Friday 5 July 2013

WARNING - kids and holidays don't mix

Chucklehead #1

Until late last year, my husband and I had never been to Bali before and were seriously long overdue for a holiday. As you can imagine we were pretty excited about our trip. The problem was, we also brought along our ‘two under two’ double trouble act with us... 

What were we thinking?? Honestly, I really don’t know. We had teed up a local nanny (referred from a friend) to help us out, and planned to mostly stay poolside at the hotel villa (instead of sight-seeing), so therefore thought we’d be fine. Of course, we were wrong.
The biggest problem with our vacation was that our expectations were way too high. We imagined the holiday to be just that, a holiday. I’ve since learnt that there is no such thing as a true holiday when you’re travelling with young kids. It’s really just the same stuff, but in a different location. The best you can hope for are snatches of holiday-esk type moments in between the daily mayhem of tantrums, poo and feeding time at the zoo. 

If you’re lucky you’ll get small windows of time where the kids are both asleep and one of you can duck off for a swim or massage. Or you might manage to have the perfect family lunch in an exotic destination where miraculously no one cries or throws food, or maybe even a romantic local dinner out with your partner while the nanny minds the fort.
We were blessed with plenty of moments like this, but it was only when some time had passed and we were back in our daily grind that we were able to actually appreciate them. Unfortunately for us we were so caught up in our high expectations for the getaway, that when we weren’t able to ‘get away’ from the barrage of daily responsibilities that come with being a parent, and were lumbered instead with a bunch of extra issues to deal with, we became frustrated and upset. 

Obviously we knew we couldn’t avoid everything to do with the kids (and we wouldn’t have wanted to either), but I think in all our excitement about the big trip we forgot how difficult it might actually be. It also didn’t help that I was still breastfeeding twice in the night and both our boys and my husband became ill for part of the trip, meaning we were constantly tired and cranky. My dream of endless naps and reading by the pool sipping on cocktails vanished the minute we set foot on the plane.
The nanny we had was great, but she did take some getting used to. For the equivalent of AUD$5 an hour she was fantastic value, and more importantly a lovely, caring and trustworthy person, but initially it felt way too weird to have someone else hold my baby (four months old at the time). So even on the days when she came and helped out for a few hours, I felt like some kind of terrible celebrity mother hearing my baby cry in her arms as I ran off for a facial – turning my stolen ‘me time’ into a guilt and worry rollercoaster where I anxiously watched the clock to make sure I could get back to my children as soon as possible. Relaxing? I don’t think so.
My husband and I got so run down from the lack of sleep and constant daily hurdles (like making sure our toddler didn’t drown in our gateless private pool or finding somewhere that served chicken nuggets to make sure he ate something), that at one point we were convinced we had wasted our hard earned money and would have been better off never leaving the house. 

Our photos however, tell a very different story. At home putting a bunch of snaps on Facebook, I discovered our camera had captured some wonderful, happy, holiday memories that we had forgotten. Wow, it was us that ruined our holiday! Or should I say, thought we did. Reflecting back on the trip now it was probably close to the best vacation that anyone with two small children could hope for. A few small changes based on the knowledge we have now, and it might have been perfect.

So in the spirit of sharing the wealth, here’s a little advice if you’ve got young children and are thinking about booking your own family getaway:

Lower your expectations, big time – acknowledge you’re not going on a real holiday (like the ones you used to have), because unless you’re Angelina Jolie and can afford to have hired help around the clock, your itinerary will be dominated by sleep times, changing nappies, washing bums, organising meals, playing games, reading stories and settling tantrums – even if you do get a sitter or nanny for part of the time.

Be prepared for the flight – don’t just assume that because you’re on a night flight the kids will sleep and on top of all your essential supplies like nappies and bottles, take endless snacks and forms of entertainment (iPad works a treat). Better yet, holiday local and avoid the flight nightmare altogether.

Research your accommodation, child style – does the room service or restaurants have child-friendly food? Are there gates around all pool areas? Is there a gate at the entrance of the hotel? Is there a TV? Don’t wait until you get there to find out...

Line up a nanny or babysitter before you go – put a call out on Facebook, you’d be surprised at who else has been to your holiday destination and can recommend someone, or failing this get the hotel to vouch for someone and ask for their credentials. Just make sure you book them in before you go.

Choose your destination carefully – if you’re not keen on extra hassles or concerns, don’t travel to a place that’s unsafe for tourists, or where you might have trouble communicating in English, or where you can’t drink the water (toddlers will think nothing of chugging down bath or pool water, or licking the floor like ours did).

Don’t go for too long – our trip was 2½ weeks when we might have been better off going for only 10 days. Our kids didn’t get ill until after the first week and who knew that children could get bored of swimming every, single, day?

And finally, make sure you do really appreciate those great holiday moments – ok, so the kids had a meltdown at the water park in the morning, but my oh my doesn’t that cocktail at dinner taste great! Take as many photos and videos as you can so your brain doesn’t rewrite the holiday for you, and take pleasure in even the smallest of enjoyable getaway moments, because God only knows when you’ll be getting away again!

Got your own 'holiday with kids' nightmare story to share?


  1. Brilliant. This sounds EXACTLY like the holiday we just had :-)

  2. Make sure you frame those happy snaps!

  3. I'm so pleased I read this before I went on holidays with my sprogs... Having realistic expectations is the key, and even though I set mine to "low" or even "none", I still had an unconscious vision of how I hoped the holiday would turn out. In my case, I actually got frustrated with myself for not being as relaxed and fun with the kids as I hoped I'd be. I still snapped at them, I still rolled my eyes, I still fought the good fight at mealtimes. Sigh. Maybe I need a holiday from myself! Great post, thanks!

  4. It's hard isn't it when you have to work to keep the fun alive. Like with everything in life the secret is in our attitude to it all, but easier said than done with toddlers and babies!

  5. Hi there! Sure thing, to subscribe just enter your email address in the field at the top of this page (or any page on my site) on the right, and you'll get all new articles and news sent to you via email. Thanks for reading!


Thanks for sharing your two cents with One Woman Circus!