I have lost hours, maybe even days, researching family holidays online. Sitting down with a cup of tea and a notepad, opening up several tabs on the internet browser so I can look at holiday companies, flight times and car hire options at the same time. Usually, I become even more confused than when I started, my ‘shortlist’ becomes a rather long list and after finally narrowing down my options, I remember that we’ve already said yes to Janet and Alan’s wedding reception which is bang smack in the middle of the week abroad we’ve started planning …
At some stage, however, usually after I have asked my husband to pause Top Gear and ‘talk to me properly about the holiday options,’ we become more confident that we have found The One and this decision almost always stems from the same list of initial criteria. It’s not exactly rocket science and therefore this is not a ‘How to’ post – I’m just sharing the things I start out with on my notepad.
Airport options, flight times and flight durations
We live in Devon and so try, as best we can, to book flights from the South West. Unfortunately, being too rigid about flights can leave our choices somewhat limited! For example, it suits us best to fly from Exeter, but say we wanted to fly to Ibiza for a week we could only travel from Exeter on a Wednesday, which is quite often incompatible with many resorts’ Saturday changeover. We therefore tend to widen our flight net to include Bristol and possibly Cardiff, mentally trading off the extra couple of hours of whingeing in the car with the increased flight flexibility.
With two young children, one of whom struggles to sit still for long enough to go the toilet, the flight duration is also one of the first things we look at. Fair play if you’re going all out for a three-week American road trip, but for a week’s sunshine and pool-splashing, we aim to keep below a 4 hour flight wherever possible. We also favour morning flights, as experience has taught us that we otherwise waste almost a full day just waiting to go to the airport.
When Holiday Day arrives, I’d much rather crack on and get moving rather than find myself with two hyperactive children in Bristol Airport’s departure lounge at teatime. All things considered it feels less arduous to tackle an early start and deal with the onset of tiredness when we have already made it to the other side. There is usually sunshine on the other side, anyway. And cocktails.
Perhaps the most obvious of checklist items – ‘Will it be sunny?’ – is actually something it’s pretty easy to overlook (or at least, we’ve found it easy to overlook – perhaps we are just stupid). To us, there are many places abroad we simply associate with being warm and have on occasion been close to booking something without checking the average temperature for the month in which we are intending to travel.
Before Henry started school, it made sense for us to go outside of term-time, but a trip to Majorca in the first week of April would probably have seen us ‘enjoying’ a temperature of around 12-13°C, which is not exactly top-up-your-tan territory. I tend to ignore the highest recorded temperatures and go by the worst case scenario for that month figure, which tends to be ‘it’ll still be warm but might rain.’
This is probably where I spend the most time online, scrutinizing pictures and reviews and working out if the facilities on offer match what we’re looking for. It has surprised me how ‘family friendly’ often means nothing more than a small number of travel cots kept behind the desk in reception and kids’ entertainment once a week on a Thursday. ‘Families welcome’ all too often transpires to be ‘families tolerated’ and I know I would find that environment stressful, not least because my two are ‘spirited’, particularly in the pool, and I’m sure they would be tolerated for very long!
Generally, I look for a resort or possibly a villa (we’re more likely to consider a villa if travelling in a larger family party) where the experience of all family members has been considered. I fret over safety, so pool fencing and proximity to roads etc is always on my mind, plus wherever possible we look for accommodation where the boys can have an afternoon nap in one room (The Dream) and we can chill out in the living space, preventing us from having to whisper in the dark as has happened in many of our budget UK hotel stays (I shan’t go into the time I ended up reading my book and eating some crisps on the floor of the bathroom, just to get a bit of ‘Me Time’ as the others snored in the dark).
Above all, the question we always ask ourselves is: ‘Does this holiday warrant the level of hassle involved in getting us there?’ and if it looks like it does, and after considering all of the above, we just might take the plunge.
Want to win signed Unmumsy Mum books? Click here to find out how.