When you become a parent, you have to accept that your holidays for the next 18 years will involve far more cat-herding and bribery than previous jaunts.
Keeping track of toddlers fanning out in formation across the railway station concourse as you give chase.
Shoving them full of treats you’d never dispense at home so they don’t scream the plane down.
You get the picture. But what are the advantages of going on holiday with the family vs. going alone?
I know dumping the children and jetting off is not an option for most people, but just try and imagine it. I only ask because I’m writing this in Dubai, 3,500 miles away from my family. I am no longer in earshot of the kids’ hacking coughs and colds, which seem to have stuck around for weeks. It’s not a holiday (I need to make that clear in case my wife reads this). It is technically work, but it’s sort of fun work.
This means I have the inside track on the pros and cons of family holidays and solo travel. Take a look at my scientific findings.
Sleep is the single biggest issue in the life of new parents. Being deprived of a decent kip is a form of torture in some parts of the world, and if you have a baby that is up all night it can make day-to-day life seem like you are wading through mud. My youngest had recently started sleeping through, and then the colds came. Ugh.
Whilst my wife is left to solo-parent the wake-ups, I’ve been slipping into this bad boy of a bed every night, knowing the only interruption to my gentle slumber will be my old man bladder reaching Volume Level: Critical.
I feel all sorts of guilt about it, but this has to go down as a gigantic tick in the ‘Going Alone’ column.
It’s entirely likely that you spent some of your teens and twenties hitting the Strip in some Mediterranean town, guided by an energetic rep called Dave from Wolverhampton. Dave would tell you which bar to go to, how long you were going to stay there and what you were going to drink. He might even have taken your money at the start of the night and then ordered the shots on your behalf. You didn’t need to do anything.
When going on holiday with the family, ten or so years later, you become a parental version of Dave. With small children, as with drunken students, you have to plan meticulously. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you are doing and when, the kids lose interest, they mope, they dawdle and you end up achieving about a tenth of what you wanted to extract from the day. You have to have a clear plan for when and were meals will occur, before the fearsome Hungry Toddler beast roars its terrifying clarion call.
Here on my WORK trip (not a holiday, but…), someone has planned the worky stuff for me and, outside of that, I can choose what I want to do, when I want to do it with only my own whims to satisfy. I think we know where this tick is going.
Night Time Entertainment
Have you ever booked a hotel room for the whole family? It seems like a great money-saving tactic, right up until you put the children to bed and realise that you are trapped for the evening.
Essentially, your night time entertainment consists of sitting on the balcony, braving the mossies so you don’t wake the kids, downing the cheap Ouzo you bought from the local shop and feasting on an old packets of out-of-date peanuts from the bottom of the change bag.
In my solo accommodation, I can spread across the bed and listen to as much music and watch as much telly as I like. As it happens, the only channel available that interests is BBC World, but my understanding of the intricacies relating to the Brazilian general election is now second to none. A win for going alone.
Going on Holiday with the Family – The Inevitable Twist
You didn’t think this would be a family-bashing piece did you? Of course not. The best thing about going on holiday with the family is that you get to see your family.
I really miss them. This is the longest I’ve been apart from them and it’s brutal. You can’t even video call from the UAE, as it’s banned, so it’s just a £1.80-per-minute phone conversation every night. As you will likely know, chatting to a toddler on the phone is not quite the life-affirming experience that you glean from being in their company.
“I miss you Da…where are my pens? I’m going to pay dress-up!”
Yes, it’s tough working the logistics for a family of four to all enjoy a fulfilling time, but it is worth it. Going on holiday with the family is where you make memories, and that earns it four late ticks to tip the balance on this thorny debate.