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Holidays

Holiday phobia

15 replies

Tigermoth · 09/04/2001 11:05

Please help stop me dithering! What are the chances of us all enjoying a family holday abroad?
We have never ever taken our sons (age 7 years and 20 months)out of the country. We don't even have passports. I have not been abroad for 8 years. Disgusting.

All our family holidays have been spent with the in-laws in Devon. By and large we get on fine. Their house, garden, cooking and manners are all perfect. They are genuinely kind. They dote on their grandchildren. We know where all the best beaches and attractions are. And of course it's cheap. So when it comes to going anywhere else, it's a hard act to follow.

But it is predictable - apart from the Devon weather. It would be so good to be able to guarantee wearing sandals, not wellingtons, for two weeks. And it would be an interesting experience to have a 'just-us' family holiday away from the civilising influence of MIL and FIL.

This year, Foot and Mouth has so far closed all our favourite Devon beaches and attractions. MIL and FIL think it would be good for us to have a proper holiday abroad. Also I have the money in the form of a legacy from my late parents, to splash out, so in theory we could afford to go anywhere we please. But we are not rich income-wise, and we have already dug into the legacy for practical things.

My nightmare scenario is: I'd be on some boiling hot beach, in the background our council-flat-like tower-block hotel, me in sole care of our two non-swimming sons who are running wild near the water, while my husband is indulging his favourite pastime - meeting interesting people in quiet, local bars. And I'll be thinking, is 14 days of this really worth x thousands of pounds?

OK we'll book a holiday with some childcare, but our youngest won't be 2 till the end of August, so he's too young for lots of schemes, while being too old to be docile and sleepy for long periods of the day.

And I'm so hesitant about spending all this money. I can't seem to be able to justify it to myself. Yet I'm so organised about spending days out/weekends away in England. And no, I don't want to have a family holiday here. And I feel guilty that we're not storing up more family holiday memories for out sons. The 7 year old hears us talking about Italy or Jamacia, builds his hopes up, and then nothing happens because mummy can't commit herself. And husband says the final decision is mine, because it's out of my legacy.

Is a 'big' family holiday really worth the expense and effort? Should we wait till the children are older? I just don't know.

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Emmagee · 09/04/2001 12:39

I have read about a place twice in the last couple of weeks called Villa Pia in Umbria, set up by an English couple who wanted to provide a relaxed family holiday environment. Look at www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4166329,00.html for info.

On the whole I would recommend you go for it, we went to Sri Lanka with our daughter when she was nearly two and the great times outweighed the stresses. Also went to Mallorca when she was younger and to France a few times and it's fine. You don't have to spend a fortune either.

Also get in touch with the company Real Holidays - their details are on this site somewhere, they have such a lot of experience of helping people find the ideal within a realistic budget.

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Suew · 09/04/2001 14:29

Tigermoth, I spent all my school hols as a child on beaches on the east coast - Mablethorpe to be precise - as that was where my grandparents lived.

My dad worked overseas and I always longed for far shores. Now I am old enough and reasonably well off enough to decide where we go and so our 4yo daughter has already flown further than I had by my mid-20s, aided by my hubby's work and his nationality - he's a Kiwi and we have spent a fair bit of time there.

To be honest all she wants is a bucket and spade, some rock pools and sea to paddle in. That said, I can appreciate what you mean about wanting sunshine - it has helped me fall in love with Melbourne.

And I can also appreciate your point about sole care of 2 non-swimming children - on a holiday to Spain a couple of years ago, my husband felt it wasn't necessary to go down to the beach with us and our then 2yo was completely into going into the sea - a nightmare with one child, let alone two.

We went on an excellent villa holiday pre-kids with some friends through Style holidays to the Algarve. We stayed in a three (advertised as two) bed villa with pool with a free hire car thrown in. It was a ten minute walk from the beach - not really very far but quite a rocky path down. And quite under-developed. A bit like surburbia-on-sea - we felt we were just living in a house that happened to be near the sea with a few restaurants a not-too-far walk away. The car was necessary though as we were a fair way from sources of food!

It cost us about 500 per adult and I would go back to the same place again. It's very scary being around a pool with a child - we have one in the garden here and in Oz all pools have to have a secure barrier to prevent accidents which isn't the case around Europe AFAIK. And of course the sea is a different kettle of fish, dangerous to anyone who doesn't know what they are doing, IMHO.

When I look back at those hols on the east coast, I wouldn't have missed them. But I wouldn't change the opportunities we have been able to give to our daughter either.

