From my first winter holiday aged 24, I fell in love with snowboarding and the mountains. When children came along, I was naturally keen to share my passion with them from the earliest opportunity! These are my top tips for skiing with young children and having a great holiday.
When we found out that we were expecting our first child, like a lot of new parents I had a certain amount of naivety about the challenges that lay ahead! Thinking that life with children would only take a minimum amount of adjustment! So with our eyes very much closed, we had already got our first winter holiday booked before baby was born. He would be just 8 weeks old.
Since that first, slightly daunting winter holiday with a baby we have managed to get away every year with the kids. They are now aged 7 and 4 and I thought I would share my top tips skiing with young children. We don’t have a massive holiday budget so these are ways to get your family onto the snow without breaking the bank.
Travelling with young children
Flying is our chosen method of travel and when possible get flights from your local airport to further reduce journey times. Think carefully about how much baggage allowance you will need, children come with a lot of stuff! Look out for family tickets that include a decent baggage allowance.
Get to the airport early and check in as much baggage as possible. It is much easier to control/carry a toddler with empty hands! A lot of airports will allow you to take a small foldable pushchair to the gate. We found that a sling is easiest for small babies.
For the flight take plenty of snacks! For babies feeding during take off and landing can provide comfort. Airlines will provide hot water for making bottles. Once the excitement of being on an aeroplane has worn off a tablet is worth its weight in gold. Make sure to download some of their favourite programmes and games before leaving home.
Once arriving at your destination we have found hiring a car the best option to get to resort. Your own transport offers the greatest flexibility. You can stop if the baby is screaming or the toddler needs a wee! It is worthwhile bringing your own child-seat. You avoid extra fees, you know how to strap the child in safely and there is the added peace-of-mind knowing that it hasn’t been in an accident. Most airlines will carry child-seats for free.
Make sure that snow chains are included with the car hire. They are a legal requirement in most European mountain regions. We have also found it useful to know the car hire return process and where the nearest petrol station is. Saves any last minute panic on the return journey.
We have taken the kids to resorts in both Italy and France. Including Les Gets, Châtel, Pozza di Fassa and Civetta. There are hundreds or resorts across Europe and they will all have their positives and negatives. Things that we have found that work well are:
- A short transfer. Less time spent in the car equals happier adults and children!
- A proper village. It’s nice to have somewhere pretty to wonder around with the children.
- Easy access to the lifts. Either short walk distance or good car parking.
- Nice places to meet for lunch. The kids love going up the mountain for a little play in the snow and it’s nice for the adult looking after them to catch up with the rest of the group.
- A good supermarket (see below).
We have found that self-catering accommodation works the best for a budget friendly skiing holiday with young kids. This is mostly because of the flexibility it offers. You can make the place feel like a home from home. Our kids enjoy routine and self-catering accommodation means they can eat at their normal times and bedtimes remain consistent. All the places we have stayed have offered travel cots and high chairs for use. A lot of resorts have companies that will deliver a cooked meal if you fancy a night off from the cooking!
Another advantage of self-catering accommodation is that they often offer flexible stays. A whole week away skiing with young children can be exhausting, so a shorter break can work well. You get some time on the snow and the kids get a taster of the mountain environment.
Having said this, I can imagine that if money was no object, a week away in private catered chalet would be very nice indeed! Check out Esprit Ski or Snow Bizz for all inclusive offerings aimed at families.
TOP TIP: We have found a lot of places, particularly in Italy, don’t provide basic kitchen bits and bobs. So it is worthwhile taking some dishwasher tablets, tea towels, sponges etc… with you.
There is no doubting that skiing holidays with young children will mean less time on the snow for you. But with the right childcare set-up for your family everyone can still have a fantastic time. Everyone’s situation and budget is different but we have found going with an extended family of friendship group works well. This set-up means that the parents have someone else to ski with on the days that they are not looking after the little ones. And often someone in the group is happy to look after the kids for a couple of hours (though don’t presume this!).
We have also used a nursery when my eldest was 2 years old, which he really enjoyed. But this is very child dependant, and can make for a miserable experience if the the child is not happy to be left.
Ski Clothing for young children
Getting the right clothing can make all the difference for having a successful holiday or not. For babies and toddlers we found that an all-in-one suit works the best. We particularly love Muddy Puddles. Ours has done 3 holidays and still looks as good as new. The kids stay warm and dry and the rollover sleeves are great if your child hates gloves! Underneath we go for layers, t-shirt and a thin jumper on the top half and joggers on the bottom half. It’s also a good idea to take a couple of pairs of gloves so they can easily be swapped when a pair gets wet.
You will also need some snow boots. I usually look on eBay as they will only last one holiday – their little feet grow so quickly!
TOP TIP: Practice wearing all the gear at home, as it can feel different to their normal clothes.
Skiing with young children is fun!
Babies are fairly straight-forward to keep contented. Milk, sleep and cuddles are pretty much all they require! Pop them in a sling and they are happy anywhere.
Most toddlers and young children love the snow. Most resorts will have snow play areas with lots of equipment to keep them entertained. Italian resorts are, in particular, excellent at these. Snow play can be very tiring so break it up with hot chocolates to avoid over-tired meltdowns!
All resorts will have a sledging area and this is fun for all ages. Ask at the tourist office for details of easy winter walks. They can often show you itineraries of strolls to mountain refuges for lunch. A lot of resorts can offer off-road buggy hire if required.
Kids also love trips up and down the mountain on a gondola!
Skiing with young children will be different from the ones that you had before they arrived. They can still be thoroughly enjoyable and I’ve never regretted take my little ones on trips. Hopefully starting them young will give them a life-long love of the mountains!