What do you DO on holiday with young kids

(57 Posts)
Softywife Tue 14-May-13 11:54:15

What do you DO on holiday with young kids? Especially if you're on your own?

When I was single I thought of a holiday as exploring somewhere I'd never been to before. Maybe an interesting, historical city or perhaps a beautiful landscape. Plenty of walking, sightseeing and learning about the culture. Or trying a new activity. Not necessarily far-flung or expensive. But basically something active or different.

My DDs are 4 and 1 1/2 and in the summer we'll be revisiting a mediterranean town we go to each year (because my husband's extended family live there). It'll be lovely to see his relatives at the weekend but on the whole I'll be on my own whilst we're there, plus possibly the occasional afternoon with DH.

Before anyone points it out.... I know I'm lucky to get a holiday at all - a change of scene and some extra sunshine. And I realise that I have to change my expectations from pre-marriage/kids. I'm really after more constructive suggestions as to how to keep it interesting for all 3 of us.

I've seen the local sights many times now and we visited all the tourist spots in the country before we had kids. I'll obviously spend some time reading to them but, again, not all day, every day - we might as well be at home. DD1 is also into dancing, drawing and crafts. DD2 likes soft play and dolls. But I can't see how I can included any of that in our holiday. Any ideas?

I'll be hiring a car and there're beautiful views from the roads but parking's difficult away from the apartment. I'll be 20 mins' walk from a small, very busy, but sandy, beach and it's usually sunny and around 24-33 degrees. But I'm really not looking forward to sitting on a crowded beach all day, every day, making sand castles for a whole week....

Should I steel myself to a very boring long week or has anyone got any bright ideas for making it fun for the kids and myself? I could budget about £20 a day for entertainment.

What would you pack to keep them (and me) happy and what would you plan to get us all out of the apartment?

Thanks for reading all this and for any suggestions.

noramum Tue 14-May-13 12:15:53

I would arrange a new holiday destination next year.

DD is a single child and until she was 4 we always went proper sightseeing, plus the beach, plus playing in the villa with some games, did drawing or writing, watching a movie and reading tons of books.

Now we still do all of this but go somewhere where she also has other children as playmates. We found that it gives us all a break. We did farmstay holidays and she loves running around the farm and playing with other children while we sat on the balcony, had quite time to read or relax.

Does your DH's extended family has any children? At that age language barriers are not important. Otherwise you will have to bite the bullet and go sightseeing again with them. I found that doing this with young children give me lots of different views about displays in museums or stately homes.

Are there any waterparks or children facilities like petting farms, zoos, big playgrounds around? Think what you do with them at home and look for similar things around.

BiddyPop Tue 14-May-13 12:24:58

And I would bring some colouring pencils/crayons and lots of paper (free printable from the net and plain paper too) for art in the appartment (could get very creative in different environment).

Maybe bring or get some bottles of bubbles for fun in the sun (in park? or on beach) when it's not too warm. And get a couple of small water pistols to spray water when very warm. Bring a ball for the park in mornings or later afternoons.

Dolly picnic at the beach or park would be at least one fun afternoon.

Just a few ideas off the top of my head.

bakingaddict Tue 14-May-13 12:28:41

Why will you be on your own so much with the kids and only seeing DH for the occasional afternoon?

I'd insist on only staying a couple of nights with the extended family and moving on somewhere more interesting to you as a family.

instantfamily Tue 14-May-13 12:29:08

leave the kids with the family and do whatever you like to do? sit in a cafe? read a book?
invest in an ipad or a kindle to keep them and you occupied and lots of space for other toys in your suitcase.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 12:30:23

Your holidays with DD sound wonderful!

Unfortunately the other children in the family are nearly adults, so at school all day and the area's not geared up for entertaining kids as per the UK. I can't work out what young kids do there at all.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 12:31:03

That was for noramum. Wow, lots more responses, thanks

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 12:31:47

Great ideas BiddyPop.

instantfamily Tue 14-May-13 12:32:00

Also, going to places with small kids has given me a very different perspective on places. I know a lot of playgrounds in Tokyo about japanese culture now!

