What is the perfect holiday for you and your family?
It’s that time of year again when people start to think about where they want to go on holiday with their family.
We wait all year to go on holiday..so how is it that they can end of being so stressful.
To me this makes perfect sense; take a bunch of people who are not used to spending time together, and put them in a place they don’t know, with food they don’t know, possibly in a climate they are not used to then take away all their friends, most of the their home comforts and all the routines which make daily life run smoothly, and you are left looking at each other in new ways.
I’ve always traveled with my kids whether it was just a road trip down South or taking my 1 year old to Israel or my 2 and a half year old to Madrid, I have done a lot of traveling on my own with the kids without another adult.
Since P has become part of our family, we have traveled and holidayed more and boy have we got it wrong at times.
There was the time in Rome where we were lost and the kids were too tired to walk any further and we all ended up having tantrums. Then there was the moment in Greece where P saved a Greek woman from drowning when she was caught in a current. Or another time where we got lost down a dirt track in a hire car and realised that the only way forward was through a river or face the 20 KM drive back the way we had just come except this time up a steep dirt track rather than down it.
I haven’t told you about archery at Butlins or getting sandblasted in Aberdyfi so we couldn’t open our eyes..and did I mention the time we went gold panning in a Welsh river in the torrential rain?
So many disasters and so little time!
Let me spare you the details and tell you what I’ve learned about the ingredients that make up a great family holiday so you can avoid our mistakes.
There has to be sun (but not too hot – depending on the age and heat tolerance of your kids) – This isn’t about sun tans, it’s about space. If there is sun shine suddenly everything becomes easier. I spent 5 lovely days over Xmas talking to my friend Teresa while my kids played football on the beach. If the weather is bad, everyone gets cold and miserable, there is no where to dry clothes and everyone is shut inside. Sun means space to do what you want and get outside
Take a friend (or several) – for you and the kids. Some of our best holidays have been when we have gone with other families. Of course it means that the kids fall out sometimes, but mainly it means that they have other people to play with and that the adults have other people they get on with to take the pressure off being a couple. It also means you have baby sitters, life guards and card dealers you trust. This gives you freedom to do more of what you want.
- Who could you go on holiday with?
If you don’t want to go with people, our kids like it best when they go places to meet other kids. Campsites are brilliant for this although I missed meeting new people (the adults seemed to stick together and didn’t mix much)..but I had lots of time to write.
It is better to take 2 cars than argue – so far we have got this wrong. We go to Ireland in one car to visit family and inevitably this leads to conflict as we don’t all want to do the same things and the same time for the same length of time. P can spend the whole evening with his folks and understandably enjoys it…my kids would rather kick a ball. Next time we go there will be 2 cars – cars mean freedom of choice.
Make sure it’s safe – safe sea, no stingy beasts, no cliff top drops or unsupervised pools near bars. I met P when he was stung by a scorpion and lost the feeling in his arm for 3 months. We’ve sat on a beach where 50% of the group we were with were stung by wasps and we have swum in other seas where children have stepped on sea urchins which then involved a painstaking and painful removal of spines.
Make sure there is a doctor or hospital – so that when your kids step on a sea urchin because you ignored my above point, you can get help!
Make sure that there is food for everyone at any time – we used to go to a lovely place in the Pelion of Greece but haven’t returned partly because of the food. I’m quite happy eating strict veggie food as is partner, but the kids lived off bread and kebabs on the beach so it didn’t work for them. Nor did the set meal times. When they’ve been in the sea all day they are hungry NOW not at 830 pm. It works best for us when there are lots of food options and lots of times to eat. Butlins was great as it was a buffet and meal times lasted 3 hours. Alter Ego works for us because they cook what you want, when you want.
Do you really want to self -cater – really? I know it saves money but isn’t going on holiday so you can relax? Whenever we go on holiday and there is an element of catering involved, it falls to the same person who usually does it, ie me. Even in a tent. I don’t want to think about food, or shopping, or washing up; it’s not my thing and I resent having to do it whilst everyone else is having fun. So we compromise and have one meal out and breakfast and lunch are a fend for yourself affair now the kids are old enough to make sandwiches or boil an egg.
