Ailsa is our go-to-girl for all things family – here are her notes on travelling en famille…

What to take
As Sri Lanka has developed, so has the option for holidaymakers to find most things they need while they travel. In more rural areas certain items are harder to find and with less English spoken, the language barrier can make it tricky. I’d suggest all the usuals…sun tan lotion (though not overly-slopped as it damages the coral), mozzie spray, insect bite cream etc. Not so easily remembered would be:

  • a small umbrella – good in the rain and the sun
  • car seats (if you can fit one in) – aren’t too easily found so many drivers won’t have them.
  • Disposable nappies – you can find them in most bigger supermarkets but the quality isn’t always great (powdered/formula milk is widely available)

How to travel
From Europe you have the direct/indirect dilemma – stopping in the Middle East or long-hauling it with Sri Lankan Airlines. Personally I always welcomed the chance to stretch the kids’ legs for a couple of hours mid-journey.

Once here you’ll likely be with a driver or, perhaps, jumping on the train. Just bear in mind that time and distance in Sri Lanka don’t correlate as you might imagine. Nip down the highway to Galle from Colombo and you’re done in an hour and a half. A ‘lesser’ journey between Colombo and Kandy can take you up to 4 hours. Well-stocked iPads are a (somewhat guilty) life-saver!

Train journeys, while wonderful, can be similarly lengthy. The most popular, from Kandy to Ella is stunning but you might do better to split it, either doing Kandy to Nanu Oya, or Nanu Oya to Ella, if you’re with young kids.

Where to stay
Set-ups obviously change from one place to the next so always worth checking what room arrangements hotels can offer. Ashburnham Tea Estate has a great Family Room and two doubles that link privately which work well for families. Gal Oya Lodge has a Villa with two bedrooms; again an ideal set-up.  Another favourite of ours, Coco Tangalla, has a really lovely two-room set up for families down by the beach.

Best beaches
Sri Lanka’s beaches can look stunning but a surprising number have to be treated a little carefully when it comes to swimming. The drop-off at Unawatana, near Galle, is a fair bit sharper than at, say, Mirissa.

The little beaches around Thalpe and Habaraduwa are gorgeous but can be rocky in parts. Weligama Bay is widely thought the best and safest beach for kids down south. It’s a great spot for beginner surfers too.

At the right time of year, we’ve seen fewer places better for safe swimming than off Kalpitya on the west coast – try Palagama for starters.

Enjoying the food
The locals love spicy food, but they are also very accommodating when catering for children. Most restaurants will serve simple food like omelettes, chips & vegetables etc. But for days when you are off the beaten track and it’s a struggle to be understood then the simple Sinhalese phrase “miris epa” (don’t add chilli) is a really useful one, or “sarai (sa-rye) veddi epa” (don’t make it too spicy hot).

First aid stuff
Medical care is good in Sri Lanka – you won’t find many swanky GP clinics but access to very good doctors isn’t a problem.

Many Sri Lankans will also, of course, be very happy to recommend natural and Ayurvedic medicines. If you or the kids get too much sun then there are plenty of Aloe Vera plants all to be found. In Sinhalese it’s “Kumarika” and if you ask anywhere you’re staying it’s likely they’ll have some in the garden and be very happy to provide it to soothe your or children’s sore skin. It’s the best!

Do let us know if you have any questions with regards to travelling with kids –