real life

How to holiday with kids (and keep your sanity intact).

Kathy Wilson’s family

Family memories are slippery little suckers.

Creating them reminds me of that little kid in the TV advert for tinned spaghetti who spent his whole time chasing pasta around his plate with a plastic fork.

The harder you try for one particular one, the less likely you are to get it.

I learned that the hard way recently when I asked my 12 year old to tell me his favourite childhood memory.

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Mantra. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

To my knowledge, he’d never even pondered it before and yet he answered without even a pause.

His answer?

It wasn’t the outrageously expensive weekend to Melbourne with his Dad to see his favourite footy team play.

Nor was it any memories from our wild (and I have to say usually wet) camping trips to beautiful beaches and crystal rock pools.

It wasn’t even the trip we took to France and Abu Dhabi.

Nope .

The happy memory that had stuck in his brain was a weekend several years ago when he and his Dad got stranded at a house on the NSW coast when a big cyclone hit. The rain pelted down for the entire time and apparently the 2 of them worked their way through the whole of Lord of the Rings series.

See? Spaghetti…..

My kids are getting older now and I’m suddenly aware that family holidays won’t last forever.

What is about some holidays that make them stick? Why is it some tales become family folklore? “Remember that time when……”

We recently visited the Mantra Hotel at Mooloolaba and it was one of our best holidays ever.

It slowly dawned on me that maybe we have worked out a few shortcuts to happy family holidays.

Here are my top tips.

Because, ice cream.

1.  Kids are more likely to remember ice cream cones on the beach than fancy meals.

The Mantra apartment we stayed in had a kitchen that was fancier than our one at home. When we discovered the local supermarket was in the same building complex, we decided to eat our meals in and enjoy our view. The dishwasher and family sized fridge made it no harder than cooking at home.

Instead, we spent our food budget on things we knew would make us all happy.

Double scoop ice creams with warm Nutella over the top (I am not kidding – this is a real thing in Mooloolaba), electronic motorbike races at the video arcade, a trip to Underwater World, bike and kayak hire and stand-up paddle-boarding.

Our camera is full and so are our memories.

2.    The big ticket items aren’t always the big winners.

Although I’ll have to wait maybe 17 years to verify my theory, I’m pretty confident that I know what memory my 9-year-old son will keep forever from our holiday.

I don’t know that he’ll remember how much he loved the warm spa that was right beside the outdoor swimming pool. He may not remember that he and his brother spent nearly two whole afternoons in it, laughing and playing together more than I’d seen them in months.


I don’t even know that he’ll remember that he begged to be allowed to sleep out on the balcony because he loved the view so much.


I suspect when he is 25 and asked about a favourite memory from the trip, he’ll tell you it was playing on the Doctor Who pinball machine we discovered in the games room.

And he’ll remember how when it stopped working at 8:00 on Saturday night right when we were in the middle of a family tournament, the people at reception took our plight as seriously as we did. They called the maintenance man who came and fixed it right away so we could each finish the fight for family honour.

3.  Space equals sanity.

I’ve been at this parenting gig long enough now to understand that the best and happiest family holidays involve my children. (Sounds obvious I know but I have been known to get carried away with dreamy photos on brochures and pretend we will all stay happily in a studio apartment.)

Not this time.

Our apartment at Mantra had 3 generous bedrooms including a parent ensuite (and spa) and enough space for everyone to have their own downtime.

With a 12 year old skater boy, a 9 year old Dr Who junkie and a 7 year old girl whose favourite colour is “sequins” this might have been our best decision of the lot.

4.    Plan Less – relax more.

The kids LOVING the pool.

I could be considered a (ahem) planner. There’s nothing I like better than a good plan of action and a whole bunch of people I can boss around.

So on our trip to Underwater World, I did my research and wrote out a schedule. Most importantly, I felt we needed to see the Seal Show at 11.00.

That was fine, except everyone was having such a good time in the Mantra’s inside pool and sauna that I couldn’t get anyone moving.

After a (smallish) tantrum I managed to get everyone dry and dressed. We arrived and I discovered the show was on the far end of the complex, passed hundreds of metres of the most fascinating sea life I’ve ever seen.

I finally realised that the seal show probably wasn’t life or death. We ditched the show and spent the most wonderful couple of hours discovering underwater mysteries.

By sheer coincidence we made it to the theatre in time for the otter show which was so good, my daughter has now started a full-scale campaign to have one as a pet.

Lesson learned.

We arrived home from our holiday at the Mooloolaba Mantra, tired, sunburned and with a huge collection of memories.

Spaghetti? Maybe. But we each have such a huge tin that it doesn’t really matter which ones stick.

What is your key to making a trip with the kids a good one?

Make the most of your family time with a relaxing beach side escape. Mantra Hotels, Resorts, and Apartments have all your best holiday destinations covered – from the swaying palms of Tropical North Queensland, to the chic sophistication of the Sunshine Coast; the action packed fun of the Gold Coast to the laid back seaside town of Kingscliff.  Now is the time to make the most of your family. Book now at