parent opinion

'Let's be honest. Holidays with little kids are not holidays.'

My 'babies' are now 11 and five years old and we have just returned from our first truly relaxing family holiday. Why? There were no travel cots, nappies, naps, sick kids, or sleepless nights. 

Also: Fiji.

Also: Kids Club. 

Every day we got up, went for breakfast, then enjoyed relaxing days made up of a family swim or snorkel followed by adults only bush walks, swims or drinks at the bar while the kids went to kids' club. 

Watch: The things parents never say on school holidays. Post continues below.


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We came together again to get freshened up before dinner, then the boys raced back to the clubhouse for discos and games while we had leisurely meals and conversation without interruption. We all fell into bed knackered and woke up excited about the day ahead. 

We had time together and time apart. No one got COVID (thankfully) and we made core memories in beautiful surrounds that I hope will last a lifetime.

There was still the odd gripe or complaint - my kids aren't robots - but on the whole, we nailed it.

But as every parent knows, family holidays take some years before they look or feel like this. 

Holidays with little kids and babies are not really holidays in the traditional sense, rather a change of scenery that requires a lot of effort.

When my boys were young, the work began before we even left the house with the holiday planning, followed by the packing.

Before having kids, I never understood why anyone would want to go back to the same place twice. Now, I totally get it. We have returned repeatedly to our favourite local holiday haunts, because the research into accommodation and location for a young family can be A LOT.

Googling whether there is parking close to the property, dodgy staircases in the house, unsafe looking balconies, single beds in the second bedroom, toddler friendly activities nearby, a high chair included and a kids' menu at the local pub, all takes time. 

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I have wasted hours reading family holiday blogs and scrolling on Airbnb looking for genuine family friendly places to suit our requirements, and that’s before even putting the first pack of nappies in the suitcase.

For several years, our holiday road trip car was a tangle of prams, travel cots, portable highchairs, scooters, nappies, snacks (so many snacks) and toys, while my husband Jules and I would shove a collection of basic no-fuss clothes for ourselves in one suitcase. 

I take my hat off to the families that go camping and have to pack everything; including an actual kitchen sink.

As both of my sons hated being driven in the car until they were around 18 months old, I remember some very long road trips where they screamed all the way to our destination. 

Listen: Leigh and Tegan share their ultimate hacks for holidaying with kids on This Glorious Mess. Post continues below. 


I’ve survived the drive to Dubbo, Nelson Bay, Boomerang Beach and the Hunter Valley with gritted teeth and by practicing some serious deep breathing exercises to control my escalating stress levels.

The one and only time we all flew overseas before COVID to see my family in the UK is a blur of organisation, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. The flight, the jet lag, and the constant social catch ups and change of scenery were hectic, and then we had to do it all over again to return home.

Of course, there were always moments of fun and laughter on all the family holidays of our past, but the sense of unease coupled with the workload before we even arrived took the relaxation element out of the experience. 

Relaxation for me then was less about holidays, and more about a routine that included my own bed, kitchen, and some daycare. 

I remember taking a family holiday up to Port Douglas with our then one-year-old eldest son. While the tropical photos show beautiful memories of our trip, I can still vividly recall his loud tantrum on the plane that led to a passenger complaint, followed by anxiety and sleep deprivation when he had a fever for a couple of chaotic and miserable nights.

I have many memories of setting up travel cots at the end of our bed, thinking that maybe this trip will be different, but knowing full well that no one was going to sleep much.

Later that night, I would pace dark and unfamiliar rooms with my upset baby or toddler, trying desperately to settle them while trying not to wake other guests.

It would always end with my tears and snippy parental disagreements at 4am about whether to feed them again, bring them into our bed, or just give up, get up, and start the day.

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Holiday nights were often atrocious, but the days still made it just about worthwhile.

On our recent and very blissful holiday to Fiji, we shared a return boat trip to the port with a couple who had a two-year-old girl and a nine-month-old baby. They had a lovely time too, but I nodded along with empathy as they described sleepless nights and long afternoons in the kids' pool. 

I felt so relieved that this stage of our family holiday life was done and for those of you reading this with little kids, your time to relax on family holidays is coming sooner than you think.

I know that my boys' childhood is going by in a flash and eventually they won’t want to holiday with us at all. 

I will probably look at the young and tired mums and dads holding their sweet toddler’s hand in the splash pool and wish I could go back to those times, but until then, I plan to make the most of the 'kids club years' for as long as possible.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Parenting Writer. For her weekly articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and  TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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