Family Travel: Heaven or Hell?

My first holiday with a baby was a big shock. We hadn’t planned anything more adventurous than a week of sun and sand in Sharm el Sheikh but I’d been excited about it for weeks. It wasn’t until we actually got there that it dawned on me that despite being on holiday, I still had a baby to look after. There would be no long lie-ins or hours of sunbathing. No afternoons spent snorkelling or evenings in a beach bar drinking cocktails.

It can be hard not to feel wistful when you look back at your holidays before having children. The days spent lying on a sun lounger reading 500-page books; the hours in museums one day, flitting between cafés and shops on the next. cropped-img_0500.jpg Holidays now I’ve got two children couldn’t be more different although I still refuse to travel without at least four chunky novels in my suitcase. I’m lucky if I finish one. I’ll lie on my sun lounger for five minutes before being interrupted with cries of “I’m hungry!” (But you’ve only just had breakfast!), “I need the loo!” (and it takes 10 minutes to strip them out of the all-in-one sunsuit that seemed like such a good idea in the shop), “I’ve got nothing to do!”, “I’m too hot!” and “I need help building my sandcastle.”

And then there’s the hourly application of suncream, the constant checks that they’re not drowning in the pool or the sea. You get back to your sun lounger for another few minutes and then war breaks out over the inflatable crocodile you bought to entertain them while you got on with the latest Hilary Mantel…

I sometimes wonder why I ever go on holiday with my children.

But then I remember that fantastic boat trip and picnic on a deserted beach when we pretended we were the Swiss Family Robinson; the times when all four of us splash about in the sea; and the evening meal when we all dug into a table of mezze, watched the sun set over the harbour and had a discussion about who was the better villain, Voldemort or Darth Vader?

Going on holiday with your children is a lot more fun than going alone. You know how Christmas loses some of its magic as you get older and it’s not until you have children that it becomes special again? It’s the same with travelling. You see the thrill and excitement through their eyes, whether it’s going on a plane, jumping over big waves, eating octopus for the first time or climbing to the top of a castle.

Family travel is not just about a summer holiday on the beach. It’s about walking a stretch of the South West Coastal Path with the dog. It’s about eating fish and chips on a rainy beach in Suffolk or dressing up as a knight at Dover Castle. It’s about seeing the Van Goghs in The National Gallery or watching a flamenco show in Seville. But most of all it’s about having fun and discovering something new.

Suitcases and Sandcastles is here to inspire and entertain you. I’ll be telling you about all the places we’ve been – the good and the bad bits – and sharing my tips for stress-free family holidays. I’ll be coming up with ideas for great trips whether you’re looking for a safari in Botswana, a beach holiday in Greece, want to know the most child-friendly museums in Paris or fancy a day out in a UK castle.

I’ll also be writing about books. Books to take on holiday for both the kids and the grown-ups. Books that take you travelling even while you’re stuck at home and books to get your children excited about reading. Stay awhile. I hope you enjoy it.

I’m linking this post up with the ‘My First Blog Post’ link-up with A Green and Rosie Life

COMING UP NEXT: The Dos and Don’ts of Travelling with Children

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11 thoughts on “Family Travel: Heaven or Hell?

  1. Hello,

    Great blog. I am wanting to go away with my parents for 4-5 days with my two children (one and four years old). My partner can’t come and if possible would like to do an hour or two of study a day. Is there a wonderful child friendly hotel, near the sea not far from London I can take them all?

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    • Take a look at http://www.i-escape.com. It has a great selection of boutique hotels and good b&bs that are child friendly. We’ve stayed in some wonderful places through them. They have great looking hotels in Ramsgate, Rye and Lewes, all of which would make a great base for a seaside break. Rye is a lovely town and minutes away from the wonderful Camber Sands. Lewes is one of my favourite towns so well worth a look. Take a look at what’s around in Whitstable (another gorgeous coastal town), Margate and Hastings too.
      The website, http://www.smithandfamily.co.uk specialises in more upmarket hotels with oodles of childcare on tap. We’ve stayed at The Ickworth, a grand country house set in Suffolk parkland. There are lots of things for kids to do and play with as well as toys, a free crèche for the under 7s and a baby listening service while you’re eating dinner. It’s not by the sea though. You’d have to travel a bit further to reach the Suffolk coast but it’s well worth it. I’m a big fan of Southwold – great seaside, places to eat and close to the fabulous village of Walberswick which is excellent for crabbing. Check out The Crown Hotel and The Swan Hotel.
      Hope that helps!

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  2. What a great first post – you’re right that travel with kids is so totally different in both the frustrating and wonderful ways. I had one trip last year where my daughter was still having an afternoon nap and I could relax with my book in the sun for 45 mins. The bliss after years without! #myfirstblogpost

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  3. I’m trying to remember holidays per children, it’s such along time ago! You are right though – they are still fabulous fun and just different from those BC days. It’s one of the reasons when we set up our gite we wanted to make it children and family friendly to make holidays that bit easier for everyone. Thank you so much for lining up with #MyFirstBlogPost and I am getting to read such a brilliant variety of posts from all over the world.

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