With many overseas family snow trips under my belt, I can safely claim to be a holiday preparation-ninja. Due to plenty of trial and error, believe me when I say preparations errors suck and they impact everyone. Forgetting the vital little things to make a trip run smoothly makes everyone cranky, bored or argumentative. Let’s look at some key things to prepare before you leave home.
- Paperwork complete
Ask yourself this: Would you prefer to sit by a pool sipping a cup of tea, casually filling out boring travel documents or are you ok with being pulled at by toddlers and small children inside the airport terminal sweating out in your winter jeans? Any paperwork you can fill out beforehand, such as departure forms are best completed at home. This also includes checking your flights, any entry visa forms and checking ground transport times. Go crazy with your highlighter and post-it flags (not on official documents). An well-organised trip is a fun trip.
2. Alternative activity logistics
If you intend to ski with small children or a mixed ability group, it works well to create a basecamp in a mountain cafe, food court area or restaurant, taking turns having one adult supervise kids there. This maximises best skiing or snowboarding for the rest of the group, gives tired legs a break, creates a predictable meeting place, if anyone gets separated on the slope they know where to go, and gives you a low cost day solution. How does it work? Three words – Kmart, kmart, kmart. Head into the store the week prior and pick up inexpensive craft kits, colouring books, activity books, texta pens or glue sticks. Anything you can put in a backpack and pull out at your base camp to amuse non-skiing crew. Disposable craft, paper or toys that have seen a lot of mileage work well. Balloons you can decorate with sharpie pens, necklace beading or stickers. Combined with snowman making, having a snowball fight and drinking hot chocolate, it’s a pretty fun way to spend a few hours.
3. Portable devices
Even if you’re a family who prefers outside time to screen time, kids are going to get the most from their skiing time if they are well rested. Sitting down to have quiet time after a hard day on the slopes is great for everyone. If there’s a kids movie involved, it’s much sweeter. Make sure you have a few DVDs in your luggage, or upload a few episodes of your kids’ favourite shows to an iPad (works if wifi available). It’s a sanity saver if you’re in Japan where the concept of babysitting doesn’t exist and you’d like to have an adult conversation over a hot chocolate. When everyone is well rested and happy it’s a great holiday for all.
4. The ski school factor
Do you need ski school for your children in order to enjoy your day on the slopes? Speaking from bad experience, don’t be caught out with NO spaces available for your child! Otherwise, prepare yourself to have fun snowplowing over and over with your little one, which you could do back home, minus an overseas flight. Snowplowing behind little ones is awesome, it’s just your knee joints that won’t agree, save the legwork for the fresh 20 year olds spring chickens teaching ski school with flexible knee joints. If you’re skiing in Japan, just remember:
So is everyone else!
Email the snowsports school and book your kids into classes, even if it’s just the first three mornings. Three mornings will allow you to go nuts on powder conditions we don’t have back home. After a few days you’ll have the patience of Mother Theresa back again, so you’ll be better placed to do your 1 kilometre an hour snowplowing. You’ll enjoy it more and your knees will be warmed up.
5. Have you factored the chill factor?
If your skiing experience is limited to Australian snow conditions you might be in for a nasty surprise. Snow temperatures during the day can drop to anything like minus 20 or 30 degrees celcius, it’s a big drop from Australian conditions. Don’t be caught out with cotton socks, no thermal underwear, cheap ineffective gloves or no neck warmer. Ski suits from Aldi might not cut the mustard as well as brands based in chill-factor countries, like USA or Europe. Be prepared to purchase hand warmers and if your kids are booked into ski school for a whole day, pack extra clothes in a backpack, including extra thermals and socks. Getting wet underwear and socks at 10am and having to wait till your parents pick you up at 4pm is really mean in my books, something no amount of hot chocolate and treats are going to fix. If you’re cold, they’re even colder. Check on them a couple of times during the day so make sure they’re happy, it’s their holiday too.
6. Everything fits
Try everything on prior to the trip. It’s amazing how fast kids grow. It’s also annoying lugging extra clothes that people can’t even wear across oceans, countries, upstairs and down hallways. Slightly bigger sizes are ok, but short ski pants and jackets mean ankles and wrists are freezing. Make a checklist for your trip, and like Santa’s naughty list, go over it twice.
When you’ve packed your craft, hand warmers and extra socks, checked your paperwork and left a message for the neighbours to put out your smelly bins, get ready to have yourselves a truly brilliant family time. The family who skis together, stays together. At least until dinner time! Don’t forget to check out some travel in Japan tips to arrive safely.