Or make friends with other people at the beach - kids happy and adults usually as well.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 12:32:57

instantfamily, Lovely idea but not really an option.

Startail Tue 14-May-13 12:34:04

You swim, you swim some more and then you go to a water park.

Then you force them out of the pool to have dinner and wander round the bars in the evening, the older on runs up and down the sea front and the younger one sleeps in the push chair.

Repeat every year or two until DDs are at least 11 and 14.

This is absolutely fine with me, what parents do with children who are not fish I don't know.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 12:34:38

Sorry, I'm being too slow here. That was in reply to your idea of leaving them with the family and doing my own thing.

instantfamily Tue 14-May-13 12:35:12

Will there be folkloristic events? or concerts? Street festivals? Involve your DHs family to find out about such things.

Where I go in southern Italy half of the events you only find out about by word of mouth.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 12:35:30

Startail, Right, this'll be the year that DD2 learns to swim then smile. I like it, I have a goal rather than aimlessly playing with buckets of sand....

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 12:41:08

A good idea to ask about events instantfamily. I assumed there weren't any but maybe they don't need to advertise them.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 12:43:10

Ooh, they do boat rides along the coast! That'll be good. Never done that before. Do you think a 1 1/2 yr old would be safe on a small boat?

What Startail said.
Although the same still applies to my 15 and 17 year olds. Pool all day, every day apart from trips to the water park.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 12:49:14

Doesn't it drive you mad though secretscwirrels and Startail. Especially if you used to do more adventurous or academic stuff?

Callisto Tue 14-May-13 12:50:38

DD needs to play imaginary games wherever we are, so I always ensure she has the 'kit' to do so. At the moment, she is playing with rope and sticks (she is a cowgirl showjumper atm), in the past it has been her dinosaurs, her playmobil, her farm animals etc. Added to that books, crafty stuff, etc. Could you get your older DD to do some sort of project over the holiday - wildlife or flowers or something? She could draw and describe them in a little book. Many press petals that sort of thing? Also, take some card with double sided sticky tape on it. Get your girls to stick stuff onto the card - pebbles, leaves, sand, shells, anything they spot really. DD still loves doing this on holiday and then doing show and tell or something when back at school.

Bramshott Tue 14-May-13 12:56:02

We have always trailed the DD's round castles & museums, followed by a long lunch (take colouring), then late afternoon trips to the beach when it's cooled down a bit.

That said, my sandcastles are epic - the DDs are rarely allowed to get a look in!

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 13:09:46

No water parks there unfortunately but the week's starting to sound better already.

Public pool teaching DD2 to swim
Local playground, ball-games, etc
Hottest afternoons indoors doing arts & crafts
Local wildlife project (great idea Callisto)
Beach for bubbles, dolly picnic & challenging Bramshott to the crown for bestest ever sandcastle, etc
Boat trip (if safe for littl'un)
Dinner out a few times

The key seems to be packing our own entertainment. What would you add to this list?

Paper, card, colouring books, crayons, pencils, scissors, double sided sticky tape, glue, books, ball, water pistols, dinosaurs, dolls.....

instantfamily Tue 14-May-13 13:14:08

bags for collecting stuff at the beach.

the more you take this year, the more you will have to take the following year.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 13:22:09

As in we'll get too used to it?

Fluffy1234 Tue 14-May-13 13:28:36

Have you tried googling such and such city for kids or toddlers and see what suggestions and activities come up?
Another good indoor activity for avoiding the hot bit of the day is baking and also scrap book making with stuff you have collected on the beach etc.

Grammaticus Tue 14-May-13 13:31:05

A pot of blowing bubbles

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 13:36:28

I tried that Fluffy, not much at all. There IS an indoor public pool too though, so that's another afternoon sorted.

