When Jon and I first met, we decided to plan a holiday together. Jon was into scuba diving and we decided on a trip to Egypt in the Easter holiday for a week of some sand and sun and a test to see if we could actually stand living together! When we priced it up, Jon was horrified! ‘Why is that week double the cost of the one before and after it??’ He cried! ‘Why can’t we just go then?!’ Welcome to the world of holidaying with Teachers! That feeling that parents get when their kids start school and they realise how much a holiday now costs when you’re tied to non-term time… That has been my entire adult life! I think it’s probably the closest Jon has come to cutting his losses and leaving me!! Spare a thought for us poor teacher folk with our 13 weeks of holiday each year where we can’t actually afford to leave the country due to the astronomical hike in prices!! (Yes I know you still hate us, I appreciate there is absolutely no sympathy and also that you think we start work at 9 and leave at 3!)
My basic point is that holidays (in school holidays) are costly, so when we found out I was pregnant with George, one of the brilliant by-products of having a baby and being on mat leave was that we’d be able to go on holiday and experience not having to pay the annual net tax bill of Luxembourg to leave the country!
We got all excited and started looking at options. We were going with my parents (who as far as I can see we have a fairly unique relationship with in that we actually enjoy going on holiday with them!) and decided to aim for late June/early July to avoid having to go too far afield to catch some sun. This would have made George about 3 months old at the point of travel. We also decided that a villa might be a good option as we’d then have the flexibility of putting him down for naps in the day without one of us being trapped in a hotel room for hours on end and could stay in and cook in an evening if going out felt like too much hassle!
Portugal was our destination of choice, we found a lovely villa, booked the flights and started to get ourselves all excited, including putting out a cheeky little ‘booked our first family holiday’ Facebook update.
Talk about pissing on your bonfire! I lost count of the number of people who used the word ‘brave’! Oh you’re brave taking a baby all that way! Oh you’re brave flying with a baby! Oh you’re brave taking a baby in that heat! I couldn’t help thinking that when most of the people typed the word brave, what they actually meant was ‘stupid’!
I found myself confused! I was a new mum, crippled by self doubt; Had we made a monumental cock up? Did people just not do this? Had we completely underestimated the challenge we had undertaken?? I started to think back to holidays we’d been on before… I’m fairly sure I’d seen kids in hotels eating actual food and kids on aeroplanes not accidentally falling out the window at 20, 000 feet and kids sitting round the pool in the sun not spontaneously combusting! But maybe I’d got it wrong! Maybe we were putting our precious cargo at risk just for the option of cheap flights and a glass of sangria!
The day after my bonfire had been pissed on, the health visitor came round. I mentioned that we’d booked to go away and I think she must have picked up on my tension on the subject. Her line will always stick with me… ‘Rachel, I’m not sure if you’re aware but there are some people in Portugal who have actual babies!’ She poo-pooed all the doom mongerers, told me to not waste shoe space on nappies and buy them over there and to keep breast feeding as then all I’d need to take was my boobs (and I’d pretty much already factored those into the luggage allowance anyway!)
And do you know what… we were fine! He slept loads on the plane. He was a bit grumpy for the first few days because of the heat and basically spent 3 days constantly breastfeeding because he was thirsty but after that he loved it! We got a little blow up paddling pool to keep in the shade and he spent most of his days sat in there splashing away thoroughly entertained by the fact that he had 4 whole people to occupy him! We ate out every night and took the pram with us- his routine went out of the window but he slept better at night, slept in later in the morning and we all came back home feeling thoroughly recharged after the massive baptism of fire that the first three months of keeping alive our first born had been!
I once heard the phrase ‘same stress different address’ used by a parent to describe going on holiday with kids but I have to say that this has not necessarily been our experience. Yes the kids can get a bit hot and bothered. Yes it feels like you are trying to pack the entire contents of your house into a hold-all. Yes the kids are out of routine and will probably make you pay for a few nights when you get there and when you get back (we did long haul and for the first week the kids got up at 3am every day!!!). Yes there will probably be at least one moment on the plane where you swear you are never bloody doing this again! But the positives outweigh the tricky bits in my opinion!
For one, even if we are not holidaying with grandparents (although why wouldn’t you?!), there are at least 2 adults as opposed to when I’m at home for 12+ hours on my own and outnumbered! Ratios are higher and therefore workload (for me at least!) is reduced! You are also not trying to balance the kids in the ongoing juggling act of everything else as well; You’re not having to stick them in front of the TV while you ring up to sort your car insurance or put a load in the washer or try to prep dinner! You don’t generally have to cook or clean! You can spend time being the fun mum that you always envisaged you’d be and spend proper time with the kids and have things like conversations with each other! Not forgetting obviously the whole new range of experiences on offer to you as a family!
