kids

Sick of hellish family holidays? You should start holidaying solo.

The holiday season is in full swing and while many might be looking forward to kicking back on an inflatable swan with a beer in one hand, book in the other, many more are looking down the barrel of six long, long weeks of family ‘fun’.

For anyone who has a young child or more than one, we all know that holidays are no longer the same. In fact the words ‘holiday’ or ‘break’ are essentially redundant with most parents longing for the day in six weeks’ time when they can high-five each other at school gates before leaving tyre marks as they screech down the road.

Pre-kid holidays were all about the excitement of packing seven pairs of heels, selecting movies on a plane, arriving at a hotel and going for a refreshing swim followed by a cocktail or four.

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For anyone who has a young child or more than one, we all know that holidays are no longer the same. (Image via iStock)

Since our little person came along in 2010, our holidays have been less about the sangria and more about survival.

Less about leisurely swims and more about dropping your bundle when you realise you forgot to pack the block-out-blinds.

Hello 4am wake-ups.

I remember one trip in particular with our four month old baby to San Francisco. Sounds glamorous but what I mainly recall was the long flight, the treacherous cab ride from the airport with an ill-fitting baby seat, the ongoing jetlag and noisy neighbours at the hotel.

The sense of achievement and relief when we walked back in the door was immense. It was shortly followed by gloom as we contemplated the three full suitcases of washing.

While there is something to be said for trying to live the #kidsofinstagram dream with photos of cute little blondies in swimwear on exotic beaches, the reality for me at least, was quite different. I have many memories from Port Douglas, Forster, France and the UK of me and my son crying simultaneously as I attempt to get him to sleep in a tiny travel cot in an unfamiliar room.

Our little person is now five years old, a respectable age that no longer requires block out blinds, sleep suits, bags of special toys or nappies and thus family trips away have been a lot less stressful, in fact they are now fun.

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Holidays have been less about the sangria and more about survival. (Image via iStock)
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It was when my son was still in nappies however that I took my first solo weekend away and it was a revelation. While I didn’t use it to catch up on sleep, the time spent with a close friend just wandering around shops, have long chatty lunches and relaxing away from my family sent me home again feeling like a new woman.

Since that time, it has become a family tradition and while we still do things as a family, my husband and I have both benefitted from fun weekends and even weeks away from home.

I am always surprised when I meet people, women in particular, who have never spent a night away from the kids and their oldest might be three, four or even five. While I don’t think going away for weeks at a time is the right move for every family, for ours it works.

The person away returns home relaxed, refreshed and massively grateful. The person at home carries on with business as usual and gets to spend one-on-one time with our son and benefits from the routine and structure of staying at home with all the usual toys, biscuits and friends close at hand.

“My husband and I have both benefitted from fun weekends and even weeks away from home.”

I am not remotely jealous when friends tell me about their expensive package deal to Fiji or Vanuatu with two young kids and I hear in detail how terrible the flight was, how the kids wouldn’t eat any of the food and how they all came home completely exhausted and grumpy. I think to myself, isn’t it time we all think about how we holiday?

Does a two year old really care about being in Fiji? Would it not be better for everyone if mum had a relaxing spa weekend with the girls and dad went on a golfing weekend with the boys and family time at home was focussed on simple pleasures – playing in the local park together or swimming in the local pool?

The ‘holidaying solo’ thing is really starting to catch on and it is not just me championing the cause. My sister took two weeks away from her family to visit us here last year and my brother in law returned the favour by going alone to South Africa to visit his family. Many more friends are going on yoga retreats, girls’ weekends or European getaways and reaping the benefits that time away brings.

For me, my seven pairs of heels are already packed for my next solo trip and I am looking forward to settling down into my seat on the plane with a glass of wine and watching five movies in a row – absolutely no block-out -blinds required.

Do you enjoy taking solo holidays?