Scrap book making, yes! Good idea. And maybe we could borrow a baking tray, etc. DD1 does really like baking, we do plenty at home.

Oh yes, mustn't forget the blowing bubbles.

Thanks for all the suggestions everyone, this is great.

Nicolaeus Tue 14-May-13 13:48:01

Recently been on holiday with a 19 month old - stickers were our answer to everything !

Also, if you're staying with family can you not just buy stuff over there and leave it? I'm thinking balls, bucket and spade, various other plastic toys?

We were travelling lightly (well, as lightly as possible with a toddler) so had stickers, a few books and a blow up ball.

DS loved seeing boats but hated being in one (scared) so not sure how much that would work.

Can you say roughly where? Some MNers might live there/know the region.

xlatia Tue 14-May-13 13:50:59

Reading with interest and nothing to add really apart from the following pearl of wisdom: you can make blowing bubbles yourself by adding a splash of washing up liquid (from DH's family probably?) to water and then use a straw to blow bubbles. might save a bit of luggage.

and tbh, i wouldn't take my 18 month old on a tiny boat, but he's a bit of a liability at the best of times.

have a great time!

Murtette Tue 14-May-13 13:53:29

I think you slightly need to re-adjust your mindset as this isn't a holiday, its visiting relatives and therefore the expectations and surroundings are different. When we go on holiday with DC, we do do some sightseeing, some beach days etc; when we go to visit grandparents (which can be for a week at a time), we're mooching around at home much more.
Do you rent somewhere to stay or stay with relatives? Whichever, I think the key is to build up a box of holiday toys which, if you're renting somewhere, one of the relatives then looks after between visits. Both sets of grandparents have a box of stuff which lives in the garage and consists of hideous folding plastic pushchair (£2.99 in S'burys), plastic tea set (£2.49 in S'burys), play food, a few little cars, a Happyland type dolls house or farm (eBay; local to relevant grandparents collection; about £7 each) and then crafty things like play doh, scissors, glue, glitter etc. There are also a couple of jigsaws but I realise they don't work as well as, for example, a 12 piece jigsaw was far too hard for one visit, perfect for another but has been ridiculously easy for the last couple of years. Instead, we've now got a games compedium thing with snakes & ladders, ludo, draughts & chess, some of which DD can do now, some of which she'll grow into. This is then the default stuff that they do when its pouring with rain we're at "home". I don't know if the country you're going to has such an array of cheap toys as the UK does but, for an easy life, I'd be tempted to fill a suitcase for this holiday & pay the extra luggage allowance and know you've got a selection out there for future visits.
You're getting a good list of activities. We often walk to the village shop, buy a postcard and then draw a picture on it to give to a friend when we get home. The scribble often gets discarded before we get home but it passes an hour or so!
If you're staying with relatives, can your DD do some cooking? DD (like all children it seems) loves making cakes so we'll make one & decorate it (either with M&Ms or similar which we've walked to the shop to buy or something I've taken with me).
What sort of outdoor area do you have? Can you either take a paddling pool with you or buy one out there? Or just fill a bucket or something with water & wash dolls/dolls' clothes/the patio etc? Fill a smaller container with water & petals and make perfume?
Do your children speak the language of where you're going? If so, can they have an intense swimming course at the local pool?
I second getting a local guidebook which specialises in things for children to do. When we went on holiday to France last year, we had one and it was perfect on a rainy day as it had a section on rainy things to do (soft play) but also told you how much of, for example, the local zoo was undercover (reptile house, aquarium) & how much it was a dry-weather-only activity.

PostBellumBugsy Tue 14-May-13 13:56:40

You do all the same stuff you do at home, except in different surroundings. If you are lucky and have access to a pool, then you will spend alot of time playing with them in the water ensuring they don't drown.
As a single parent, I would say holidays with small children are fairly exhausting experiences and bear no resemblance to anything you thought of as a holiday pre-kids.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:04:36


We used to stay with DH's grandmother but she's getting very elderly and infirm now so we thought it best to rent an apartment nearby rather than impose on her.

