Those of you who follow my social media channels may have spotted some pictures of the fam and I frolicking around with a sledge in the glorious sunshine of the French Alps. We were extremely lucky to have been invited to join a large family group to celebrate a very special family birthday and indeed when those photos were snapped the sun was beaming down and it was smiles all round but I’m nothing if not honest on this site and a lot of you have been in touch to find out how I found skiing with a tiny tot…. well Mamans you asked so I shall tell.
For those of you who don’t have much time I’ll cut to the chase. If you loved a good holiday on the slopes pre children and are thinking that now is the time to book a magical snowy, family holiday then take note….. skiing without childcare (and I mean a big chunk of pre arranged childcare) is quite simply L U N A C Y !
If you are planning your own ski holiday with small children or babies then there are a few things to bear in mind. I spent a week wrestling the Bébé into forty two layers and trying to stop her face planting in the snow in -15 degrees and there were a couple of things I sort of wish I’d taken the time to research in advance.
If you book through a tour operator there are specific ones that specialise in child friendly ski holidays. They will direct you towards hotels and chalets where the childcare is on hand mainly in nurseries or sometimes with private nannies. You will pay a lot for this but if your kids are too young for ski school and you have some romantic notion that the friends you are going with or your partner will share childcare shifts with you so everyone gets some time to ski…. you need to reconsider and shell out for some help because looking after babies and toddlers in the snow is hard work.
A few other non specific tips….
- If you have school age children and you take them out of school for a ski holiday like I did (naughty naughty) bear in mind that ski school probably won’t have any similar aged children booked in. My boys both went in adult classes as the only children they could have been matched with were preschoolers – they were old enough for this not to be a problem but for a ten year old – it might be an issue.
- Take baby formula. I slightly underestimated how much I would need and had a real hassle finding anything suitable.
- If you book with a tour operator that arranges all of your transfers to and from the resort brace yourself for a long coach journey on long and winding mountain roads. Take plenty of snacks and distractions and if you have a child prone to travel sickness be prepared – it will be a long journey – you are more than likely to step on someone’s sick as you disembark the bus. (blurgh.)
- Flight and travel delays are common as the weather is so unpredictable. Remember to pack your patience and be prepared to just go with the flow. Tour operators that specialise in childcare often have a designated area for children to play in the airports – another reason to go for a bespoke family holiday.
- Chalets are a really fun way to do a ski holiday and the release of not having to cook a thing for a whole week really is such a treat for a Mum – but you will live in quite close quarters alongside your chalet staff and your enjoyment of the break is dependant on the chalet boy or girl lottery. Many of them are really young and if you go at the start of the season they will be learning the ropes and also finding the balance between work and party so be prepared for a few hiccups and you won’t be disappointed when they happen. Obviously if you choose to really blow the budget then the quality, skill and experience of chalet staff will be a bit more reliable.
- Unless you are in a hotel that has a laundry service or go self catering and know that you will have access to a washing machine, don’t expect to have one on site. Either pack enough for a week’s worth of wear (yes… that’s a lot of clothes for a snot/sick/food covered baby or toddler) or prepare to trek to the launderette in your resort or hand wash or be prepared to turn your knickers inside out.
- Take a good four wheel drive buggy and maybe a sling. We bought our ancient Land Rover buggy for £40 on Ebay and it’s been a lifesaver on holiday and in the UK. If it gets damaged whilst travelling it’s no biggy. I hired an ABC sling from the lovely ladies at Cheltenham sling library (just £7.50 for a fortnight) and I loved it as did the Bébé who slept through check in and the security queue before I had to wake her to be searched (arrgghhh!!) I’ll be buying one through them to use going forward as I found it so much more comfortable than a rigid and bulky backpack.
Ultimately travelling with children is all about keeping your expectations realistic wherever you go which is probably where I fell down. We were a party with two babies aged one and a three year old and we were all a bit naive about just how much kit you need to keep track of just for yourself when skiing – add baby kit to the mixture and every expedition can feel like you are setting off on a polar endurance trek. Then you drink more wine than you should in the evening because you’re gasping, sleep badly, fight about who gets to wake up with the kids at 5.30am and the cycle repeats itself.
It’s a really fun holiday and my older boys absolutely loved it – don’t hesitate with older children, they really adapt to the routine so quickly and love the freedom of zooming down the mountains, plus they have no fear which helps! But with the younger ones think it through carefully. The poor couple catching baby vomit on the bus transfer in front of us were having a ‘discussion’ along these sorts of lines…. ‘I told you we should have left them with Mum and Dad….’
If you need specific recommendations for tour operators or private nanny firms get in touch – I’d be happy to help.