There are some gauntlets you will have to run… Packing is never a smooth process in our house and does not bring out the best in our marriage! I like to be organised and ahead of the game; Jon likes to play it casual and usually announces the night before we go that he’s nipping to Meadowhall at 8.30pm because he hasn’t got any shorts! He has now stopped uttering the phrase ‘it only takes 5 minutes to pack’; probably after I painstaking catalogued exactly how long it had taken me to buy, wash, dry and gather all the clothes which are sat in piles expectantly waiting to be put in the case along with the toiletries and the sun cream and the medical ‘just in case’ bag and the nappies and swim nappies and sun hats, all of which I’ve purchased and gathered over the previous weeks; only for Jon to swoosh in at the last minute, put all these things into the waiting suitcases and claim ‘packing rights!’
Children also don’t get the idea of baggage allowance! I’ve just asked them to go upstairs and pick 3 books each to put in their bags for the plane and bedtime stories when we get there; We currently have a pile of 17 books that they claim they can’t go without! Esme categorically refused to put one back because she wouldn’t be able to sleep unless she’d read it- I have never actually seen this book before in my life! They also have ‘Trunkis’ or as I like to call them- the wheeled spawn of the devil!!! Little wheeled, brightly coloured cases that the kids can pull behind them or sit on and be pulled along on… neither works! They get bored before you’ve cleared the check in desk and you either end up trying to navigate the airport with a child under each arm dragging the bloody things behind you or get repeatedly whacked in the ankle as a child whizzes past you while you hiss through gritted teeth that they need to calm down!
Sun cream will become the bane of your life! You will get sick of slicking the kids in factor 50 and will inevitably burn yourself as you run around making sure they are not exposed in anyway to sun danger! You will get sick to death of putting the hat back on the baby who pulls it off within seconds! You will get annoyed that your bronzed back now has a white handprint in the middle of it where one of the monkeys made it through the ‘factor 50 exclusion zone!’ Our big two sit on opposite ends of the sun cream spectrum- George behaves as if you are trying to rub burning lava into his eyeballs whereas Esme insists on doing it herself, applies far too much and you basically look like you have accidentally swapped your daughter for Casper the ghost!!
You will read the same line of your book that you stupidly thought you’d get through about 356 times after being distracted by your offspring! You will have a minimum of 5 domestics with your other half making your way through the airport, and that’s only if you’re still speaking after the packing process! There’s a strong possibility your child will spend the entire holiday eating bread rolls, chips and ice creams! You will get bored having to watch them jump into the pool in exactly the same way 46 thousand times!
But for me- travelling with kids is worth all of it for a couple of weeks off being an ‘in a minute mum’!
The following was a mini blog about travelling with kids that I posted on my Facebook page…
The kids have been playing ‘mummy’s and daddy’s go on holiday’ in the car for the last half hour. However, I cannot help but notice the inaccuracies in the scenario they are acting out so I have offered the following constructive criticism!
1. At present you can see out of all the windows and there is space for all passengers to comfortably include their own legs and heads in the car… you have not packed enough!
2. ‘Daddy’ has not asked ‘mummy’ 46 times if she’s absolutely sure she remembered to put the passports in the bag and would she just check ‘for him!’
3. ‘Mummy’ has not threatened to stamp on ‘daddy’s’ testicles if he uses the word ‘we’ one more time in relation to packing! E.g. ‘Have WE packed my shaving stuff?’
4. No one has their ankle in a plaster cast after being repeatedly whacked by a b@&£ard trunkie!
5. ‘Daddy’ has not had to duck to avoid the packet of mint imperials that was just hurled at him after uttering the phrase ‘I don’t know why you get so stressed, it only takes 5 minutes to pack!’
6. The children have not asked repeatedly if we are nearly there yet, despite having not left the drive of our house!
7. ‘Mummy’ is not rocking back and forth ever so subtly in her chair while whispering the mantra ‘we probably won’t die!’ under her breath very very quietly so as not to pass her phobia of flying on to the children! (Even though it is their fault that mummy can’t adopt her previous solution of getting sh@t-faced on wine because she has to maintain the facade of being ‘responsible’!)
8. The children have not developed a new found love of every single stuffed toy they’ve ever been bought and demanded that they simply HAVE to take ‘generic brown teddy’ and all the other 457 stuffed toys with them or they can’t possibly be expected to sleep for the 2 weeks we’re away!
9. They’re in a traffic jam but nobody has declared they urgently need a poo!
10. Everyone still appears to be speaking to each other! Using real words and not grunts or swear words!! Highly! Inaccurate!
Once you’ve implemented these points kids, totally nailed it!! 😉