Parenting: Is holidaying abroad with kids a breeze? Chris Howard thinks so

He’s had adventures the world-over, from rowing the Atlantic to scaling the Himalayas, so a jaunt abroad with his three cubs is sure to run smoothy for Cambridge Dad Chris Howard, right?

It’s half term and we’ve decided to go on a family adventure to explore the islands of Malta and Gozo. We’re all set to expand our knowledge, broaden our horizons and extend the hand of friendship across the water to embrace an unfamiliar and exciting culture. This of course starts with packing as a family, with every item conceivable to humanity sprawled out on the spare bed. We’re talking T-shirts, leggings, dresses, pants, socks, trainers, swimsuits, goggles, cameras, towels, swimming toys, general toys, games and hats in all colours of the rainbow. . . because holiday attire is loud and vibrant in stark contrast to our normal drab muted clothes of Cambridge. Albeit we actually just end up wearing what we would at home because my wife and I are teaching the cubs a very valuable lesson (to be revealed here later).

Chris and his daughters on holiday
Chris and his daughters on holiday

It’s a 6am flight so early to rise and bundling down to the airport with two enormous check-in bags, my wife and I fret about being overweight but of course soon discover they’re not even close! Cue sighs of relief as we check them in and continue through to Security (all five of us with a small carry on). We’d be stressed to hell at this point if I hadn’t done a last-minute check of the cubs’ bags looking for sharp objects, illicit substances and any contraband they may not have realised could prevent us from boarding. Always check your children’s bags before you board a plane!

Thing One is so excited she’s literally bouncing from window to window on the plane and doesn’t stop for a breath until about 40 minutes into the flight. Thing Two is suddenly quiet and a little pale. ‘She’ll be okay,’ my wife and I optimistically reassure each other, whilst inwardly clenching our hope muscles. It’s the first time on a plane for Youngest Thing, who is both excited and nervous, but cute as a button in her fluffy white jacket and bright pink headphones. She’s asked all of the questions (and thought of more) but she’s comfortable and has a window seat offered up by the other two out of pure kindness and happiness to be travelling with her. There are the mandatory lollipops to help with the ears.

I can sleep almost anywhere when I want to and think it’s a good idea in transit to always rest as much as possible but when travelling with the cubs it’s difficult to switch off and fall into deep REM. I doze but I’m aware of everything including the flight attendants stomping passed in their neat uniforms. Five minutes into said rest I realise how lucky I am that my wife still carries a pack of wipes despite our children being old enough not to need them. Thing Two has been sick. All over herself and the seat, but in an instant, she’s stripped and changed into fresh clothes from her carry-on and my wife has cleansed the entire area and made our daughter comfortable again. It’s an amazing superhero action that goes too often unpraised; mums are amazing! My wife is amazing!

Touch down, bags reclaimed, and we are on to a bus up to the north. I can’t tell you all the hacks and tips I’ve learned travelling the world but I can share a few pearls of wisdom. Don’t change the experience just because you’re with family. Approach every trip as if you were not a tourist. Be a traveller and teach them the difference; we wear our normal clothes and we look like locals wherever we go, we blend in and respect the culture, learn a little of the language, look for the unknown parts and fill each moment with joy and curiosity no matter how stressful.

This world is vast and our time is so limited, so see the hidden gems, eat the strange cuisine, talk to a stranger in a bar, listen to the local knowledge, swim in the sea at night, run up that hill, sit on the floor of the train and stand on the bus. The world is beautiful and we make it better for each other so be helpful and enjoy the ride.

And remember, parenting is hard, adulting is hard, holidaying doesn’t have to be; nothing can go wrong! As long as you’ve got a wife that still carries wet wipes. . .

Read more about Chris’s adventures at

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