Are holidays with small children REALLY holidays? I mean, isn’t a holiday supposed to be a time to relax, enjoy yourself and enjoy new surroundings for a few days (or if you’re crazy, a week plus!)? Isn’t it just going to another place to do the same thing but with added mega stress?
This was my cynical thought process after a particularly harrowing few days away in Portsmouth a couple of months ago. In fact, pretty much every “holiday” we’ve been on since having kids (which has involved between a few days and a week somewhere in the UK) has been stress city with, on very rare occasions, a few pockets of genuine fun at best. Our first holiday was in a lovely cottage in Cardigan, which is where we took Gus swimming for the first time. He was 4 months old. There were some genuinely lovely times but mainly we were on high alert the whole time, not in the slightest bit relaxed (despite the copious evening consumption of Pimms or wine or both). The surroundings couldn’t have been lovelier, the weather was clement, but we were still looking after our first small baby consumed by the weight of new responsibility and perplexed by the end as to why he’d started to cry non-stop. Turns out he needed to start being weaned but I had no idea of this at the time so I came home from that holiday an emotional wreck and that started my first hideous episode with post-natal anxiety.
|Pizza Express in the Gunwharf.|
Not a great start.
The second holiday we went on, again in West Wales, fared better but shitty weather, a not particularly toddler friendly beach and a hilly terrain/buggy combo don’t mix too well.
We gave it a miss altogether for the last 2 years. Then in February we booked to stay in Portsmouth for a few nights in a Premier Inn room. It was super cheap! And ill thought through. My Grandparents (late 80s, early 90s) live in Southsea and Emlyn’s (same ages) just a hop away from there on the Isle of Wight. It was going to be a lovely little sojourn to show off our little ones to the oldest generation!
IT WAS HELL ON EARTH.
The packing alone for a 4 year old and 16mth old in a virtually self-catering, very basic hotel room was absurd. We had to literally take the kitchen sink (a washing up bowl et al). The 3.5 hour car journey there was a trauma-fest of boredom and frustration. It was genuinely lovely to see both sets of Grandparents but highly stressful because old people’s houses just aren’t set up for tiny, easily bored kids who have yet to learn social etiquette in such situations! There are breakable things EVERYWHERE. There are pointy corners and slippy rugs and switches and cupboards that can be fiddled with and areas they’re not supposed to go and stairs and no Cbeebies and NOT ENOUGH THINGS to do!
Don’t even talk to me about the logistical nightmare of getting to the South of the Isle of Wight with a car for the day. We spent more time travelling each way than we did at the house and obviously more car journeys was not the kids’ idea of a good time.
But the worst of the worst is 4 people sleeping in a pokey cheap hotel room stuck in the middle of an industrial estate with NO BAR. On the first night, I sat in complete darkness for an hour listening to Joni cry whilst Emlyn took Gus off for chips. We then tentatively put a dim light on and attempted to get him to sleep. He eventually went but woke at 3am and stayed awake asking us if it was time to get up every 5 mins til 5am when he fell asleep. Joni woke at 6am.
The next night everyone was SO pooped we thought for sure it would be easier to get them to sleep. Not on your flipping Nelly. More crying in darkness, more insomniac child. By the next day we were broken. We sacked off the relational visits and ended up in one of those generic, if fairly grim versions of the soft play toddler havens we’d managed to track down. We sat bug-eyed over weak crappy coffees whilst the kids went mental using up their seemingly endless energy resources. Then drove home to Cardiff.
Tell me, please, how HOW was that a holiday?
As most parents will know, we have just had the school Easter holidays. For the second week Emlyn and I took the week off so we could take the kids out every day and enjoy some home time QT. It was amazing! We were super lucky with the weather obviously but that aside, the difference between our time away and last week was incredible. We had kid friendly organised days out every day, we came home to our own beds ....no awful journeys and no horrendous packing. The kids were happy and excited and went to bed at normal times! Hooray! Staycation for the win! It was seriously one of the best weeks we’ve ever had.
So unless we win the lottery and can take a full time nanny, cleaner, packer, journey entertainer, lots of drugs and SEPARATE rooms then we’ll be staycaying very much so for the foreseeable.
Do you holiday with small children and come back with your brain and emotions intact? Please let me know your secrets in the comments section below!