Part of the reason why it's important for DH to spend time with her and for her to our DDs (v briefly) each day is because she's been ill recently and we obviously don't know what the future holds.


Do you wish you WERE at home or have you particularly enjoyed any holidays?

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:06:15

Good tips there Murtette, thanks.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:08:48

So many idea here, I think I'll print the thread out.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:08:56


Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:09:50

DDs are learning the language.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:10:23

I second getting a local guidebook which specialises in things for children to do

If only! Maybe I should start one!!!

SkiBumMum Tue 14-May-13 14:12:56

Pipe cleaners! They are fab for modelling and light weight. Stacking cups are also good for all sorts of games way past toddler age. Some elastic to play French skipping if old enough. Dominos. Siesta!

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:17:46

Murtette, The tourism website's leisure section recommends casinos and nightclubs grin

PostBellumBugsy Tue 14-May-13 14:17:59

Softy, if I'm honest, no I didn't really enjoy holidays with the DCs when they were little. The journeys used to kill me before we even started. I did all the same stuff I did with them at home only with less home comforts around me. Splashing about in the pool was ok, but I used to be desperate for an actual rest. Maybe it is not so bad if there are two parents.

However, it toughened me up & I appreciate every minute of my holidays with them now they are older. We go exploring, I get to read my book, sunbathe and swim again. We pick places to see together & decide when we want veg days too. It is really great.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:19:04

Right, pipe cleaners, stacking cups, elastic and dominos added.

Siesta? It might take all week to convince my two... [hmmm]

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:20:29

I did all the same stuff I did with them at home only with less home comforts around me.

I'm worried that's how I'm going to feel.

Murtette Tue 14-May-13 14:23:16

Baths - DD loves being in the bath so will often randomly have one in the middle of the day when we're away. A few plastic cups & jugs from the kitchen & she's very happy.

Will your DH's grandmother be able to store things for you between trips? Do any of your DC's cousins have toys in the loft or anything you could borrow?

Is DH's grandmother a doting great grandmother who wants to spend time with her great grandchildren? If so, is she able to play snap or dominos or something with your older DD? I would have thought that its fairly easy to play that without much common language. Can your DD "put on a concert" for her (ie sing some nursery rhymes), cook her tea or just paint umpteen pictures for her?

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:32:32

Yes, we can leave things there if we don't need them at home.

She really doesn't like anyone else in her little kitchen. We're renting an apartment partly so that she doesn't have to get us breakfast.

She definitely wants to see the kids, how long for depends on how tired she is. Her near-deafness is more of a barrier than the language is but snap and dominos could be good. Another one for the list.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 14:33:34

PostBellumBugsy, From what age did you start to enjoy holidays again?

Margetts Tue 14-May-13 14:37:40

My DC will spend hours on a beach picking up shells and building sand castles. I bought myself a decent spade with a long handle and we build castles with a trench down to the sea, so when the tide comes in the water rushes round the moat - they love it every time.
Tiny fold away kites they love
We always buy new DVD to watch, and me for my DH and me as well.
Most of the time we spend outdoors on holiday

Fluffy1234 Tue 14-May-13 14:45:41

I found holidays could be quite difficult at times when the DC were pre school unless there was some childcare. I still quite a went away quite a lot because the DC enjoyed them and also I really wanted them to get them used to travelling and change of routine etc. When DS3 was 5 we did our first long haul holiday and it went so well we started to get more adventurous and have had amazing family holidays including 2 of our favourites to Rio and Cape Town.
I had my DC young though so don't really have any pre children holidays to compare them with.
Try not to worry about your trip, think of it more as visiting family than an actual holiday.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 16:42:20

Nicolaeus, Definitely taking stickers and a blow up ball, thanks!

