Don't forget your toothbrush!
There are always essentials that you should take on any holiday. Make sure you pack the following, or you'll regret it:
- Favourite toys and comforters.
- Favourite foods1.
- A favourite book, CD or DVD.
- Pen and paper for drawing pictures, making up games and stories, passing notes or general distraction.
- Small travel games for the journey or in the accommodation in case weather conditions turn bad.
- Slippers. Many resorts have wooden or stone floors so good slippers are useful not only for comfort but to avoid accidents.
If your baby is on formula milk, it is recommended that you bring a sufficient amount with you, as it's not always possible to find the brand that you use in other countries. If you are breast-feeding and intend to vary your normal feeding times during your holiday, it is advisable to introduce the new routine well beforehand or express for later use. Also ensure that you pack enough nappies/diapers/pullups. It's the law of averages that you'll run out and nowhere will have the right size for your child or laundry facilities for those extra stinky ones.
You may be thinking of utilising childcare while on the holiday — younger children (less than three years old) will probably find skiing too demanding, but can still have a lot of fun in the snow. Others may not be up to a whole day on the slopes, so again childcare might be a good option. If you choose to use any creche or nursery, it's a good idea to find out as much as you can about the facility before you go. What age range do they cater for? What should you take along? What is the fee?
If you intend to leave your little ones with a childminder, it helps if you write down their usual routine such as eating habits, if they are used to a rest during the day, favourite toys and other information in order that life can be kept as normal as possible.
If your child is taking any medication, please ensure that full details are written down and that the medication is clearly labelled with your child's name and the dosage instructions so that it can be administered at the appropriate times. Be aware, though, that some childcare facilities will not administer medication at all, so it is best to find out beforehand.
However, if your child is ill, most childcare services will require you to either remove them from the nursery or stay with them yourself. Most companies are unable to look after sick children, particularly when there are others with them in childcare. Don't expect other people to take care of your ill children while you take to the slopes.
All children, whether skiing or just staying in a chalet, will need warm outdoor clothing, including a hat, gloves or mittens and warm boots that are waterproof and comfortable. It is a good idea to re-proof old or second-hand outer clothes which may no longer be impermeable. Several thin layers act as better insulators than one thick one, and even children who are too young to ski should be warmly dressed when they go outside. One-piece suits are preferable also, so that snow, muck, wet and other ickiness won't get into the inner layers.
A high-factor sunscreen is equally important in the mountains, given the reflection from the snow and the increased intensity of the sun at altitude. Children should also have good-quality sunglasses or ski-goggles. A string around the sunglasses can stop them going astray, but be mindful of the chance that this could cause inadvertent strangulation. Goggles are sometimes easier for younger children when skiing, as they stop the snow getting in the eyes when tumbling and do not fall off. Another must for any child trying alpine skiing is a helmet. Whether it be a bicycle helmet or one specially designed for the task, there is no compromise when safety is concerned.
Buying new can become very expensive if you are kitting out the whole family for the first time. Some specialist shops sell secondhand and/or offer a hire service. Alternatively, if a friend has children of the same age and you're planning to go at different times, why not club together and share?
On the Slopes
You may find that you like to ski alone, and there's nothing wrong with that for some of the holiday. But the kids are there to enjoy themselves too, so make sure you do something with them! Babies love to eat snow; let them! A short stint crawling in it won't do any major harm — just ensure that they are warm and dry when you retire inside. Another nice way to involve the very young child (up to twelve months) is for them to be carried in a papoose2 or other appropriate child carrier while cross-country skiing. Be very careful to check that they are warm enough and don't stay out for too long in any case3.
Older children will enjoy the inevitable snowball fights, building snowmen, snowboarding, tobogganing and, believe it or not, watching you ski. If the kids want to learn how to ski, this can be done either before you go or while you are on holiday. Most ski-schools will take children as young as four, but some prefer them a little older, at six. Prices and facilities can vary, so again, check them out before just turning up. Many children will take to the slopes like the proverbial duck to water and be careering around like professionals while the adults stumble and fall into the first available drift. If on the slopes with children, especially first-timers, ensure as an adult that you follow the kids down the runs. If they follow you instead, don't be surprised if they aren't with you when you reach the bottom, but rather halfway up the mountain on their bums. Another troublesome aspect of skiing, however, is the ski-lift. These can a daunting and frightening experience for newcomers to skiing, let alone children. Reassurance and patience are the key. If the child you are with does not want to get on the ski-lift, then so be it. Don't force the issue. There are plenty more things you can do besides skiing when up a mountain!
Just as with any other holiday, make it fun for the whole family. There are numerous gadgets you could take to make the trip a bit easier. Even though a camera can take snapshots and a camcorder will record other memories, it is the thrill of snow for the first time or watching adults crashing into snowdrifts that will make your skiing holiday all the more enjoyable for everyone involved — the children most of all.