What makes a perfect family holiday? It’s tricky because, since our children arrived, each holiday we’ve taken together has been special. And there are many more marvellous times to be had.
We’re yet to go skiing together. Or to spend a night under canvas.
So many places to choose from. But the great thing about holidays is that every break spent together – whether it’s camping in a muddy field in Devon, or vacationing in the Maldives – is a vibrant stitch in the tapestry of family history. Something to be mulled over, whenever the team gets back together again.
So, in answer to the question, I would say my ideal holiday is one that provides a good story – to make us laugh, smile and hug each other, in the years to come.
The question is, which story? Here are a few that seem to hit the mark.
Green Eggs and Ham
D grew up on the piste; from the age of six, his parents (who still regularly ski now, in their 70s) took him on ski holidays. Despite the fact that he can quite happily hurl himself down a black slope, he’s always had a fear of heights. But he pushed himself to try paraskiing when we were on our last ski trip before children. And – like Dr Seuss’s character, who thinks he won’t like green eggs and ham, but decides to give it a whirl, and loves it – the paraski was one of the best things D has tried.
As for me, my own green eggs and ham was tennis. I enjoy swimming, running and keeping fit at the gym, but before last summer I’d never played tennis properly. Convinced I was too old to learn, I reluctantly tried the game while holidaying on a resort on Rhodes, and I enjoyed it so much that I can usually be seen, on a Saturday, at the LTA beginners’ drop-in at our local playing fields. Roll on the Summer!
Swallows and Amazons
Austin is the big adventurer in our family. No physical challenge is too great for this little five-year-old; he walked at ten months, talked in sentences at eighteen, and life with him has been an enthusiasm-fuelled whirlwind ever since.
Just like Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, he’s happiest when learning new skills and having adventures in a pack.
Skiing would suit him to a T (check out the video at the bottom of this post to find out more). No doubt he’d turn all those snowy adventures with new friends, into cracking good tales.
Little House on the Prairie
Travelling with young children can be stressful, so it’s important that our holiday accommodation feels like a home from home. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic series of books set in 19th Century America, the Ingalls family roamed across America, making a cosy dwelling wherever they went. Just like the Ingalls, wherever we roam, we need to find a homely, comfortable, safe, and pleasant place to spend some family downtime.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Fooooood! A holiday’s success or failure often depends on the quality of the grub. Like Eric Carle’s caterpillar, when I’m away I like to eat….and eat….and eat. All sorts of weird and wonderful things; whatever the locals like to put on their plates.
On my first ski trip with D, I bought a selection of dried sausages to sample in our self-catering chalet. To my horror, as my A-level French came back to me I realised what ‘saucisson d’ane’ meant. Donkey sausage! Aargh! It didn’t taste that good, either…..
Apart from donkey sausage, in the evenings D and I did nothing but gorge on cheese-based dishes (raclette and fondue…yum!). But we both came home half a stone lighter. All that fresh air and skiing had burned off the evening’s calories; like the hungry caterpillar, who eats loads but then emerges as a beautiful butterfly at the end of the tale, we’d come back happier, healthier, glowing versions of ourselves.
Plus, as well as losing weight we’d managed to consume a mountain’s-worth of delicious foodstuffs. Now that’s the kind of diet I like….
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
We live in central south London; as someone who grew up in deepest Welsh countryside, I sometimes pine for wilderness. So, on our holidays, we like to travel to places where the scenery is eyecatching, and the majesty and mystery of nature is all around. Just like in CS Lewis’s classic adventure stories.
Whether a holiday is spent amid stunning mountain ranges, on the shores of the sea, or by woods that have an air of enchantment, our perfect break would be one where the beauty of the landscape infuses the holiday with magic and love.
At two-and-three-quarters, Gwen is the youngest of the family. Both she and Austin are playful little souls; on our trip to Levante, they both loved splashing about in the resort’s pools. And, of course, cavorting with them brought out the child in me and D.
JM Barrie’s Peter Pan is the boy who never grew up; and the best holidays are ones where all of us can let go and fool around like big kids. In the snow, sea, water, sand….just wherever there’s fun to be had.
I’d like to end with a short video. It was taken while Gwen was asleep, D was watching the rugby, and Austin and I were beginning to make some Christmas decorations. In it, Austin sets out plans for his first skiing holiday……
What would be your perfect holiday storybook?