You’re on a beautiful holiday. You’re in paradise! So why does it feel like hell?
Overnight flights, jet lag, extreme heat, strange foods and a major shift in routine all disrupt kiddies and put this Mummy at risk of turning from mother into monster!
Family holidays have their ups and downs and there are always moments when it certainly doesn’t feel so idyllic. But that’s not what the carefully curated photos on Facebook and Instagram would have you believe. All your friends are posting about their lovely week or weekend away with the children. How they played, explored and ate yummy food. How the kids had ice creams on the beach and stayed up late and it was all good FUN!
And then the one time you try to book something nice, you take the babies or toddlers or children away it all falls apart. The journey is filled with whinging and “I’m hungry” (3 seconds after you’ve left the restaurant where they didn’t eat their lunch) and the “are we nearly there yet. I’m bored!” When you arrive they are tired, but overexcited, they struggle to sleep in their strange beds, maybe struggle with a time change. The won’t eat, they won’t sleep and there’s no nursery or school to send them off to while you get to drink a cuppa in peace while doing something that makes you feel productive and capable.
You wonder what you did wrong. You wish you’d had more money to spend so you could upgrade the flights and get a better sleep. You wish you could have afforded a holiday abroad. Sunshine would have made it all better. You wish you’d gone for a more luxurious hotel with a kids club. You wish you hadn’t bothered with the hotel with a kids club because they won’t bl**dy go there! You wish you’d actually gone for self catering because you’d have been able to cook what you KNOW your toddler will eat.
You start to feel like no one is having fun and its all your fault. Other families enjoy holidays – Facebook proves it so whats wrong with yours? Why can’t you have fun? This holiday you’ve saved for, planned for and been so excited for is a flop. And you feel like there is something inherently wrong with you because surely you should be enjoying your other half’s company and having the kids with you all the time?
Or perhaps you had a feeling that this would all be too much for you to manage and you’ve never booked a holiday? Perhaps the routine you have, although not perfect, feels safe? I’ve had a lot of comments on taking my girls to India with me … people think I’m mad. How will they cope with the flight? The jet lag? The food? The heat? The dirt? Aren’t you worried about them? What if they get sick? Or burnt? Or taken?
But if I let all those worries stand in my way I would do nothing that I am passionate about. Travel and experiencing other cultures is something I love and have always wanted in my children’s lives.
Is it always perfect? NO!
Do I have days when I regret it? YES!
When we’re self catering I always have a day or 2 of regretting choosing an Airbnb over a hotel with a cleaner and a kids club. When we’re in a hotel I always feel a day of worry when Isla has a wobble about going to the kids club in a hotel (even though she absolutely loves the activities). We have tired days. We have days when we are sick of each others company.
But we have some incredible days too.
So how do I make sure everyone enjoys their holiday?
I’m not going to focus on how to make it work for the family – you know your family best. Only you know whether hiking, camping or beach holidays will work best for your brood.
What I’m going to cover is how to not feel like a failure, and how to make sure you enjoy your holiday!
1. It’s ok to not be ok all the time.
Firstly, know its not all going to be rainbows and sparkles – there will be squabbles, tired days, down days and days where trying to please the whole family just wont work. BUT THATS OK! No-one does have it perfect. as much as FB will have you believe that other families never fight on holiday.
2. Be prepared
The more prepped you are the better. For my family the most important things to prep are entertainment, food and a medicine kit! Long car journeys, flights, train journeys, waiting in restaurants to be served … there’s a lot of waiting around and ‘doing nothing’ through a little person’s eyes. Colouring, sticker books and magazines are faves with my girls. Food is really important. Even on flights, when you assume you can buy stuff, you never know how long you will have to wait to be served. Always have snacks. And I will never go anywhere without a fully stocked medicine bag – I learnt that the hard way after Scarlett came out in hives from head to toe from the heat in Mauritius on a Sunday afternoon, right after all the pharmacies had closed and we were about to board a 12 hour flight!! We were so lucky she settled down quickly because even the plane’s medicine cabinet didn’t have an antihistamine for under 12s. And be sure to share your plans with whoever you’re travelling with – try not to carry all the responsibility.
3. Don’t forget self care
Just because you’re in paradise doesn’t mean you’re self care is all taken care of. If anything the change in routine means you need to up your self care. You cannot let go of your non-negotiables. What do you need to feel human? To stay sane and happy? I’ve seen mums so focused on the safety and happiness of their children that they even forgot to put their own suncream on and burn like crazy. It is not good for anyone if we focus so much on others and forget ourselves and our own self care. For me, I need time to myself. Time to read, write and think. I need a bit of time each day when I don’t have to be watching out for the little people in my life and I can just think about me. While we’re away it might mean a massage, a yoga session, going for a swim in the sea alone or just having a nap. And don’t forget your nutrition! By all means take some time off ‘the diet’ and worrying about your body shape – HOWEVER – when you’re in the hot sun all day the antioxidants you get from fruits and veggies are even more important to protect your DNA from sun damage. So no, holiday isn’t a time to let your nutrition lapse completely. If anything, when you’re eating more junk, drinking more alcohol and playing in the sunshine you need to make an extra effort with your nutrition.
If you’d like to watch my video where I share how I used these tips to stay sane and happy on my trip to India, despite my little girl having an accident involving a trip to the doctors (hello all the mum guilt and worry!) then come join The Village – my Facebook group just for Mums who want to reclaim their sense of self.