When I look back, I see holidays dotted here and there that form a sort of memory-map of defining points in my life. Holidays as a child, holidays as a teenager, holidays with friends, holidays as a parent. Holidays that shaped me.
The classic childhood holiday. Every year throughout my childhood, we’d holiday in Cornwall. We went to the same place, with the same families, year after year. As a girl surrounded by brothers and their friends, I desperately tried to prove myself and keep up with the challenges set in order to be in their gang. This is where I crashed a moped, got a scar from scaling a barbed wire fence, ran through a pen of cows. Cornish beaches and farm stays are the epitome of childhood holidays for me, and the type of thing I’d love to do with my boys one day.
The first ‘no parent’ holidays. Newquay the summer after completing our GCSEs. Majorca when we were 17. Those holidays will always remain infamous.
The Gap Year to Australia and South East Asia with two of my good friends. If you get us on the subject now, we won’t talk about anything else for the rest of the evening. Talking about that trip never fails to leave us all in tears of laughter.
The Thailand jaunt. A six-week long trip to Thailand just before the start of uni. There were 7 of us, all really close friends, all young and carefree and not really giving a crap about anyone bar our little group.
The Sequal. During the uni holidays, the same group of friends reunited in another six-week trip around the Greek islands. I could tell you the stories, but they’d all sound silly and lose their meaning in translation.
The ‘crisis of confidence trip’ to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. I’d spontaneously quit a job that I hated. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. (Oh, the days where I could afford to be a brat and indulge privileged notions of ‘running away from it all’ and ‘figuring things out’).
The Dubai years. For most of my teenage years, my dad worked and lived in Dubai, so we were frequently flying out there to spend time with him. It was quite the luxury to be able to fly out on a whim using his air miles whenever I fancied a break in the sun.
The ‘blow-out’ holiday. In 2008, Sam was working for a travel company, and so we were able to book this amazing holiday to the Caribbean at a massively reduced rate. We split the time between Nevis and Antigua, lazing about on the kinds of beautiful turquoise beaches that I love. At the time, it seemed a bit extravagant for two kids fresh out of uni. But in hindsight, I am so glad that we chose to do it, as to date, it’s the only holiday Sam and I have been on alone.
The grown-up family holiday. All adults, but still young enough to get away with going on holiday with our parents. We went to Cuba – it was a great destination, one of our best ever family holidays, and the last one where all family members were present.
The holidays that never happened. In 2010, we were meant to go to Glastonbury as usual, but cancelled our tickets once we found out about Arlo because it was too much money to spend when we had a completely unprepared-for baby on the way. I was also meant to go with Sam and his family on a safari holiday in Africa, but as there were no 100% ‘safe’ anti-malarials for me to take whilst pregnant, along with some other factors that meant we just couldn’t make it work, I stayed at home instead.
The ‘last-chance-saloon’. When I was pregnant with Arlo, it was really important that Sam and I had a last hurrah before a baby came into our lives. As we’d only ever been away together once, I wanted a trip that I could remember as ‘the one before our lives changed and we couldn’t afford holidays any more’. A long weekend in the Cotswolds was our last trip before children. I ate my pregnant weight in cream teas.
The ‘new parents’ holiday. In 2011, we teamed up with Sam’s parents, brother, and sisters on their holiday to France. Arlo was 9 months old, and very hard work, especially at night. For me, it was a welcome break in that year of maternity leave where your life suddenly becomes dictated by routines beyond your control, and you spend most of the year just getting used to this completely different life.
The ‘solo-parent’ holiday. Also in 2011, I took Arlo to Cyprus with my mum and siblings. We were there for my cousin’s wedding. Sam stayed at home as it was an important time at work and he couldn’t afford to miss it. Arlo was 11 months old and still very hard work. I remember the one evening I went out with the hen party, I left Arlo with four adults (although I shouldn’t really count my mum in this as she was recovering from a recent hysterectomy and couldn’t really pick Arlo up, etc), and returned to two stressed out brothers shaking their heads and saying “never again”. Arlo had woken up just after I left and no one had managed to resettle him. Arlo and I left England with a flu bug, and were feeling really quite poorly for the first four days of a week-long trip. Dealing with all of Arlo’s night-time wake ups on my own, and not having Sam around to juggle baby duties with me during the day time was not something I fancy repeating. There were some really fun parts to this holiday, though. Because we were there for a family wedding, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a holiday, or will ever again be on holiday with so many members of our extended family.
I returned from both of those holidays exhausted, and with the firm impression that holidays with babies aren’t for the faint-hearted. On top of all the equipment you need to take, you have to deal with the fallout from the massive upheaval to your baby’s routine, and at least a week’s recovery time once you get home. I even wrote just a few months ago that I was very happy not to attempt another holiday until the new baby was toddling. But I didn’t count on having Rory. It turns out that not all babies are as exhausting as Arlo, and by the time Rory was 4 weeks old I found myself with enough energy to be wistfully longing for a family holiday. (I feel quite guilty constantly writing about how bad he was as a baby, we did appreciate him and love him – just as we do with Rory).
Cyprus was my last trip away. We haven’t been anywhere since 2011, and we’ve never been anywhere with just our family. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s just not been in the budget since we became parents and I left my job. We have tentatively talked about trying to have a holiday or a weekend away in 2014, nothing extravagant, camping or a self-catering place somewhere on the coast would be perfect. So I’m crossing my fingers that the theoretical holiday budget won’t get swallowed up by other costs that are bound to crop up next year.
I think I’ve been really spoilt for holidays in the past. I definitely grew up not realising how much of a privilege it was to be going on holidays every single year. Arlo will be heading towards four next summer, and of an age where he will start forming long-lasting memories, and Rory won’t be far behind him. A lot of my early memories involve being on holiday. I think you are more likely to remember times when the setting was different, and you were doing fun things with your family. I really want to give our children that.
I want them to build sand castles on the beach, learn to swim and to ride a bike, make holiday friends, crash out at bedtime as a result of action-packed, sun-filled days. I want them to have whole days or weeks where they don’t even consider ‘screen-time’ because they are having so much fun.
It’s an important goal on our to-do list for the next few years.
This post serves as my entry into the bloggers’ prize draw to win a Mark Warner holiday with Kiddicare. They are also giving away another holiday, and anyone can enter! Details are below:
Mark Warner Holidays is giving away a summer 2014 family holiday in association with baby specialist Kiddicare. This awesome competition opens 13th September and closes 31st October 2013. You can enter in any Kiddicare superstore or via the online entry form on Kiddicare’s Facebook page.
For tips on how to entertain the kids on your travels, the kit you absolutely shouldn’t leave home without, how to prepare your children (and you) for their first flight, and so much more useful know how written by mums and dads, visit the Kiddicare blog.