We all love a holiday, don’t we? But we also all know holidays will NEVER be the same once you have kids. If you think they will be, you are mistaken.
Obviously a fortnight all-inclusive break in the Maldives (more like Majorca?) isn’t ever going to be the same. No bingeing on cocktails at the swim-up bar or lying in the sun reading a trashy chick-lit book for 8 hours a day. No my friend, those days are over. And it’s one of the many reasons I can’t be arsed to take my three boys abroad yet. I’m hoping I’ll get round to it by the time they’re 25 but I’m not promising if I’m honest.
Staycations are what it’s all about in our family for the next few years. We’ve just spent five days on the Isle of Wight, and then a long weekend at Bluestone in Wales. Staycations are surely the way forward with children? And really, how different can they be post-kids? Ahem.
Mmm. Turns out quite a lot different, FFS…
Spend at least 6 weeks beforehand buying new holiday clothes (we know the weather will be the same, we’ve not left the country – but WE’RE ALLOWED NEW HOLIDAY CLOTHES, OKAY?), reading about where you’re going, and getting excited about all the romantic things you’ll be doing (think couples massage in your hotel spa). The week before get your hair cut and coloured (think of the Instagram pics, people), fingers and toes shellaced, and legs, eyebrows (and anywhere else) waxed ready for the lounging beside the hotel pool (probably indoor due to the weather). Cover your spare bed with neat piles of clothes ready to pack at least three days before – then fill a giant suitcase with it all – you never know what you’ll be doing, or what the weather will be like – pack for every eventuality.
It can go two ways depending on your personality but in my case I remember we’re going on holiday about a week before and tell myself to get organised at some point quite soon. You know, seeing as it’s me who is packing for four out of five of us, whilst the Other Half just has to chuck a few t.shirts, some pants and a phone charger into a bag 30 minutes before we leave. Sound familiar? Not that it pisses me off or anything.
Continue manic week as usual looking after Toddler and baby Twins, knowing I need to ‘book’ a slot with the husband when he can entertain all three kids whilst I chuck EVERYTHING they own into 367 bags/suitcases/boxes. Because the only ‘free’ time to do anything (meaning sticking Toddler on the iPad obvs) is when the babies nap, and wake up at the slightest noise in their bedroom. A packing no-no apparently.
Sling two trendy bags in the boot of your fancy BMW, bluetooth your iPhone’s ‘holiday playlist’ into the stereo, head to nearest Costa drive-thru, speed off to destination. It doesn’t matter how far away it is, there’s no need to stop. You’ve not had kids, your bladder control is fucking amazing.
Get a mile up the road and decide the 78 packs of wet wipes you’ve packed isn’t enough (because of course there are zero shops in a 20 mile radius of holiday destination). Turn car around, add another 46 to the already bulging roof box. Oh yes, we have a roof box. On the top of our boring people carrier we had to swap our posh BMW for when we had the Twins. (In case I’ve not bored you with that sore subject, here it is) Just shoot me now.
Despite having spent the last three nights frantically downloading PJ Masks, Blaze and Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures onto the iPad at midnight, you still want to save it as a ‘last resort’ for when Toddler really needs it. He ‘really’ needs it 10 miles up the road and you give in instantly. The other two can listen to the playlist. Wrong. Despite Toddler being engrossed in Dinotrux on Netflix, he still insists on Moo Music’s Doris Duck serenading us – over, and over, and over again. Lovely.
Plan to have QUICK stop at services two hours away. This actually results in spending an hour-and-a-half there by the time the Other Half queues for a KFC for you two, and you feed Toddler and Twins a packed lunch you’re not really allowed to bring in. Most of which goes on the floor massively blowing your ‘we don’t have our own food, honest’ plan. Change Twins, make three attempts to get Toddler to wee with bribes of a 10 second ride in a crappy Paw Patrol car.
Our journey between the Isle of Wight and Bluestone went quite spectacularly wrong due to traffic and resulted in a THIRTEEN hour door to door catastrophe. Of course three of those hours were spent at services. THREE HOURS? What the actual fuck??!
Five star luxury spa hotel, super-king sized bed, Michelin starred restaurant, waited on hand and foot. Enough said. (Or have I been spoilt with too many press trips as a journalist? Yep.)
A static caravan (or tent if you’re really unlucky), which is obviously not baby-proofed so Twins can rifle through cupboards, turn on the oven, climb on the coffee table and even reach up to open doors.
Because you’re now a family of five (that extra 0.6 above the 2.4 children average is such a sod), it means the kids get the two bedrooms, and we get the sofa bed. After the first night of what can only be described as faff, the Other Half sleeps on the settee whilst I sneak off to the double with Toddler. (I don’t do co-sleeping, you won’t be surprised to hear, but admit I bloody LOVED it.) If you go upmarket and have a lodge or cottage somewhere things are much improved on the space front. And if you’re really lucky you might get a stair gate and high chair.
4. DAYS OUT
Relaxing at the hotel spa, reading a book over a (hot) coffee, romantic coastal walks, relaxing beach days if the weather is warm, wandering around little towns and villages, shopping expeditions and sightseeing in bigger cities, doing things on a whim, DAYTIME DRINKING.
Plan your day meticulously, including toilet breaks for potty-training Toddler. Aim to leave caravan/tent/lodge by 9.30am at very latest. Actually leave at 11.15am after Toddler meltdowns, poonamis and general bickering on why nobody is ready yet.
Head to nearby farmyard attraction/tame theme park/soft play/beach. Avoid shopping centres/nice restaurants/picturesque villages and anything vaguely adulty. When at the beach curse a million times as babies eat pebbles/rocks/seaweed, roll their lunch in the sand before eating it, and pull their hats off a nano second after you put them on.
If there is even a glimpse of sunshine spend entire time worrying whether they have enough suncream on – although this is totally needless as their limbs are now caked in such a cream/sand combo they effectively are wearing Factor 8,000. If you are REALLY lucky there will be a cafe nearby selling alcoholic beverages. You will consume (just the) one in the hope it makes everything a little bit easier. It doesn’t.
Whatever you liked, whenever you liked. So long as you could find it to buy. Leisurely full English breakfasts followed by as much fruit and pastries you could manage – which was a lot because it didn’t matter if you spent two hours in the hotel dining room reading the papers with endless refills of lattes. Lunch is either a fancy sandwich on the go to sit somewhere and enjoy a nice view, or in a posh gastro pub accompanied by a bottle of chilled white. Evening meals are either in the hotel (after pre-dinner G&Ts), or if you’re self-catering it’s a takeaway or yummy delicatessen ‘bits and pieces’. And whatever it is, it is NOT at 5pm.
Whatever you have managed to find in the caravan site shop, or have brought with you. So basically pasta or some beige oven food (not too much different to at home in my case). Lunches are of the packed variety, cobbled together with whatever you have and are smeared all over a picnic mat because the Twins prefer to crawl away in different directions when not constrained in a high chair. Meals are basically the same every day throughout the holiday as you MUST use up that pack of fish fingers/chicken nuggets/waffles before you leave.
If you decide to eat out, you remember pubs/restaurants are NO fun with young children and regret it immediately -but only after ordering and paying for food. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?
But holidays are loads of fun, aren’t they?
I said, AREN’T THEY??