Thursday, April 25, 2013

Family Holidays - Why You Must And How You Can

As the weather finally turns thoughts turn to the summer and holidays. The question is, do you ever get a real holiday with young children? Of course you could go away without the children but if you only get time and have financial resources for one holiday then you really want and need to have a family holiday - after all, it's their lives as well.

On holiday 2011
So you take time off work for your family holiday, you take the littlies away from all their toys and friends, away from their familiar food, and you cram yourselves into one or two small rooms where you have to find ways of entertaining them and feeding them for the duration.

On the other hand, it's exciting to take your children to new places and show them new things. It's fun to spend time with them outside the daily grind. It's what family memories are made of. But as rewarding as it can be, it is hard work. And if you are a single parent, as I am, you can double that.

Here are my 10 top tips for successful and memorable family holidays:

1. Go away. Go somewhere. Anywhere. The children need to feel they've been away and had a holiday.  It's not about keeping up with the Little Joneses or even about 'resting'. It's about a change of scenery. It's about shared experiences and family bonding. It's about excitement and it does everyone good. It doesn't have to be a hotel and it doesn't have to be long. It can be staying with relatives in the country or camping. It can be three nights at friends who live near the sea. But you have to do it.

2. If you can go with good friends it adds to the social experience for you and the kids. The adults can also take turns babysitting.

3. Create a flexible routine. Even though holidays are about escaping routine, you need to schedule events to fill the time and establish when the day is over. If you don't you'll find yourselves going to bed later and later, getting up nearer and nearer to lunchtime, and doing very little in between. Make breakfast an event at a reasonable time. Plan a trip or event each day but also have a regular daily session in the pool (if there is one), or on the beach, in the children's playground, or in the woods. If there are none of these things you may be in the wrong place. Stop for lunch and a proper supper. The idea is for everyone to be happily exhausted by the end of the day.

4. It's easier if the weather is guaranteed but even in sunny Spain, have a list of things to fill the times when there's 'nothing to do'. For example: play board games or cards, do puzzles, make postcards to send home to friends, make scrapbooks, go on a nature walk and collect things for a collage or take unusual photographs, collect shells from the beach or popping seaweed, interesting pebbles to paint, see a movie. Make it a challenge to do everything at least once.

5. Go somewhere child friendly - a child friendly hotel or a family holiday park. Let's face it, it's easier if the resort is geared to children with loads of activities laid on. It doesn't mean you are off duty of course, but it does mean that you don't have to come up with ideas all the time. In the UK holiday parks are usually equipped with all sorts of indoor activities like bowling, covered pools, and soft play areas, so the weather doesn't really matter. Not to mention child friendly entertainment in the evenings.

At the beach 2012
6. Find the excitement in everything. Remember that everything is potentially exciting to young children. One of DD's favourite things in London was going on The Underground. It was only the train journey to get to our destination but it was exciting (because I chose to make it exciting) for a four year old. In Tel Aviv for the weekend in January, we had great fun collecting shells on the beach and a hilarious time dodging the waves so as not to get our shoes wet.

7. Don't pooh-pooh all the old games and jokes. Playing 'I spy' may be a cliche for us but every generation discovers it anew. Likewise all the old knock-knock jokes and even the ones about big red rock eaters, chickens crossing the road and doors that are jars. I can't wait to play 'sevensies' (with a tennis ball up against a wall) and 'jacks' with DD when she's a bit older.

8. Don't make food an issue. When we went caravaning in Europe back in the 1970s, us children lived on Vienna shnitzel for lunch and chocolate crepes for supper - everyday for two weeks. Once or twice we may have had the crepes for lunch and the shnitzel for supper.

9. Establish holiday traditions. We used to have marathon kalookie evenings in our caravan. We could have been in Las Vegas - up to 150 points and you can come in twice. No money changed hands but there was loads of lemonade and nosh. We could have been in Vegas but we were usually in a damp field in Wales. Didn't make any difference to us though.

10. Be prepared to work hard and reap the rewards. All too soon the children won't want to go on holiday with you anymore. Your time for seeing art in Italy and wine-tasting in the South of France will come. Don't waste this precious opportunity to give your children a memorable childhood.

What are your tips for successful and memorable family holidays?

This post was written by me in association with Richardson's Family Holiday Parks. 


  1. I so agree; we love our holidays. My top tip would be to get to a beach and see who can build the best/biggest sandcastle with a moat or the most imaginative sand gets quite competitive!

    1. Great idea. My dad used to build a boat in the sand for us to sit in. Burying people was also quite popular though it sounds a bit dangerous now. Thanks for commenting Lisa.

  2. Funny how we've written about holidays recently - agree with all your advice in particular the eating one. I used to get all wound up they I wasn't cooking them healthy stuff whilst on holiday and then I got a grip and figured French bread, cheese, burgers, sausages wouldn't kill them for 2 weeks x

    1. Totally. And as for holidays - it must be the season. I even have another one pending.