As we return from our first holiday as a family of 5, this is what I’ve learned…
I want this blog to cover all the different places we’ve stayed over the years – as individuals, as a couple, as a family of four with twins, and now a family of five. But I’m starting this blog shortly after returning from our first experience of holidaying as a 5, so that seems like a good place to begin!
In the lead up to visiting Croatia, our first trip abroad with baby Stanley in tow, I had thought it wouldn’t be that different to our previous family-of-4 adventures. He is the perfect baby after all (sorry, but he is!) – super chilled, goes along with what we all want to do, and providing he’s been feb he is generally pretty happy! I don’t think I was being totally naive in thinking that the holiday wouldn’t be considerably more difficult, but we did run in to a few situations that will stick in my mind as good learnings for the future. And, it should never be underestimated how tired you are when doing pretty much anything with 3 young kids. So bottomline for our holidays from now on (certainly until the kids get older), will be to keep it simple.
For us, this doesn’t mean throwing away everything we’ve loved about travelling in the past – we aren’t going to suddenly book up package holidays, or vow to never leave London again. Instead, we’re likely to do more holidays around the UK and to driveable parts of Europe during half-terms, and I’ll be looking for places where the weather is more reliable for the longer school holidays e.g. Greece.
Ultimately, ‘keeping it simple’ is about focussing on what we all value most from a holiday. And more often than not this will purely be; time spent together, having fun, and at a more relaxed pace than our normal lives allow.
So, here’s what I’ll be keeping in mind as I book our next trip..
1. Finding the ‘perfect’ place to stay is more of a challenge, but it’s out there…
In Croatia we opted for a glamping site (which worked for us), and a self-catering apartment on a hotel resort (which worked less-well for us). I wanted to try these as I thought the pools and proximity to the beach would be great for the twins’. And while they did enjoy what was on offer, the lack of space we had in the accommodations, and the feeling of being on a large complex, just didn’t feel right. We’re used to staying in homes where we have our own outside space, access to full-sized kitchens and contact with friendly hosts. The need for cots and high chairs and parking and a third bedroom and a fence around the pool etc etc, does of course reduce the number of options I find on airbnb. But at least I have a good excuse to start an amazing new wishlist – yey!
2. Always hire a car-size bigger than you need!
This is so goddamn obvious, and I thought I’d cracked it by booking the exact same car as we have at home in order to fit the 3 car seats! But we were given a smaller car in the same class, which was no good. Que an upgrade, at a cost, and much faffing while we transferred all the car seats and baggage. So next time we’ll go big, or literally, go home.
3. You will forget something, or indeed, many things.
I hate packing. And I particularly hate forgetting things. But with 3 kids taking up my brain space, I am going to forget stuff. I’m not used to leaving behind any of the essentials, but I probably need to get used to this happening (it was the nappies in Croatia). So long as it’s not the passports or the calpol, we will survive!
4. You will (probably) achieve very little
Plan very little when you are there except for the ‘musts’ you want to see and the restaurants you want to eat at. If you achieve anything more, you are officially winning at holiday-ing. Some days, all we managed was a laze around and a trip to the local supermarket. You may read this and think ‘well that sounds exactly like being at home, so why go on holiday?!’ – ok, fair point. But I always feel that a mooch around a foreign supermarket, stocking up on delicious local produce and seeing what new things you can find, beats a bog standard visit to sainsbo’s. A lot of supermarkets we have found over the years have provided hours of entertainment (the fresh orange juice machine and fish counter in Sesimbra, Portugal, had the twins mesmerized for a fair bit!), and many have cafes that serve fresh pastries, coffee and some even have beer! So it’s not all bad.
5. If you can’t keep everyone happy, at least keep the problem-child happy!
If you can’t tick the boxes for every family members’ wants and needs, at least make sure the oldest kids are entertained as they are the ones who will probably whinge the most if they are bored/hot/cold/tired. Concessions obviously need to made for babies, especially those who have difficult sleeping and eating. But providing you can book somewhere with a cot and ideally a separate room/quiet corner for the baby, I would say that the next focus should be on making sure the accommodation and local area provides enough to keep your other kids engaged. Parents come last I’m afraid, so do stock up on wine when you can!