Whatever your idea of travel is, it will probably change dramatically once children come along. Travelling with kids can be a delight if you get it right, but you’re probably going to have to sacrifice some of the things you love doing. Such as…
The inability to have a proper night out is the most obvious consequence of having the kids in tow.
Chatting to strangers over a beer in a dimly lit dive bar is simply not going to happen. All the bars you want to go into won’t let the children in anyway, and those that welcome kids have little appeal for children who don’t see watching daddy drink a cocktail as a prime use of holiday time.
Going for a swim with children isn’t an opportunity to leisurely do laps alongside your adoring offspring. It means an hour or so of being climbed on, having gallons of chlorine kicked in your eyes and repeatedly throwing pool toys.
The only time you get to do any actual swimming is when you demonstrate how to retrieve those pool toys from the murky depths.
Going in the sea
There’s a similar scenario with going in the sea, but with the added bonus that children have a radically different idea of when the sea is too cold to get into.
Therefore, you get to stand in icy waves, which inevitably crash in just below the belt, completing a supervisory vigilance task while they enjoy themselves playing in the breaking surf.
On the flip side, going to the beach is much better with kids, and watching them lose themselves in intricate castle-building is one of the undisputed joys of parenthood.
Searching for family-friendly accommodation is a pain in the backside, not least because all the booking sites seem to think parents want to sleep in the same room as their children.
What you need is dull, functional, and with a separate-but-connected bedroom to put the kids in. And that, alas, tends to narrow things down to apartments and aparthotels.
Comfort yourself with knowing you’d be too scared about what they’d wreck in that cool-looking design hotel down the road.
Upgrading with points
You might have enough frequent flyer points to sneak one, maybe two, of you into business class or premium economy. But you’ll almost certainly not have enough to cover the whole family, and those left behind in economy will be absolutely steaming.
For all but the very wealthy, it’s cattle class all the way until the little darlings are paying for their own tickets.
The golden rule of going to a museum with children is that you are not allowed to read anything. The children will usually have a great time pushing buttons and trying out the activities, but parents will never be afforded that minute or two to read the information on the walls and learn more.
The moment you try, you’ll be called over to look at something “really cool” and, by the time you get there, the child who wants you to look at it has already moved on to something else.
Most parents, at some point, will make the assumption that boat tours are the sort of thing kids should love. Novelty transport, lots to see… it’s a no-brainer, right?
Alas, this theory fails to recognise that boat tours involve two of the things kids hate the most – sitting still for a bit, and listening to commentary.
The relaxing cruise, therefore, turns into a series of appeals to sit down and relentlessly answering questions they’d know the answers to if they were listening.
Lavish multi-course meals
The level of joy in eating out on holiday depends largely on how fussy your children are. If you’ve got one that will only eat the beigest food possible, it’s going to become pretty grim.
If they’re a bit more adventurous than that, however, sharing platters can be a brilliant way of introducing new foods. The key, however, is in making sure everything comes all at once.
The days of an indulgent multi-course meal spanning a couple of hours are gone – try it, and you’ll just end up policing fights between the more bored members of the party.
Forget the glory days of just travelling with carry-on luggage – your bags now need to carry all manner of creams, teddies, totally essential toys and enormous picture books.
The deluge of extra packing gets a little lighter once they’re out of nappies, but you’d still better get used to finding the biggest case you’ve got and filling it.
That afternoon lull, where you can just chill out in the sun reading a book, is not happening anymore.
That doesn’t mean regimented filling of days is required – in fact, that can be equally disastrous – but if you want a bit of downtime, your kids need something to do.
This is what makes the mediocre playground the great holiday lifesaver. Let them run around on the climbing frames while you sit on a bench with a coffee.