As I’m sure most of you reading this will realise, being a Mum is sometimes a tough call. We aim to please everyone sometimes getting it right but occasionally it can go very wrong! I think one of the most difficult things to get just right is the family holiday. There is often a big expectation of perfection from the much longed for break. And when you’ve been saving all year to finally get away it can be a bit of a let down if things aren’t what you expect.
I don’t claim to be an expert but I’ve learnt a few lessons the hard way over the years. We had children long before most of our friends so we weren’t able to call upon their expertise to guide us away from the pitfalls that are so easy to fall into!
For our first holiday with children our daughter was just 10 months old when we decided to go to Tuscany. Not our greatest moment! We didn’t get off to the best start by arriving late at night only to find ourselves wrestling in the darkest corner of the airport car park trying to fit a dodgy Italian car seat into our hire car! We then had to make our way to the villa a good 70 mile drive in the dark across the Italian countryside with the vaguest of directions and a baby in the back looking rather bewildered as we bickered about which way to go!
The hard stone floors throughout the villa were not ideal for a 10 month old just learning to crawl nor was the freezing cold swimming pool (complete with live-in snake!). We were miles from the beach but we did make the 100 mile round trip to get there across the mountains on one of the days.
However we would probably have been better staying at the villa because we gave our daughter a five-year long phobia of showers by trying to spray off sand that had stuck to her suncreamed body under a freezing cold tap!
On the final day of the holiday we had to check out of the villa at 9am but the flight home wasn’t until nearly midnight so we had a hellish day trying to keep her entertained without being able to put her down anywhere for a nap. The memorable for all the wrong reasons holiday therefore culminated by our daughter projectile vomiting across the table in a crowded restaurant!
Luckily for us all the booking a holiday experience has come on a long way in the ten years since our Tuscan debacle.
Here are a few hints and tips for holiday and accomodation booking when you have small children whether you are staying in the UK or venturing abroad. Hopefully they might help you avoid some of the disasters that have befallen us!
- Think of travel times and durations. You may be able to survive several hours in the car, and endless waits at airports, ferry terminals etc. but small people are less able to cope with all this and can cause meltdowns. Think long and hard about your children – when they are younger it might be easier to holiday in the UK, than endure a long journey
- When booking use a good website that caters for families travelling with children. The best websites allow you to select a family-friendly
cottage, select late and special offers on cottages suitable for families and even supplies those all important extras like cots and high-chairs. You can find a family friendly location, with a suitable travel time (eg. holiday cottages in Northumberland), then narrow it down, using photos and information provided online to get exactly what your family needs. I particularly like holiday cottages in Craster which offer idyllic accommodation close to some glorious sandy beaches.
- Get recommendations if possible from friends with children roughly the same age as yours. We have had our best holiday in a hotel recommended by a friend.
- If you are going abroad – check out the important smaller details – how long is the flight (sounds basic but we’ve been caught out not bringing enough entertainment for the length of flight!), how long is the transfer, if the transfer is by coach will there be toilets on the coach, what sort of plugs do they use so that you can bring the right adapters (no charging disasters!), is there a microwave etc.
- Get the best flight times you can possibly afford. We think it makes the all the difference between coming back relaxed or fraught from lack of sleep. Not having to leave the house at 2am helps get the holiday off to a good start. Likewise arriving home in good time allows you to get a load of washing on and feel like you’re ready to go for the next day rather than waking up to a disaster area!
- And my top tip is to use airport ‘Meet and Greet’ parking. If you look out for special offers in advance it only costs a few pounds extra to parking alone (and if you’re really savvy you can get it at the same price) but it is the icing on a cake to a good holiday. Being met by your ‘chauffeur’ at the airport door with your car ready and waiting is such a welcome sight. It definitely beats queuing for a bus in the rain with bored tired children followed by a trek across the airport car park only to be greeted by a flat battery on your car because the interior light has been left on!
I can’t guarantee that there won’t be a snake in the swimming pool, but hopefully some of the smaller traumas can be avoided with a bit of pre planning and your well-earned break will be a holiday to remember (for all the right reasons!).