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Debsb · 09/04/2001 15:25

Tigermoth, I was also apprehensive about taking our 2 abroad for the first time. we went to Pollensa (Majorca) and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is so nice to be able to leave the door for the day with just sandals & suncream. The beach at Pollensa slopes very gently, and has very little tide until you get a long way out, so is great for kids. We booked our apartment & flights separately, and I would recommend a company called Diamond Holidays - don't have their number to hand but found them on the web in the first place. Good luck.

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Marina · 09/04/2001 18:30

Tigermoth, I know what you mean. We have booked France this year having not been abroad for three years, and not since our son was born (day trips to Calais not counted). I am petrified of how I will feel if none of us have a good time after spending what for us is a lot of money. I find the idea of two weeks baking Southern European sun in an over-developed resort a bit horrifying too. You could listen to all the long-distance forecasters who say we're in for a cracking summer in the UK. If not Devon, then how about the Isle of Wight. It is small, varied, very pretty scenery, loads for children to do, nice beaches, good public transport. It is also not smart (accommodations is very cheap, I think) or full of attractive bars into which your husband will disappear, because....everyone else will be on holiday with their kids. There are one or two places that do good food and even they welcome children.
If you're going to do a Mark Warner type treat holiday, then I'd suggest, try Corsica. It is so beautiful, very unspoilt, the inland is lush, green and comfortable even in summer, and there is some interesting history into which to delve. We spent our honeymoon there and will definitely go back when we have saved up enough. If I had such a legacy, I'd go there - before it had all been frittered away on carburettors and drain unblocking.

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Sml · 10/04/2001 08:07

We've taken ours abroad several times. The first time was when my daughter was around 2 1/2 months old, she loved the ferry, far from being rocked to sleep, she stayed up all night watching the flashing lights from the gaming machines. The last time was a trip down to North Africa, the children went through 8 countries and took it all in their stride. If you're undecided, France is a safe bet surely, it's so close and there's so much to enjoy.

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Sml · 10/04/2001 08:08

Or how about the Channel Islands? or the Isles of Scilly?

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Azzie · 10/04/2001 08:29

Tigermoth, go for it! We've continued to travel since having kids (although admittedly I don't fancy long-haul flights any more!) and we've all enjoyed it. We find cottage/villa holidays best - we eat out at lunchtimes then have local bread, cheese etc (non-cook things!) plus wine in the evening and polish off the bottle after the kids are in bed (we really enjoy having time alone together in the evenings, with no distractions).

Last October we went to France for a last-minute week with our 3 year old and 1 year old, and had a great time. Our 3 year old loved the Chunnel and going to buy croissants from the bakery each morning for breakfast, and is definitely starting to understand that a foreign country is different to Britain (he has also been to Paris with Grandma and still talks about the Eurostar and the Eiffel Tower with great enthusiasm) Our 1 year old had a good time because we were all enjoying ourselves. I should think that your 7 year old would find the whole thing really interesting and exciting.

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Bells · 10/04/2001 09:13

We have actually travelled more since having a child than before. We find our enjoyment of holidays abroad is just so much enhanced by our son. It means that we take things more slowly, spend more time wandering around villages and so on and of course, a small child means lots more contact with the locals. Last year we went to Russia, Finland and Sicily with him and all the trips were just fabulous. Sicily was one of our best holidays ever. All the attractions of ancient Greece, Volcanoes & Roman Villlas with Italian food and a local population who were abolsutely mad about small children. Also, it is inexpensive compared to the rest of Italy and the weather is hot!.

I would say Tigermoth go for it but keep it simple for the first trip. I think the suggestion of renting a cottage in France is an excellent one. I would certainly avoid "resort" or package holidays as these seem to have the greatest potential for disappointment.

Also, it is worth looking at the destinations of airlines such as Ryanair, Go and Easyjet as you can now get to places like Bologna and Nice etc for as little as £80 return if you time it right.

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Tigermoth · 10/04/2001 09:21

Thanks for your comments. I have already earmarked the Isle of Wight for a long weekend, as soon as that promised UK heatwave begins. Any inside information would be appreciated. I have some very vague childhood memories of the place - green and lush, very victorian, Osborne House -
May also go for a short break to the Isles of Scilly etc. And I know that this might sound a bit-sensible-grey-socks-and-Clarkes-sandals, but since I'll possibly be on my own with my children, or with other mothers, we'll probably stay at the local youth hostels. Very impressed to find that the midget Isle of Wight has two of them!!

Suew it was very useful to read what you wrote. Glad I'm not the only person to be apprehensive about children near water on holiday. That's why I'm worried about villa holidays, despite enjoying a number in my pre-child life. I remember one fantastic villa near Granada in Southern Spain. The pool was located right at the edge of a steep cliff. Definitely one to avoid with toddlers. I wonder if any far sighted villa companies organise pool barries for their villas?