Thanks xlatia.

I think you slightly need to re-adjust your mindset as this isn't a holiday, its visiting relatives. and 6I found holidays could be quite difficult at times when the DC were pre school^ Wise words Murtette and Fluffy. Maybe that's what I've been struggling with. Expecting it to be a holiday.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 16:42:43

Oops, I found holidays could be quite difficult at times when the DC were pre school

Fluffy1234 Tue 14-May-13 16:52:15

"at times" being the key words, not all the time. At other times absolutely amazing having time with the DC and none of the usual distractions and day to day jobs and chores to do.

Softywife Tue 14-May-13 17:20:21

Very true.

specialmagiclady Tue 14-May-13 17:49:20

I concur with those who say that it may not feel like much of a holiday. BUT there will be lovely moments. Kids this age bloody love an ancient monument for example - but they may spend the time playing in the dust rather than looking at the Corinthian columns. We took our kids to Marrakech and they mostly ate ice cream and played in the gravel in the park. Also they walked along every low wall. We did one thing for the adults each day and the rest of the time we pottered about in shady parks. They weren't keen on the souks but they loved the Baadi Palace with its storks-nests and tunnels.

People in Mediterranean towns do have kids too. There may be an unappetising-looking park. But it doesn't have to be appealing to you. A bit of shade and a barely functioning swing set is enough for small kids.

We found the soft play in Marrakech and the kids spent hours on the trampoline....

Get out and go for a walk every day. The beach is almost endlessly amusing for small people. Maybe you could relax and enjoy how much fun they're having. And try and get away for a short break with DH or some friends at another time of year.

noramum Tue 14-May-13 21:52:04

The are sounds like the town I grew up where there is nothing going on at weekends and holiday activities are geared for 6+ year olds. It seems small children don't count.

One reason why we invite my mum over to us instead of spending a week where DD gets bored as like you all children are older or not even in the area.

I think you need to see it as a visit to your in-laws and not a holiday. Are you able to take another break somewhere else so you feel a bit better? While it is important to see elderly parents, and I have my mum and my in-laws nearly 80 so I know what you mean, this is not our holiday.

Oh, and invest in a couple of the overpriced Usborne Dolly Sticker books, one way to keep DD amused for quite a long time.

Softywife Wed 15-May-13 08:35:31

Thanks both of you.

WallyBantersYoniBox Wed 15-May-13 12:23:16

It is really hard to think back and recall what we did with DS but it seemed to involve him teetering around exploring new surroundings whilst one of us followed behind, giving the other half a rest. Or, when my DH was diving, just me pootling behind DS in my swimsuit as he investigated bushes, trees etc in the park, playground or hotel grounds.

Picnics seem to delight young kids too, so you can easily spread an afternoon out on a big blanket in some shade. I used to put DS on a lounger under a cool towel for an afternoon sleep and stretch out next to him for a read/snooze. Then a game of catch with a big sponge ball can keep them active in the cooler part of the afternoon.

He seemed to sleep more in the day due to the heat/late nights in the push chair strolling around, IIRC.

Thebrightsideoflife Wed 15-May-13 12:51:07

The kids might be a bit too young yet, but treasure hunts are always a winner - geocaching? see geocaching.com and check out on that site whether there are any caches to find in the area you are going. we started doing it recently and you can't beat the look on their faces when you find your first treasure that someone has left there potentially years ago!
Planning adventure walks to different places with picnics. Letting the little ones decide which way to go at each junction?
Fix up some dates with other kids via the in-laws?
Devising some i-spy cards for the 4 year old for her to tick off or a list of things to collect on the beach.

Softywife Wed 15-May-13 22:27:06

Brilliant, lots of ideas thanks.

sweetestcup Thu 16-May-13 09:32:46

Why is your DH not going to be with you a lot of the time?

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