It’s almost that time of year again, when schools close and academia is exchanged for adventure. Whether you choose to stay in the UAE this summer or head overseas, here’s a look at some tips from the pros to keep break-time refreshing.
Dubai-based Indian dad of three, Gautam Goenka, tells Gulf News that one of the best holidays his family took was to Bali; they hadn’t planned a thing; “We took each day at a time. It was extremely memorable, because of the time we got to spend with each other, the sights and sounds, the amount the kids enjoyed the trip. And the two of us were very relaxed,” he says.
Besides keeping the agenda simple and flexible, here’s a checklist to ensure clear skies and laughter ahead.
Before you go
1. Talk to the kids: Dr Maida Kajevic, Clinical Psychologist at the UAE-based German Neuroscience Center, says that before booking your vacation, “have a family discussion about where to go and make it a joint decision so that everyone is on board and excited about the plans”.
2. Build anticipation. Talk about all the fun you’ll have and things you will or can do. British expat Selina Schoeman, who has three children aged 9, 7 and 2, and runs the Insta account @selinas_sunshine, says: “I’m British and my husband is South African … we are going to take the kids back to South Africa this summer. When we talk about going to South Africa, we say, ‘We are going to go on safari and go see wild animals’ [and so on].
“One of our sons is quite obsessed with elephants, so he keeps saying he can’t wait to see elephants again.
“We talk during meal times [about our holiday] next month and that builds anticipation,” she adds.
3. Research your destination. “By reading and exploring the history, culture and traditions you will be better able to appreciate your surroundings,” says Dr Kajevic. And make it an age appropriate destination, says Goenka.
4. Take a good look at your documents. Ksenia Emelina, UAE-based personal travel planner, explains: “Check to ensure your documents are not on the verge of expiry, that you have enough passport pages.”
5. Do you need a PCR test, do you need a visa? She adds: “Check the regulations of the country where you're traveling and give yourself the time to apply for any passes you may need.”
Check the regulations of the country where you're traveling and give yourself the time to apply for any passes you may need.
6. Re-read the rules of return: “Check the rules for returning residents as well – do you need an ‘ok-to-board’ certificate?” she asks.
7. Get travel insurance: On the off chance you lose luggage or fall sick, this insurance can be very, very helpful.
Since travel offers great learning opportunities, he adds, “At a certain age, start involving children on where to stay, what to do, what to eat. We do a lot of scrapbooking. So my kids, since they were four or five, we started getting them to collect small little things. And then when they came back we'd give them projects to do afterwards such as making a scrapbook of their visit. And then they’d write about the one or two things that stood out for them and what they learned about the culture. So that really cemented their learning.”
Emelina offers the following tips for keeping flight times fuss-free.
1. Choose seats on board and book meals with dietary requirements if needed before hand.
2. Organise entertainment the night before:
- Download cartoons on the tablet,
- Buy a book with stickers,
- Get gel stickers for windows, and
- Take favourite toys along.
3. Make sure everyone, especially kids, wear comfortable clothes.
4. Bring empty water bottles to refill after the airport passport control.
5. Bring something tasty for the kids to chew on when taking off and landing, it will release the ear pressure.
6. Book a bassinet for the babies on board in advance.
7. Make children’s wristbands with your phone number and name in case they get lost.
8. Do an online check in to save time at the airport.
Weeks ahead of their take-off, Schoeman is already planning her list of travel snacks, games, sticker books and toys ready. She laughs: “I’m already preparing what we need for our two year old.”
It’s also a good time to reconnect … with oneself. “Numerous studies show that taking time out to travel reduces stress, and alleviates depression and anxiety. Discovering new experiences also fosters creativity. Vacations let us disconnect from daily life and reconnect with loved ones, and this interaction has a lasting effect on wellbeing,” she adds.
When you’re away
1. Spend some time in Nature. Spending time outdoors has many positive mental and physical benefits, says Dr Kajevic. Plus, physical activity and exploration keep you in the moment, leaving you less likely to start thinking negative thoughts or worrying about things back home. It is often outdoor experiences that create the longest-lasting memories for families.
2. Sleep in. Let go of routine. “Holidays give you a chance to catch up on more sleep, an extremely important activity that has a healing effect on the entire body. Time away from school and work gives you the added comfort of waking up when your body is ready and being able start the day slowly, stress-free,” she adds.
