Essential kit: don't set off without it

When the modern-day family goes on holiday, it's like an army on the move. Annalisa Barbieri chooses the supplies to keep you happy
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The Independent Travel
1. First Luggage

An extravagance that can really make sense on certain holidays: send some or all of your luggage ahead. It's collected a couple of days before you leave (so a certain amount of organisation is necessary) to make sure it's there to greet you. The same thing can happen in reverse, in which case it's collected on the day of your departure. You can even have a suitcase of unwanted clothes collected mid-way through your holiday. The whole service is managed by FedEx and your luggage is tracked en route. No struggling with heavy bags to the airport, no queuing at the baggage check-in. It's particularly ideal if you travel with children, or for older people or those less able to carry their luggage. £35 (for skis), £80 for a suitcase, one way (0845-2700 670; www.firstluggage.com).

1. First Luggage

An extravagance that can really make sense on certain holidays: send some or all of your luggage ahead. It's collected a couple of days before you leave (so a certain amount of organisation is necessary) to make sure it's there to greet you. The same thing can happen in reverse, in which case it's collected on the day of your departure. You can even have a suitcase of unwanted clothes collected mid-way through your holiday. The whole service is managed by FedEx and your luggage is tracked en route. No struggling with heavy bags to the airport, no queuing at the baggage check-in. It's particularly ideal if you travel with children, or for older people or those less able to carry their luggage. £35 (for skis), £80 for a suitcase, one way (0845-2700 670; www.firstluggage.com).

2. Naturalmat Travelling Mattress

You may not want your child to sleep on a mattress that hundreds of others have already slept on (in the case of very young babies, this is not recommended). There are travel cots aplenty, but until now it's been impossible to find a travelling mattress. Naturalmat, which specialises in natural mattresses, has now made a great one. It's quilted, using lots of deep, tufted lambswool which makes it cool to sleep on when it's hot, cosy when it's cold, covered in unbleached cotton ticking, and the whole thing rolls up into a cotton duffle bag. The standard size is 59cm x 119cm but you can also get it made to measure.

£75 for standard size or smaller; over that price on application, from Naturalmat, 99 Talbot Road, London W11 2AT (020-7985 0474; www.naturalmat.com).

3. Lock & Lock storage boxes

These are the boxes of the gods. They come in a dozen different shapes, they have a myriad of uses and they are completely, 100 per cent leakproof. The 350ml size is perhaps the most versatile: it can be used to carry DIY wipes (sheets of Ultraliners with a cup of camomile tea poured over the top) which are the business for anything from cleaning your own hands to a baby's bottom. You can put snacks in them or make a different activity pack every day for your children. A top, top buy.

From £1.40 by Lock & Lock, at Lakeland Limited (01539 488100; www.lakelandlimited.com). Ultraliners, £2.95 (roll of 100) from Waitrose and www.earthlets.co.uk (0845 072 4462).

4 The best airline

I polled the members of parenting website ( www.iwantmymum.com) for some unbiased feedback on the best airline to use if travelling with children, because it's all very well getting the company spiel but it's what really happens when you travel that matters. And although it didn't come out unblemished - one mother travelling with three children wasn't at all impressed with the service from Newark to London and there were frequent complaints about Nestlé snacks being served in flight) - British Airways came out tops for child-friendliness: "They always upgrade if possible, let us pre-board and give us good seats." Singapore Airlines was also commended.

www.ba.com; www.singaporeair.com

5. Lightweight pushchair

If there's a lighter buggy on the market than the Maclaren Volo, I've yet to find it. It weighs 4.2kg and is ideal for taking on holidays to the sun as the seat is mesh so baby stays cool. If you're after a buggy that's light but also folds up really small then the Quinny Buzz is for you: it's the world's most compact pushchair when folded, measuring a mere 69cm x 27cm x 30cm and weighing 6kg. Both models have fixed seats, so you can't recline them, and they're not suitable for babies under six months (although the Zapp is if it is used with a compatible car seat). If you plan to go somewhere really hot, however, I'd also take a Shade-a-Babe sun canopy suitable for any pushchair. This proves invaluable in keeping off bugs and providing a shady environment for your baby to sleep in, and offers a sun protection factor of 50. Maclaren Volo, £50, accessory pack including sun-hood and rain cover, £30, from department stores nationwide ( www.maclarenbaby.co.uk).

Quinny Zapp costs £149.99, from department stores.



6. People carrier



I know that the initials MPV raise the alarm in some quarters, being code for "it'll be 20 years before I can have a sports car again"; but there's nothing boring about the whole family travelling in comfort. The Kia Sedona is the nation's best-selling multi-passenger vehicle. It seats seven people, the middle row of seats turns into tables, it has two sliding doors, power sockets in the back and it can come with a DVD player (one screen for all the back seat passengers, listening in via headphones) and tinted windows, as well as having more drink holders than you'll ever need and flip-down tables. From £14,995 OTR, £16,073 with DVD player (0845 601 7521; www.kia.co.uk).

