to know when my next meal was coming from. Keeping to use your meal times helps prevent children from getting to ratty in between meals but sometimes you need to be flexible and provide more snacks through the day to get them through to the next hour.
We tend to go somewhere familiar for the first dinner out. Especially in a city there’s usually familiar branded restaurants and they’ll help settle children in if they’re used to eating that food. But do check out restaurants with new cuisines because holidays are a chance to try out something new. Kids menus are usually pretty standard whatever restaurant you’re eating in so there’s bound to be something your children will eat even if they won’t eat anything exotic.
Pack up the night before you leave
If you’re trying to check out of a hotel early on the day you leave, you don’t want to be frantically running around your accommodation trying to find everything that your children may have spread out across the place. Pack as much as possible the night before and get the children to help, then you only have a few final pieces to pack up on the morning you leave. It makes things so much easier and faster, and if you want to visit somewhere on the way home you’ve still got that free time if you manage to check out early.
Ease out of your holiday
If you’re travelling in the UK it’s always nice to break up the journey going home and stop off somewhere on the way. National Trust is great for this if you have membership, or look out for interesting places to visit like open farms, factories, or ice cream parlours that are open to the public. Often you never know about these because they’re not in the tourist information brochures, they tend to be places that you have driven past on the journey in.
We always aim to be back home around tea time but don’t worry about getting back in order to cook. Keep tea easy on your return or be lazy like me and try and co-ordinate tea time so that you’ll still be on route and can stop for tea on the way back.
Hopefully these tips have given you encouragement that a mini break is possible with children. You can make it worth the two or three days you’re away, you just might have to rethink the amount of activities you’ll be able to fit in when you have children in tow. Or train your children from an early age, so that they used to doing more than a couple of things in one day. It depends on the type of people you are whether you whizz round, or take your time savouring a visit somewhere.
There’s some places the UK we’ve done mini breaks which work well with children.
Mini breaks with kids ideas
- New Forest
- Peak District
- Lake District
Remember that a mini break only tends to be a few days. For us we usually do 3 nights so we wouldn’t usually travel for more than 3 hours each way. You don’t want to tire out the children before you get there and having bored children in the car isn’t the best start to a break.
This time we travelled to arrive just before tea time and it worked really well. It meant we could check in straight away then go out into the city to find out bearings, visit the tourist information centre and get some tea. Then we had 3 full days away before heading back late afternoon. This also avoids having to drive around with a full car. If we arrive before check in time, we often still park at our hotel, fill in the forms for arrival, then head out before returning later to actually get into our room.
Hopefully this sets you up for your mini break with children. What tips would you add and are there any locations you would recommend?
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Interesting! Obviously we live much further north than you so venture into Scotland. Just back from Perth; we stayed in a Travelodge at Broxden junction. There is also a MacDonalds (free wi-fi!) and Harvester on site. Left the car in Travelodge car park which didn’t cost anything. Only used the car to drive there and drive back as it’s right next to a bus/coach station. To go to the centre of Perth on the bus cost £1.80 for the 4 of us as long as we went after 9am (2 adults, 2 kids, so family ticket) and there are lots of Scotrail trains to other places (we went to Inverness, Stirling and Glasgow. Inverness we paid in advance; I think for us all to go to Glasgow was £28 and Stirling about £14?
Agree with finding parks; even though ours are 12 and 15, they still love a park and are happy to run about, play on zipwires etc. We found a nice park with a cafe in Perth where they played and we sat watching them!
I totally agree that a mini break ticks a lot of boxes when you have small kids. Caravan holidays work well for this too – you can often grab a friday to monday offer. Definitely some great advice here and some of those destinations are on my list too!
Thanks for linking to #coolmumclub
Great post! It is helpful! Thanks for sharing!