Given that things have turned colder this week, Paul and I decided it was about time we book a holiday. This may seem early, but as all parents will know, particularly those with school age children, spontaneity is a thing of the past – the days taking a week off on a whim, meeting at Thomas Cook during your lunch hour and forking out £184 for a week in Majorca are long gone (which is quite possibly a good thing).
It got me to thinking about all the other things which have changed when it comes to holidays. Holidays these days are a bit like being at home in a more confined space and with less washing (at least during the holiday itself).
Browsing the boutiques at the airport. A civilised meal at the South Terminal. Perhaps even a cheeky glass of wine or two on the plane. Ah, those were the days. Now the journey starts at 4am for the trip to the ferry, where the primary focus is getting a seat where the kids can see the film that’s showing and avoiding the area covered with a plastic bag due to the effects of “rough waters” on the last inbound crossing.
This will be followed up by 6 hours in the car, listening to the Julia Donaldson song collection (sung by national treasure Imelda Staunton no less), punctuated by requests to confirm the exact number of minutes left of the journey and the occasional stop at, quite literally, the most disgusting toilets ever seen in the EU, or possibly anywhere. It is impossible for a small child to use one of those squat toilets without peeing on their trousers and quite possibly spattering you with the back splash as you hold them at a difficult angle in a vain attempt to stop them touching anything. Buy a Potette. Believe me, you’ll want to use it yourself after a couple of stops on a French motorway.
In the good old days, there used to be two approaches to accommodation. In the really old days, it was just finding an apartment with a pool which was within staggering distance of “the strip” (every resort had one – a neon lit row of bars and clubs, which drew the young, pissed and burnt like bees to a honeypot). As we matured, there was research to be done on the best location for seeing the sites, or the hotel with the best spa.
These days the only questions that really matters is “Do they have a kids club? And “How long can I leave them in it?”
Again, holidays of yore used to fall into two categories. There was the action packed road trip, where we’d spend a fortnight seeing the best sites the location had to offer. The mountains of Western Canada. The Golden Gate Bridge. Machu Picchu. The other sort was the relaxing trip where days would be spent lounging (or indeed recovering) by the pool, reading books perhaps, the nights cruising the strip (see above) drinking disgusting cocktails and dancing ’til dawn.
Nowadays, like every day really, things start early, with small people clambering over our sleeping forms, demanding breakfast, trips to the pool and generally to be entertained. A small amount of a book may be read whilst they watch Up for 94th time on the laptop. Perhaps the afternoon brings a trip to the kids club to spend an hour with Buddy Bear. Yes, it’s impossible to avoid glitter even on holiday. It was a real boon last year when we realised that Daisy could feel all grown up by being left at kids club by herself for 2 hours at a time. Next year, Poppy with also reach that magical age which means that potentially there are up to 4 hours a day when we can relax and do our own thing. I hasten to add that we go on holiday to spend time as a family and don’t, of course, put them in kids clubs for 4 hours a day, every day. Usually they’ll do one 2 hour session a day. But they do enjoy it so it’s a win-win, no?
The nightlife often used to be the point of the holiday. After a hard day working on your tan, you’d get on your glad rags, eat some souvlaki (sampling the local fayre, innit?), and take a walk along past the bars until someone thrust a cheap drink flyer in your hand. You’d hit Zorbas/The Cheeky Tiki/Captain Corelli’s Cocktails and then perhaps on to club before staggering home with the sun coming up, fruitlessly trying to find a street food vendor who’d take Switch.
In the post children years, depending on your location, you may find that there is a regular “family disco” at your accommodation. Under sufferance, you will attend said disco, probably straight from the pool, in your scruffy shorts. Your offspring will demand to see “Sammy the Caterpillar” and then spend the whole time hiding because they are “scared of Sammy”.
There will be a DJ, let’s call him Denis. He will stand on the stage, amidst a selection of disco lights brought directly to you from the 1980s. He will be the master of the wheels of steel. He will be wearing headphones, and biting his bottom lip whilst nodding in time to the music like he’s Paul Oakenfold. Ah, the music. The playlist will consist of Reach for the Stars by S Club 7, the Pizza Hut Song, something by the Venga Boys and the French equivalent of “Superman”. The playlist does not deviate. It is the same Every. Single. Day.
At the start of the holiday you will be embarrassed to be there, hanging your head in your hands and wondering what your life has become. By the end, you realise that it doesn’t get any better than this and will be putting on a maxi dress and some make up before you go. There’s a bar right?
If you don’t have a family disco (or even if you do, as it’ll be done and dusted by 7.30pm), you’ll while away the evenings in your room/mobile home/tent with a bottle of wine and a pack of cards, trying not to wake the kids. Hey, if you’re living on the edge, you might even watch Up.
Yup, things have certainly changed. But you know what? I can’t wait!