7. Family friendly airports

KLM's Junor Jet Lounge, Schiphol, is for passengers aged between 5 and 17 who are travelling without an adult. It's divided into three areas: interactive, active and passive. In interactive, children can play video games or watch television or films on giant screens. The active area is full of puzzles, drawing materials, Lego and Knex. The passive area sounds particularly blissful: it has bean bags to lounge on and even a bed. Why don't parents get this sort of treatment? Singapore airport has a pool that the whole family can use. As one mother put it, "You don't have to go through customs to get to it. You just have to have your swimsuit in your hand luggage - towels [and toiletries] are provided. So there we were at 10.30pm local time, swimming with our toddler in a rooftop pool. Rejuvenating and highly recommended." It's not massive but it hits the spot on long-haul stop-overs to New Zealand.

KLM Junior Jet Lounge is on the Holland Boulevard connecting E and F piers at Schiphol. Singapore airport's rooftop pool (admission about £4.50) is near the Transit Hotel, Level 3, Terminal 1 ( www.changi.airport.com).

8. Travel cot

In the past couple of years, cot have become incredibly light and - especially with first-stage cots - you can now put them up in seconds. The Samsonite Pop-up Baby Bed can't be beaten here, but it's only suitable for babies up to six months old. For older babies, the really light cots are a little more complicated - it's a bit like putting up a tent. The Little Life Twin Arc Travel Cot is not the easiest to put up - it takes five minutes of patient attention. The Nomad Kids Travel Bed is easier but there is a price and size difference.

Samsonite Pop-up Baby Bed, £34.99, footprint size 85cm x 48cm, weighs less than 1kg, from Blooming Marvellous (0870-751 8944; www.bloomingmarvellous.co.uk), code 7332. Little Lite Twin Arc Travel Cot, £79.50, 128cm x 113, weighs 2.6kg, from John Lewis (020-7629 7711; www.johnlewis.com), product code 32041001. Nomad Kids Travel Bed, £115, 118cm x 75cm weighs 2.4kg ( www.travellingwithchildren.co.uk).

9. Neal's Yard First Aid Remedies

Neal's Yard Remedies used to do a fabulous first-aid roll full of natural remedies. When I first saw it I thought, "Hmmm what possible use is all that hippy stuff?", but I took it on holiday and used it again and again. They don't do it any more but you can still buy the individual components. The things I'd really recommend are the arnica cream, the Hypericum and Calendula Tincture and essential oil of lavender. Arnica is great for any knocks and bumps; lavender oil can be used in the bath (only a few drops) or even applied neat on to insect bites on older children. It's a great relaxer and helps to calm them down. But the one potion that is so good it's spooky is the Hypericum and Calendula Tincture. It's an antiseptic and you use it for minor cuts, burns and abrasions. You mix it with water amd it really is magically effective. It also comes as a cream.

Hypericum and Calendula Tincture, £4.65, arnica cream, £4.50, lavender essential oil, £4.65 from Neal's Yard Remedies shops nationwide (01747 834634; mail order, 0845-262 3145; www.nealsyardremedies.com).

10. Portable smoke/intruder alarm

This can give you added peace of mind either for yourself or for yourchildren if they are sleeping in a separate room. It's a piece of kit in two parts. The first has a flip-up display that shows the time, date and room temperature. It also has an alarm clock (useful for sleepy teenagers) and an inbuilt torch. The second part you hang on the door knob, where it acts as a smoke and intruder alarm (the latter is activated if it's moved). It emits 110 decibels when disturbed.

£49.99 from Travel With Care (0870-748 9562; www.travelwithcare.com).

11 Mosquito repellent

As someone who looks like bubble wrap after a single night in the company of mosquitoes, the subject of insect repellents is one close to my skin. My surefire tips are a plug-in mozzie repellent in your room and Autan stick to be carried everywhere and applied fastidiously from teatime onwards. However Deet (the active ingredient in most mozzie repellents) is not recommended for children. Even the non-Deet plug-ins which don't come into contact with their skin shouldn't be used too close to where they sleep. One easy thing you can do to minimise their presence is to turn on the air conditioning or electric fan. Mosquitoes are sensitive to air currents, though it probably won't stop you being bitten entirely. If malaria isn't an issue and you want to use an entirely natural repellent, try Badger Anti-Bug Balm or Neal's Yard Remedies' citronella spray. For a halfway-house, Mosi-Guard comes highly recommended and is said to protect even in malarial areas.

Badger's Anti-Bug Balm stick, £6 (0800-980 6662; www.beautynaturals.com). Citronella Spray, £5.50, from Neal's Yard Remedies as before. Mosi-Guard, from £5.59 from Boots and chemists nationwide.

12 Toshiba LCD DVD Player SDP 1600

If your car isn't fitted with a DVD player and you have older children, consider one of these. Not only will it keep them entertained for ages on long journeys (it has twin headphone sockets) but it comes into its own again at your destination: no more arguing about who wants to watch what as long as you remember to bring a stack of DVDs. The screen is only 7in, but it's remarkably well priced. It runs on batteries (battery life approx three hours) or mains, and has a remote control.

£199 from John Lewis (020-7629 7711; www.johnlewis.com), code 82484918.

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