Sunday 25 August 2019

Liz Kearney: 'Fun on family holidays? Give us a break!'

 

'My friend is not alone in feeling the strain of the annual family break. Hilariously, one poll of 1,000 British workers found even the prospect of an upcoming vacation made 73pc of respondents anxious' (stock photo)
'My friend is not alone in feeling the strain of the annual family break. Hilariously, one poll of 1,000 British workers found even the prospect of an upcoming vacation made 73pc of respondents anxious' (stock photo)
Liz Kearney

Liz Kearney

Did you enjoy your break?" I asked a friend, a mum to three children under five, who had just returned from a fortnight in the sun.

"No," she replied. "It was far too hot, the kids never slept, and I spent every single minute of the two weeks trying to keep the little one from falling into the pool. It was absolutely exhausting. I'm never going on holidays again."

My friend is not alone in feeling the strain of the annual family break. Hilariously, one poll of 1,000 British workers found even the prospect of an upcoming vacation made 73pc of respondents anxious.

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But it's no wonder. The stress of travelling with kids starts long before you've reached the departure lounge, with the weeks leading up to journey filled with endless list making and the logistical challenge that is packing: can you fit the buggy, the travel cot and the carseat without chartering a second airplane solely to transport your luggage?

There is a mild sense of pointlessness about the endeavour from the start. With small children in tow, going on holidays simply means uprooting your already complicated, chaotic existence and relocating it to somewhere marginally warmer, but with a whole host of additional hazards to watch out for, like unfenced swimming pools and heatstroke and rabid dogs.

Of course, if you've gone the self-catering route, your 'holiday' will consist of endless washing-up and cooking, exactly like at home, only with the extra challenge of trying to prepare the family dinner on a stubbornly unworkable cooker (I've lost whole days of my life trying to master holiday home induction hobs) and cursing the fact you've forgotten, yet again, to bring any dishwasher tablets.

And when you finally arrive home, shattered, your family having gone fully feral thanks to a fortnight's diet of ice cream, chips and 11pm bedtimes, the only souvenir of your trip will be a steaming pile of malodorous holiday laundry.

So why, then, do we still do it? Simple. Because despite all the hard work, holidays still offer up those rare, golden moments; that hour or two when the sun comes out, the water is sparkling, and the whole family for once is together, in high spirits, in a place which has all the magic of the undiscovered.

We're just back from our own trip to the UK, replete with its fair share of toddler tantrums, motorway tailbacks and even a minor traffic collision for good measure, but the evenings spent watching the boys play in a wildflower-strewn clifftop meadow long past their bedtime will linger in my memory.

Which is just as well, because like my friend, I don't plan on taking another family holiday for a long, long time.

Life is ruff if you're living in England

SPEAKING of the UK, I've realised it's not Brexit that's really imperilling the future of our nearest neighbours, it's their dog fixation.

On holidays on the Norfolk coast, we were virtually the only holidaymakers who didn't have a canine companion, a deficit which was noted reproachfully by everyone we met.

Doggie water bowls were ubiquitous in restaurants and cafés, gift shops were stuffed with presents for pooches, and the only topic of conversation down at the beach was the size of the dog-free area (too big, said the dog-people, although it was actually tiny). A sign on our street read: Please drive carefully - children and pets at play.

Not everyone was happy. One sneezing waitress we met in a particularly dog-stuffed hotel complained she suffered from allergies and that there was no escape.

"This country," she sniffed, "has really gone to the dogs." Like I said, who needs Brexit?

Irish Independent

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