The kids need their own room – unless they are tiny, you need your own space and so do they. My kids get up before us and we go to bed after us and whenever we stay in the same room we drive each other crazy. I also need space away from people on holiday as well as at home and having an adult room means that I can read or snooze with less chance of distraction. Also, sex. Aren’t you meant to have just a little bit of sex on holiday..kids as voyeurs don’t do it for me!
Take fewer clothes than you think you need – get them washed as you go. This way you support the local economy and you don’t have to haul 93 suitcases through the airport.
- Be honest. How much stuff do you take on holiday and how much do you use?
- How could you travel lighter?
City breaks can work as long as you stay near a park or a pool – half a day site seeing is more than enough with kids and they need somewhere to chill and let off steam. Madrid is a great city for this as every park has a bar and coffee shop and every plaza has a park in the middle of it so you can sit and watch the world go by and the kids can learn how to say ‘tag’ in the native language.
Make sure there is something for everyone before you book – I need wifi and time to write, P needs WiFi and time to work, I love a sea to swim in, the kids need football and sports and somewhere to swim, P likes activity, I like talking. Spend family time finding out what you all want and work out how to get it.
- Let’s start with you. What makes a perfect holiday for you?
Make sure it’s easy to get there – if you do a package holiday then transfers should be included in the price, but if not think carefully about how to get around. Our taxi-rank rows have become predictable and yet not yet avoidable. P hates feeling he’s being ripped off so wants to get the lowest price no matter what. I just want to get where we’re going and I am aware that the kids are tired and we are all usually hungry. the bonus of our rows are that we do usually get a better price as the drivers assume we are rowing to get the price down, but we’re not, we’re rowing to be right because that;’s the mental wage we are acting at after a long day of traveling – about 2.
Take cash and use the safe – then you don’t have to panic when cash points don’t work or governments announce tha tyou can only with drawn 20 Euros a day.
Set a budget – and stick to it. Unless there is a once in a life time opportunity- in which case do it! For example we all want to swim with dolphins before we die so we’d do that. However, don’t ‘blow it’ on things you think you should do because they are tourist attractions. I know most tourists go into the Coliseum in Rome…but the queues were huge and we decided that looking at it from the outside was good enough.
Make sure you can get around on foot at least most the time – we’ve been to places where the beach is a drive away and it’s a real pain trying to cram everything into the car for the day (we always forgot something) and then find somewhere to park. When you go in a car or a coach then you have to leave when everyone else does which might not suit you. If you can walk to the beach, then you can walk back if you forget things, when you’ve had enough, when you need a snooze or when you need the toilet. It also means people can come and go when they want.
For us there needs to be a bar or taverna – we don’t even drink much but we love being able to go for a coffee or a fanta when we want. Coffee made by someone else always tastes so much better. the kids love it when there is sport on a TV and I love to read so make sure you can all do what you want…we avoid sport bars (too loud for me) and old cafes (too quiet for them) and find somewhere in the middle.
So, there you have my accumulated words of experience!
For me, holidays are about having time to reflect and connect with myself and other people who willing to be authentic and look at life differently. I’m so pleased that we’ll be spending this summer with families who we really connect with. If you’re at a loose end, then email, you might want to meet us there.
Happy holiday booking,
re beds…this has to have been one the most commented on posts I’ve written, but you won’t know that because people replied in private! It turns out that lots of us sleep alone and are in very happy relationships but we don’t share it publicly because we feel ashamed or embarrassed about what the world might think of us.
Thank you so much to those of you who replied about your separate sleeping arrangements, it made me feel a lot better and I just want to let you know, if you sleep alone whilst living with someone you love – Go for it without the shame…you’re not alone, there are many people doing it…let’s bring it our of the closet now!