I remember going on a trip before I had kids. I managed to pack a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries in a small suitcase. It was a glorious time. There were no nappies to take up most of the space. I didn’t have to spend an hour calculating just how many changes of clothes would be required, taking into account possible vomiting episodes, yogurt spillages, and how much access to mud there would be.
I even managed to travel without the obligatory bag of snacks! These days, travel of any kind, including local day trips and long-haul holidays, requires detailed planning with military precision in order to avoid disaster. But even with all that planning, reality doesn’t always live up to expectations where kids and travel are involved. Honestly, it might be better off to stay at home until they are 18.
Farm Park Day Trip
Farm parks provide a lovely safe way for the children to learn more about agriculture and gain a deeper understanding of where our food comes from, with the added bonus of plenty of play areas where they can run off steam.
Spend £50 on entry for a family of four so you can spend the afternoon looking at some clinically depressed sheep in a drizzly field before giving into the inevitable and spending the rest of the day by the indoor soft play area. Try not to think about how your local soft play area only costs £5 per child and there is no charge for adults.
Spend another £30 on lunch, which consists of a half-filled cheese sandwich, a packet of crisps, and some sliced apple that has started to turn brown. Despair when you realise the toddler has found a lump of sheep poo and is playing with it as though it were play-dough.
A week long holiday in an AirBNB cottage in the countryside will be a relaxing break for us all. It’s a chance to get away from the stresses of home, work, and school, where we can all just relax. Lovely.
You spend every waking minute terrified that one of your children is going to smash the various ornaments that your AirBNB host has left out on display. You’ve managed to move most of them to high level spots but there is that massive vase in the corner of the room that looks very expensive and every time the kids venture near to it you flinch. By day two, it becomes apparent that “rural location” actually means “middle of flipping nowhere” and there is literally nothing to do, except go for long walks in the countryside.
You forgot that your family actually hate “long walks in the countryside” and you are fed up with the cries of “it’s so booooooring here.” You really wished you had booked somewhere with Wi-Fi, because then you could have at least plugged the kids into their tablets whilst you watched Netflix on your phone.
You’ve saved for months to be able to get an all-inclusive beach resort family holiday. It’s going to be perfect. You’ll spend the days relaxing on the beach, whilst the kids run around or spend time in the kids club, and you won’t have to cook a single meal.
It’s hot. It’s really, really, hot. Did I mention the heat? The children have been grumpy the entire time because it is so hot. You give them ice creams to help cool them down but the littlest one still hasn’t grasped that ice creams are meant to be eaten quickly so then you have to strip them of all their clothes and switch to the emergency outfit because everything is covered in chocolate gloop. You try and rinse the outfit in your accommodation’s sink but you just know that gone off milk smell will be taking over your room pretty soon.
You spend ten minutes every couple of hours dealing with tantrums from the kids about sun cream. You then have to deal with a grown-up tantrum from your partner because he thought he was too cool for sun cream and now resembles a cooked lobster. There is sand in everything, you even find it on your toothbrush. And, to top it off, even though you have spend hundreds of pounds and have travelled thousands of miles to get to this exotic location, your children are still only interested in playing on a tablet.
Theme Park Long Weekend
You have fond memories of a childhood trip to Alton Towers and now you can’t wait to make new memories with your children. You have saved up to book a night in the theme park hotel with two full days of theme park access, so that you can make the most of your visit. It’s going to be a fabulous weekend.
An accident on the motorway meant that you spent most of the first morning playing “I-spy” in the car whilst sat in a queue of traffic. Once off the motorway, you had to join a queue to get into the car park. After you managed to find a space, you had to join another queue to get into the park, even though you bought tickets online. Once inside, you had a choice of a 45 minute long queue for a 3 minute ride, a or 60 minute queue for a two minute ride.
Your kids got hungry, so you joined the queue for the café, only to find out they had run out of all kids sandwiches and only had tuna mayo on brown bread left in the main sandwich section. In between all that time queueing, you also had to queue for ten minutes every time you or your child needed the loo. At the end of your second day, you have to queue to leave the resort, and then join another queue on the motorway. You’re British, so you are pretty good at queueing, but you’re not sure you wanted to spend a weekend at a resort that would be better named as “Queue-Land”.
National Trust Property Visit
The property is steeped in history, so you think this is a wonderful learning opportunity for your child. You know that the café does wonderful cakes and you’re looking forward to a slice at the end of your visit.
”NOOO YOU MUST NOT TOUCH THAT! IT’S 300 YEARS OLD AND IT WILL BE RUINED IF IT COMES INTO CONTACT WITH YOUR BOGIE AND JAM ENCRUSTED FINGERS!” is something that you find yourself shrieking on several occasions. You spent a small fortune getting in, not least because the volunteer somehow convinced you to sign up for family membership even though you have never been in a National Trust property before and will probably never go to another one within the next year with your kids given how they have behaved today.
After you have handed over your bank details, your children raced around the property in approximately 36 minutes, stopping only occasionally to try and touch the oldest object in the room. Then they ask what they can do next and you feebly suggest the café, where they proceed to continue running around whilst the you endure the angry looks from the 30 odd pensioners who are clearly there for a peaceful day out.
It’s an opportunity to get back to nature. You have researched camping with children in great detail and you are fully prepared. You have a brand new tent with loads of room, new air beds, a cooking stove, camping chairs, and sleeping bags that you are sure will keep you warm at night. You have read about the mental health benefits of camping and can’t wait to get the whole family spending time in the great outdoors.
The label on your tent states that the pitch time is 45-minutes but it turns out that there should have been an additional three hours added to it, based on your experience so far. You manage to get the tent up and crack out the gas stove, only for the heavens to open, dashing any hopes of sausages. You resort to feeding your children cereal and biscuits. Bedtime for the kids arrives but it’s still light outside and unlike at home where you have a blackout blind, you have no way of blocking out the sun. They eventually fall asleep at 10.30pm and you just know you are in for a hellish day tomorrow with overtired and grumpy children.
It’s still raining, which is confusing because you had been following the weather forecast religiously during the days leading up to the trip and rain was not anticipated. You brave the rain to use the toilet one last time before bed, then get into your sleeping bag, only to hear the words “I need a wee!”. Off you trudge again. Around 3am you start having a dream about being on the Titanic. You wake up to discover that your airbed has a puncture and you are slowly sinking, whilst the tent’s waterproofing has been overwhelmed by the, now torrential, rain and everything is wet. You are cold and miserable. Everyone is cold and miserable. You pack up early the next morning and promptly put all the camping gear on eBay.
Long Haul Flight
You know this is going to be tough. You have been mentally preparing for this moment ever since you clicked on the “confirm purchase” for the airline tickets seven months ago when you were slightly hungover and convinced that a long-haul holiday was the only solution to your woes. You are braced for temper tantrums, travel sickness, and terse travellers who will no doubt be cursing you as soon as they see you have children in tow.
You even thought about making up some of those cutsey gifts that you saw in Pinterest, where you write a saccharine message about how difficult it is to travel with young children and offer some sweets as compensation, but you never got around to it, much like that ironing pile still waiting for you at home.
As soon as your eldest child was strapped in, they quickly worked out how to navigate the on screen entertainment and you barely heard a whisper from them throughout the flight. The youngest instantly fell asleep for four hours and then spent the rest of the time happily colouring in. You feel smug as you realise that you appear to have raised a pair of little angels. Don’t get too excited though. They’re saving up all their mischief for when you arrive at the resort.