A Storybook family holiday

family picture

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.

Gwen on beach

Gwen, on a Pembrokeshire beach, Summer 2013

We’re yet to go skiing together. Or to spend a night under canvas.

new tree

Austin, with the new tree he helped plant at the family cottage in Dumfriesshire

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.

D paraskiing the Alps

D paraskiing the Alps

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.


Ready to explore the Flanders countryside on our Belgian cycling holiday, 2011

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.


D used to play rugby for his county when he was young; it looks as though Austin may be following in his footsteps

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.


No place like home: on our London doorstep, Summer 2013

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…..

donkey sausage

Yes, it DOES say ‘you eat donkey sausage’. I have some very rude friends.

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.


The beautiful French alps, where D and I holidayed pre-children

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.


Sailing over spectacular mountains can be ultra-romantic, as D and I found at Les Arcs, 2009. Not sure who the grumpy gooseberry on our chairlift was, though…

Peter Pan

Gwen dreaming of snowflakes....

Gwen, dreaming of snowflakes….

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.

Mark Warner Levante Resort

Just a couple of girls, having some fun….

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.

family picture

Having fun at a friend’s wedding. It looks as though Gwen’s already practising her drunk Tyrolean look, in readiness for skiing…. (this picture was taken by my good friend, photographer Frances Carlisle).

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?

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  1. December 12, 2014 / 1:13 pm

    Good luck with the competition – we love our family travels, adventures with kids are the best times!

  2. December 12, 2014 / 1:14 pm

    What a unique approach, I loved the Hungry Caterpillar part the best. Best of luck to you. Family holidays are precious times, my son is leaving home soon so I hope we get one last significant holiday in for him before he goes.

  3. December 12, 2014 / 2:04 pm

    Love this post, it spunds like you all have wonderful adventures together – but donkey sausage?! Glad to say I have never had that!

    • December 12, 2014 / 8:08 pm

      My advice would be, keep clear! It tasted a bit like meaty jam. Not good.

  4. December 12, 2014 / 2:18 pm

    I’ve applied for this too! Your post is lovely and I wish you lots of luck.

    • December 12, 2014 / 2:29 pm

      And the same to you! It would be lovely if we both got it, wouldn’t it. Best of luck x

  5. December 12, 2014 / 3:38 pm

    Good luck, great post. I am now trying to think about what would be our best holiday

    • December 12, 2014 / 4:32 pm

      Good luck! Lots of hopefuls this year. X

  6. December 12, 2014 / 10:45 pm

    Your picture from the pool made me miss summer even more…

  7. December 13, 2014 / 11:37 am

    Good luck with this – I love the way you’ve done it x x

  8. Mammasaurus
    December 14, 2014 / 6:16 pm

    Good luck lovely, I’m trying to pluck up the courage to enter too. Felt really inspired by all the entries that I’ve read so far!

    • December 14, 2014 / 7:16 pm

      You should definitely enter! They’re a great brand and I know from winning the Levante hol last year that they’re lovely to work with, too. (Of course, I really shouldn’t be inviting even MORE competition- the standard’s already ridiculously high, eek!) But good luck anyway xxx

  9. December 14, 2014 / 7:43 pm

    I love how you have used stories to explain your entry, a very novel and interesting approach. The very bet of luck xx

  10. December 14, 2014 / 10:46 pm

    What a great post – good luck for the competition, and I absolutely love that pic on the bike and the one on your doorstep from last year – fantastic

    • December 16, 2014 / 8:29 pm

      Thank you Sarah. It brought some very happy memories back, when I was putting the post together!

  11. December 16, 2014 / 3:02 pm

    Good luck to your lovely family! I think you would be the perfect ambassadors 🙂 xx

    • December 16, 2014 / 8:11 pm

      Thank you so much, Hatty! There’s a terrifying amount of good competition, but I’m keeping my dreams alive…

  12. December 17, 2014 / 10:19 am

    Oooo I quite fancy paraskiing – good luck with your entry xx

    • December 17, 2014 / 10:27 am

      Thanks Kara – and you with yours too! xx

  13. December 18, 2014 / 2:24 pm

    oh that bicycle shot is brilliant and I really laughed at Gwen’s face and your caption ha! good luck in the comp! xx

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