I'll also follow up the the tip on the Villa Pia, Pollensia and Majorca. Marina, I've already been toying with the idea of Corsica (or Sardinia). Glad you've given it the thumbs up!

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Carriel · 10/04/2001 10:57

Really tricky one here - because as a total holidayaholic ( I blame being brought up by teachers)I want to say go go go, but as a parent I know that unless you're really careful you can end up coming home more knackered than when you went. On balance though I think holidays are a very good thing - they just need planning and a serious assessment of expectations. The key I think is to make sure the kids are going to be happy, occupied and comfortable - and then you're more likely to have a break yourself. First off have a look at the mumsnet summer sun survey to get ideas of what can make or break a hol - the nutshells are really honest and give you an idea of what you might enjoy/steer clear of. Do you want self catering or hotel? Childcare or not? Beach or countryside (I'd say beach everytime with that age group) I'd guess by the sound of it childcare might be a good thing, though with a 7 yr old you're probably stuck with school hols so getting somewhere with childcare now might be tricky. Is there somewhere you've always fancied going - Greece, Portugal?? I think it's a lovely idea that you use some of the legacy from your parents to do this. In my mind it's like them being on holiday with you and your kids - just like your in-laws have been able to do for the past few years. For what it's worth we had a great time with Simply Corsica - they also have childcare resorts in Crete, Zakynthos, Turkey and a new scheme in Portugal whereby nannies will come to your villa. The nannies were all English and would also babysit in the eves. The kids clubs would accommodate both age groups easily and ran 5 days a week, and you could book half days or full days, so you didn't feel as if you'd farmed the kids off the whole time, but you did get time to read/talk to strangers in bars/ whatever takes your fancy. There was no pool in Corsica tho and I know it gets booked up and you may not feel like catering. The alternative if you want a slightly cheaper, hotel option is to go with one of the Thompson superfamily or Airtours family resorts - most would have free kids clubs for the seven year old and guaranteed mates/ kids meals etc - and some have drop in creches for the under 2 - which might be a nice option. Take the plunge. Decide to go. Decide what type of hol. Decide, ideally where and then either come back here, go to your travel agent - or if you want really top notch advice on more off beat hols(though make sure you spell out your budget) contact Real Holidays - an independent travel agent we both use who really know their stuff. Tel 0207 359 3938 ask for Philip and mention mumsnet. OOh and do come back and tell us what you decide - I get just as much pleasure hearing about and planning other people's hols as I do going on them - Good luck

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Jessi · 10/04/2001 12:36

Tigermoth, have you thought about doing a home exchange holiday? You can exchange homes anywhere in the world, and find one that is with another family with children of a similar age. That way you get a home-like environment with toys, high-chairs etc already there,and you aren't having to pay for accomodation. There are details of house-swapping companies on the internet. I know someone who swapped last year with her 3 children and they had 3 weeks in the South of France, swimming pool etc and a great holiday. Might be worth looking into?

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Azzie · 10/04/2001 12:45

The Isles of Scilly is a great idea. My brother and I loved it as kids, and my Mum still goes and says it hasn't changed a bit (still no amusement arcades). We've earmarked it for next year maybe - our 3 year old would love using the boats as buses to get from island to island, but I'll be happier when our daughter (currently 16 mths and very active) is old enough to understand not to try and climb out of the boat all the time! The beaches are great, and so is the chance to spend an afternoon on a 'desert' island.

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Robinw · 10/04/2001 19:40

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Eulalia · 10/04/2001 22:40

Tigermoth - there are loads of camping holidays you could go on which cater for kids of all ages. You can rent a tent which is all set up with all the facilities. These are in France,Spain, Italy etc. They needn't be near water and often the beach is just a short walk. I loved camping as a kid and it is a very cheap way to introduce young kids to life abroad. Most sites do evening entertainment and have bars, restaraurants etc attached. The continental Europeans are very into camping so you would meet lots of people of different nationalities. We always used to go off season - my parents took us 2 weeks early from school. We took our own stuff and packed it all into a camper van and drove off for a whole month every year. This cost about the same as a hotel on a resort and was much more fun. We drove 2000 miles across Europe and back home again. I'd definately recommend going away as your kids will love the different culture and the excitment of travelling.

We took our son away last year when he was 9 months to a self catering apartment in Spain and he had a great time. The younger ones usually adapt very well. Hope you have a great time (wish it was me planning a holiday!)

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Tigermoth · 11/04/2001 16:39

Carriel and everyone else, thanks again so much for your helpful comments. Have now got a pile of brochures to look through. I fear a lot of the holidays with child care may be booked up over the school summer holidays so thinking of avoiding those weeks - and saving some money.

Will keep you posted.

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