3. Don’t take work with you. “Plan ahead so you finish your tasks before you leave and warn clients that you will be away. If you need to, put measures in place like having someone else take over for you, allowing you to give your full attention to your family,” she adds.
4. Limit tech time. Screen parenting has been on the rise ever since the COVID-19 pandemic set in. However, it’s important to take this time to break out of that well-worn couch and to gain some perspective. “Try to reduce screen time for the children as well by keeping them busy with other simple activities and traditional family games,” suggests Dr Kajevic.
After you get back
The holiday blues – or feeling low after a fun vacation – is a real thing. Keep them at bay, says Dr Kajevic, by:
1. Continuing to do some of the activities that you enjoyed on vacation.
2. Reminiscing about the holiday and your favourite moments.
3. Let fun family activities spill over into the weekends. Staycations are another great way to stay refreshed.
Let fun family activities spill over into the weekends. Staycations are another great way to stay refreshed.
Summer break in the UAE
Travel not on the cards? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Make the most out of your holidays with the following tips:
1. Have a jam session: Kazakhstan mum of one, Rano Ben Said, who is also the Founder of Dubai-based Five Senses Studio, suggests using music to entertain as well as stimulate children. Teach kids chords at home or just put their favourite numbers on and dance!
2. Craft using delivery boxes: Save up all those delivery boxes, suggests Ben Said, adding: “Babies play with them and explore. It also fosters imagination. Not to mention the fact that for those a bit older, cardboard from the boxes can serve as a good medium for crafting.”
3. Try shadow puppetry: “Take a bedsheet and put it in front of a lamp – now you have a screen. Make some puppets out of the boxes and use these to make a story come alive,” she suggests.
4. Sensory play: Ben Said explains: "Take a bag of rice, colour it with food colouring and vinegar, dry it out and have the baby play. The baby plays with their hands, it affects the brain directly. You can do this with any edible items that are safe such as jelly and pudding. Any textures that they can smoosh and explore are good. You could also set up themes – Arctic, farm, zoo, etc."
5. Take a drive: Fifty-five-year-old Alison Watt, who runs the Insta handle @glimpsesoftheUAE, says: “Instead of walks or hikes, during summer we go for drives … sometimes into the mountains or to a beach. The time in the car can be bonding time with the kids. Do a quiz, put someone in charge of the quiz, do a singalong, put a nice story on YouTube or Audible, my daughter used to do that a lot.”
6. Head out in the evenings: “I find the best time to be out is the last half hour to one hour before sunset and soon after. I would time our indoor outing with some fresh air outside,” she adds.
Instead of walks or hikes, during summer we go for drives … sometimes into the mountains or to a beach.
6. Start planning. Now: British mum-of-three Rebecca Barry, who has an Insta account called @twinmumplus1dubai, is all about planning. “As we are not travelling this summer, we have already started to make a list of places to visit and take the children. We need to think about keeping a seven year old busy, as well as 14 month old twins, which can be quite difficult. By having an advance list, it takes the stress out of trying to think of somewhere to go last minute when the kids are getting bored,” she explains.
7. Keep an eye on apps and discounts: Use the discount apps available. Kidzapp has discounts for indoor play areas and activities, which will save you money in the long run. Entertainer has two for one offers for places like Fun City or if the kids want to go bowling, she adds. Mum-of-three Amanda Ashworth suggests using Privilee if you like hotel pools and beaches.
1. Sun block
3. First-aid kid with a few essentials such as Band-Aids and an antiseptic
8. Get a play area membership: “Indoor play areas are always top of the list, however, with multiple children, it can be extremely expensive. Most, if not all the indoor play areas offer membership, which is ideal if you want an hour out the house to allow the kids to let of steam,” says the Barry.
9. Social media is a good platform for deals, discounts and ideas for mums. “There are some fantastic ideas from mums who live here and people are more than happy to help out and give ideas if you ask a question. People post regularly and ask for recommendations and things to do with their children over summer,” says Barry.
10. Try a class: Whether it’s coding or cooking, pottery or dancing, the UAE offers a number of options over the summer break. Barry says: “My daughter loves to cook and bake and I’m eyeing some restaurants, such as Larte in Motor City, which does kids pizza making.”
11. Summer camps: Kids at home but you’ve got work to take care of? Enrol your child in a summer camp that will not only give him or her the opportunity to make new friends and gain new skills but also you some space to get your important chores done.
What are your summer plans? Let us know at email@example.com