I f’ing hate flying with kids.
And I’m guessing if you’re reading this post you’re not a big fan of it either.
Don’t get me wrong, the whole idea of being a cosmopolitan mum city hoping with my kids, licking ice cream in Italy and sun worshiping on the golden beaches of the Caribbean sounds as appealing than a night with Tom Hardy. But when I think of the logistics of how we going to get there, the tin can we will be trapped in with screaming kids, and the little to no bloody sleep we will get for the duration of the holiday makes me close the Thomson Holiday brochure, bare down and look forward to a rainy British summer.
Before kids the hubby and I holidayed more than Judith Chalmers, but after the arrival of big tinker even a weekend trip to Blackpool was more than we could handle. (The grandparents didn’t offer another family get away again for few years after that weekend from hell.) Yet five years on (and 3 disastrous family holidays to learn from) I can honestly say that this year’s family holiday was actually enjoyable. There was an minor incident which included sand getting sandwiched in tiny tinkers arse cheeks and a ‘mumsplosion’ at the swimming pool, but on the whole it was far better than most.
But why was this year’s family holiday so different?…
Because of these 5 key lessons I learnt for travelling with kids:
- Don’t say sorry
The biggest worry for me has always been flying with the kids and the dreaded ‘what if they cry?’. But I realised it’s not the crying I was worrying about, it was people’s reactions to the crying, and that made my anxiety soar.
Only this year have I accepted that people’s judgement on me or my kids doesn’t bloody matter. Kids cry, and so would any grown adult if they were carried without their approval into a metal tube and shook about in it for half a day.
I’ve seen the sorry gifts some parents are giving passengers who are ‘unfortunate’ enough to have to sit closely to their children on the plane, and although I can see that it’s a sweet idea I can’t help but disagree that we need to say sorry for our children’s natural response to cry. If your child likes to throw lifejackets at passengers whilst dropping some ‘C Bombs’ (The C U Next Tuesday kind) then maybe I could understand your apology, but you’ve paid just as much (if not more than others) for your child’s space on this flight – and they don’t even get a seat for the hassle.
The money that is spent on these sorry gifts could be better spent on paying for an extra seat so you don’t get stuck in the leg space like I did last year on disaster holiday number 3…
- Snacks and IPad’s – bring them all
This works for survival not only on the plane, but on the bus transfer, during mid-day heat, at the dinner table, during the shit hotel entertainment and whenever you just need an f’ing rest.
If I could find the guys behind the CBBC app and BBC iplayer I’d snog the faces off them.
- Screw the routine
As someone who struggles with OCD and the need to control routines in order to control my emotions, this has been bloody difficult to do. But when I let go of set routines everyone is much happier, surprisingly even myself.
The first time we travelled abroad I made sure that big tinker kept to her strict Gina Ford routine, which meant at 7 each night she was in bed (screaming blue murder because the sun was still up) and me and hubster fought for the only seat on the balcony (also known as the 30 cm windowsill). As we watched other couples and families sipping wine in the piazza and basking in the glow of the Italian sunset, both my husband and I brooded with resentment whilst uploading that days filtered to shit ‘look how beautiful a time we are having’ holiday photo on facebook to keep up appearances back home. We mopped on that balcony all holiday in the aim that big tinker would sleep – yet she never did.
Fast forward four years and it turns out that letting the kids stay up past bed time for the hotel disco actually means they pass out in bed happily for over 8 hours. (And mum doesn’t spontaneously combust even though she thought she might.) That’s more sleep than I’ve gotten in the entire five years of being a parent.
But if you still find it hard to step out of the routine just make a note – book a room with a large balcony, a view away from signs of life and make sure you’re heavily stocked up on wine.
- Don’t aim for relaxing, aim for soothing your ear drums
The age old ‘holidays aren’t relaxing with kids’ is semi true, heading back to work after family holidays will be seen as an adult escape. Although relaxing may not be on the cards what you do want to aim for is ear soothing. Finding activities for the little ones that turn tantrums and moans of ‘I’m bored’ into zombie like trances and joker like smiles.
Some fun little finds of ear soothing I found this year were:
Kids Club: Don’t let the mum guilt trick you into ignoring this little diamond in the rough, with more actives on offer than Mr Maker can shake a shape at, it not only keeps your little tinkers more entertained than you could, it’s educational.
The pool: Gone is relaxing by the pool as a parent, it’s now all about relaxing in it. That’s if you can call being water boarded with a super soaker by the five year old and her posse of international sidekicks from kids club relaxing. But at least you don’t have to move a muscle whilst you provide target practice floating on a Primark unicorn inflatable for a good few hours.
All inclusive snack bar: Back in the day when all inclusive consisted of fried dog with a side of cockroach it was something to run away from when booking a holiday. These days all inclusive food has became a child’s pix a mix meal of dreams; and with unlimited icepops, cake and chips on offer it stops any tantrum in its tracks.
Hotel disco: You may never again be able to get the Spanish version of the chicken dance out of your head, but it’s a fine price to pay to be able to sit on your bum for more than 5 minutes and finish a full glass of wine before it heats to room temperature.
- Just do it
When my sister travelled 8 hours to Florida with a 6 and a 1 year old I gasped in sheer awe and asked ‘How did you do it?’ Her answer was…. ‘You just do it.’
And it’s true, as parents (especially the anxious kind) we can fear and over think the slightest thing, yet when the time comes we just get on and do it. It may not be the best experience, anxiety may still be there, but when we look back on it in a few weeks, months or years, you realise that through all that worry and fear you not only did it, you survived.
So don’t hold that holiday off because fear or anxiety is stopping you. Grab your snacks, charge the Ipad, and pack your inflatables; live in the moment, take it step by step and you’ll see that in the end ‘you just did it’.
You may even enjoy it. ;P