Planning a family vacay this summer or currently on one right now? Picturing fun, sunny days on the beach with the kids, followed by warm, lazy nights sipping vinos on the veranda? Before you get way too carried away, here are five things you should know:
1. Long drives = shitty child(ren).
If you have a long drive ahead of you, expect a shitty child at the end of it. And during it. And at the start of it. Basically, just plan for shittiness the whole way through.
Earlier on in the year we took a family holiday to a lovely, self-contained lodge in the middle of kangaroo country. There was a long drive involved but we went in with a plan, and naively thought we had it sorted.
“We’ll leave one hour before her nap time, so she’ll be awake at the start of the drive. Then she’ll drift off to sleep and take her usual two hour nap – when she wakes up, we’ll have arrived – perf!”
Well. We popped her in the car, but we were running late – so she crashed as soon as we started driving. Not perf. Not perf at all. Then, even though she dropped the catnapping at nine months of age (thank f**k), she catnapped.
Thirty minutes into our drive we had a cranky child and a two and a half hour drive ahead of us. Not the loveliest of combos. Our two saviours: the iPad and Vege chips.
2. Not feeling so fly? Multiply.
If said child is teething or sick – multiply point 1 by 10. That is, things will be 10 times as shit (10 iPads and 10 bags of Vege chips optional).
3. Foreign lands.
All those little bed-time sequences that are second nature when you’re in the comfort of your own home fly out the window. For example, the way you know how to avoid the creaky part of the floor on the way out of your sleeping baby’s room; the right pressure to place on the doorknob when pulling the door closed behind you so it doesn’t ‘clang’ shut; the exact coordinates of every corner and wall so you can avoid them in the darkest of rooms.
LISTEN: Why you need to take a babymoon stat. Bec Judd’s advice for going on a pre-baby holiday. Post continues after audio.
Instead of expertly avoiding all these pitfalls, you can look forward to smashing your shin into a coffee table on your way out of the baby’s room and waking the whole world. Although excuse me, but who the f**k puts a coffee table in the baby room? A gorgeous, ornate, vintage, coffee table that I thought was very beautiful and wanted to take home with me? Fools!
4. Jealousy trumps relaxation.
Planning on organising a house sitter for your lonesome home? Someone to feed the cat and water your collection of cacti? Get ready to become obsessed with this person.
When we went away, we asked my brother to house sit. I would often find myself thinking of my brother. In fact, I became obsessed with him – and not in the Jamie and Cersei Lannister way, rather, I was jealous of him. He had our freshly made-up bed and clean en-suite all to himself; our whole house all to himself. No babies. No major responsibilities. I even stocked the pantry with Doritos and Maltesers for him.
At various parts of the day, while conversing with the kangas, I would tune out and wonder what he was doing in our peaceful, empty home. Sleeping the whole night through? Snacking on some ‘tesers while reading a book, curled up in bed? Taking a nap? Take it from this holidaying parent: you’ll end up wishing you were your house sitter.
5. It won't really be a holiday. It just won't.
You know when you decide to wear a different handbag for the day and you just gather all your stuff out of the old one and transfer it into the new one? Receipts, 18 year old lip-glosses, gum wrappers – it doesn’t matter what was in the old bag – it gets plonked into the new one. The result being that you look fresher, but really nothing's changed, you're still kinda dead inside.
That’s what a family vacay with small children is – gathering up all your sleeping, teething, and behavioural issues, plus milk, a tonne of nappies and clean clothes – and dumping it all into a fresh, little self-contained cottage for a week. It’s you, your family and the shit-storm you face on a regular basis, but with a view of the beach.
Of course there are the memories, fun times, photos, and happiness. Maybe it’s worth it? I’m still undecided. Right now I’m thinking my family will be making fun memories from home for the next few years. But to those of you who still have the travel bug – bon voyage!
LISTEN: Listen to the best of This Glorious Mess, from how often your kids really need a bath to Susan Carland’s trick for getting the conversation flowing at the dinner table, these are the highlights of our podcast about family life.