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Note to self: ‘Never go on a family holiday again’

Father and baby silhouettes on beach at sunsetAs we embark on our road trip back to Brisbane, I’m reminded of our first attempt at a family holiday. It was our seven-year anniversary and an opportunity to plan a getaway with our little prince.

The ‘me’ in me wanted what we’d always had, but the ‘woman and mother’ in me knew lists had to be made and adjustments were in order.

My pre-motherhood holiday checklist

  • Is it worth spending money on nice accommodation or cheap accommodation and more spending money?
  • Can I walk to the restaurants/bars/etc?
  • Is there a fridge for alcohol?
  • Is there a bottle shop within waking distance?

My motherhood holiday checklist

  • The accommodation needs to have a kitchen to wash bottles, a kettle or pot to boil water and a fridge to store bottles and food.
  • Need to do a little grocery shop.
  • Need to make sure they have a decent bathroom with big shower or bath or decent laundry sink.
  • Can a port-a-cot fit in this room?
  • No stairs, too hard to bring pram etc. up.
  • Secure parking.
  • Lift from parking to room.
  • If we want a night out we need a sitter.
  • If we get a sitter we can’t stay too far away (wine country is four hours away, that’s out).
  • If we stay more than one night we need to bring his jolly jumper or he’ll be too unsettled.
  • We’ll spend more time at the apartment, so I want something nice with amenities.

My husband’s list

  • Show up

This was the thinking-in-bed list before the actual list. Needless to say, this family trip was exhausting, even before we got there!

I’d booked a luxury sub-penthouse. It had three bedrooms so my brother-in-law could stay a night and baby sit while we went out for our anniversary dinner. I picked an apartment walking distance from the casino and our dinner reservation, so we could be home quickly in case of an emergency. The apartment had a spa, pool table, games room, sauna, and BBQ so being stuck at the apartment wasn’t looking too shabby. Big kitchen, great elevators, pram-friendly walking track. The apartment was immaculate with breathtaking river views, spirits were high, cue amazing first family holiday!!!

First night was a dream, managed pre-drinks, my first uber ride, food was amazing and lost all our money at the casino. A successful date all round .

Second day: The kid’s out of routine and out of his mind. Screaming down the apartments and refusing to sleep. Leisurely stroll along the river = someone being murdered. Home time asap!

What about a relaxing sauna or spa for some ‘me time’? NOT, they’re under construction. OK, let’s just go back to the apartment.

Slowly this beautiful apartment is feeling like a prison.

He’s finally asleep, yes! Some much-needed adult time. NOT! Husband has vertigo … wtf! So I’m on my own, on our last night, eating chocolate and crying. My husband is confined to the bedroom and I can hear my son waking up.

This seems oddly familiar, like my everyday life with a prettier back drop. I’m again, doing the changing, feeding, caring alone and since it’s our last night the next list appears.

My end-of-holiday checklist

  • Clean apartment.
  • Pack bag.
  • Take him for a walk to calm him down.
  • Get started on packing the car so it’s not a rush in the morning.
  • Kill husband.
  • Prep bottles for tonight.
  • Never go on a family holiday again.

It’s not my poor husband’s fault or my precious son’s. It’s reality. The reality that things are not the same. The realisation that you are a parent, always a parent, always thinking, always listing and always preparing. I didn’t know at the time and felt hard done by. Now, I look back at it as a lesson. One that’s served me well on our current trip.

Being a parent is a full-time job. Holiday, road trips, dinners, anniversaries etc. never changes this fact. A privileged responsibility but a privilege nonetheless. The ‘me before’ struggled to grasp this sometimes, but the ‘me now’ knows this. A child doesn’t limit or restrict my experiences. I once had a picture of what life would be. Every day I draw a new picture, one that includes my beautiful little family. Spending too much time on the expectation of an experience, ruins the joy of experiencing it.

A family holiday may be more preparation, more lists, more time and effort but it’s precious valuable time with every member of my family, free from work schedules or daily routines. A road trip with a baby means more stops, longer drive times and long periods of entertaining a little human, but the sheer wonderment in a child’s eye seeing their first kangaroo, the countryside or dolphin in the ocean is priceless. Sure a dinner date with your husband and son as a third wheel isn’t what you imagined. But today we went out together, we went to that restaurant I was dying to go too and I had a chance to dress up and feel like the woman he married.

So maybe all those before things feel different and at times, not worth the trouble, but life happens so quickly and before you know it they won’t want to go on family holidays or will have holidays of their own.

Don’t spend too much time on the expectation of an experience and ruin the joy of experiencing it.

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7 comments so far -

  1. Having travelled right around the world with a two to three year old. Have just written that very same note. Best wait until older before travelling again that is for sure. Wish me luck I have my last 10 hour flight today from Hawaii to Australia…. Argh

  2. Great article and definitely understand what you are going through. I have been through several holiday stages with my two who are now 8 and 9 and I can confidently tell you it gets easier! We did the baby trip with our first born to Fiji. She screamed the whole flight, screamed for two days straight, refused to get in the pool and had trouble settling. Lesson learned, I am never taking an overnight flight with my children again. The loss of sleep is not worth it if it takes days to recover.
    Second big trip was a 6 week road trip when they were 2 and 3. It was awesome, they had no concept of time or distance and had a great time with friends exploring remote locations. Thoroughly recommended.
    Now we are about to do our third big family trip, this time to Europe. I am very nervous. My son is a picky eater, my daughter has terrible bladder holding problems. But we are all excited and I am looking forward to lots of educational and fun experiences for the whole family. I am breaking up flights with stopovers, plan to pack lots of snacks in our luggage and we are not staying in crammed hotels at all – airbnb the whole way. I can’t wait for all the cool memories.
    No, holidays aren’t the same as before kids, but they are still lots of fun and worth doing.

    • Hi Caroline! Thanks for you comment. Sounds like your family is about to go on the adventure of a lifetime. You lucky things! I’m sure – especially now they’re 8 and 9, this will fill them with many lifelong memories. Enjoy xx

    • This article made me laugh as I can relate!

      We’ve gone on a couple of trips (city, interstate and overseas) with my young kids. Started when my kids were 3, 1 and 4 months old I intended to go just me and the kids but hubby tagged along (no obligations right) as I didn’t have to depend on him for doing anything like bottles, nappy changes etc. We wore the kids out as we went the 1st day out to the aquarium and walk around the city-kids got worn out. 2nd day was at the wildlife park then come the weekend the whole family are worn out that there was peaceful weekend with sleep or ME TIME!

      Following year, we went to Fiji. I only took a single stroller which made our outings difficult as Fiji was hot so my 2 yrs old refused to walk in the heat so being 5mths pregnant at the time, was hard to alternate carrying a 2 yrs old between me and husband, with a stroller and 4 yrs old. That was the only downfall, not taking a double stroller. The flight wasn’t a problem.

      As Caroline said, “it does get easier”, each year, we continue to take our kids out to nice hotels, whether it be overnight or a couple of nights. Now that they’re older 8, 6, 5 and 4 – we no longer need to make bottles and find child-proof hotels. The kids are more independent, have a good understanding on being on holidays and more manageable (no more baby carrying, baby bags to lug around and need for hot water/bottles/change of clothes). Last year we went to Samoa for 2 weeks and there was no dramas or problems with the kids. Nice 2 bedroom apartment with a pool kept the kids entertained plus heaps of hired movies to wind down to at night. Hired a 12-seater bus just so the kids had room to stretch their legs during road trips and for snacks and change of clothes should we end up at the beach. Trip to Samoa was definitely memorable for my whole family!

      Each year, you just find different problems to deal with – hotel with a pool, dietary requirements, places to visit and family-friendly hotels that can accommodate for four children at a reasonable price -although caravan parks and vacation homes have become a hit with our kids now! The kids always look forward to our “Family Vacations” as it really is a break for us parents and kids from work and school and a time to BOND as a family…. And surprisingly enough, hubby eventually comes around and becomes the “source of ideas or entertainment”!

      • Hi – thanks for your comment. Glad you liked the post. Sounds like you guys have a good thing going there. Sounds like Samoa’s a good destination too. Very relaxing. My kids love caravan parks too – which is pretty cool because it doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to please everyone. Take care xx

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