“I found that the more truthful and vulnerable I was, the more empowering it was for me”

— Anon

Making that family summer holiday feeling last all year long

Making that family summer holiday feeling last all year long

Tans are fading, brightly coloured toe(nail)s hidden away under socks, the nights are drawing in and daytime boozing appears no longer acceptable. (Despite the kids being back at school and nursery, ironically.) It’s the end of summer and holiday season has come to an end for another year. Or has it?

Yes, those leisurely days of idling hours away by the seaside / pool / on the mountain / somewhere that isn’t home with all its reminders of the chores and outstanding tasks requiring our energy are over for another year. Recent statistics from the ONS, however, show that our holidaying habits have changed. We apparently now favour short breaks and week-long trips over that long vacation once a year. And some might argue that this is beneficial for us and our health, giving us more frequent breaks from work and the daily stresses, although perhaps not for our bank balances.

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) claims the shorter breaks are due to the rise in budget airlines and cheaper flights. I can believe that it’s also down to the fact that going away for a long stretch requires far more planning and preparation than a long weekend. Something that Times columnist Sathnam Sanghera talks about in a recent column where he actually praises the US for their approach to holidaying and admits that more frequent, shorter holidays might be the way forward.

We had the amazing opportunity to travel to Ethiopia this summer thanks to a convergence of multiple lucky stars; the husband had to work in Kenya, very good friends with kids the same age live there, one child travelled for ‘free’, and I’m on constant ‘holiday’, also known as being on maternity leave and thus not beholden to specific periods when I can take leave from the office.

And what an incredible experience it was. Including many times when we wondered what on earth we were doing travelling with two children under three across time zones and on long haul flights to meet up with our friends with their two children under three. Yes, four kids under four – imagine the number of tears, wet wipes, tantrums, rice cakes, bribes and screen time during two weeks of travelling across Ethiopia and Kenya, and that’s just for the parents!

But consider the prep involved. Vaccinations and jabs. Visas and the right currencies. Emptying the fridge and all bins the day you leave while leaving enough food for a whiny toddler. Trying to anticipate clothing requirements for at least three people for a rainy season in Ethiopia, flying out during a heatwave in the UK, and ending up in sunny daytimes but chilly evenings spent in Kenya. Oh, and having to take all nappies and wet wipes with you as they’re hard to come by in Addis Ababa.

Don’t get me wrong, we had the most wonderful time, mostly for seeing our friends and making fabulous memories with them. But a weekend trip to Essex (to visit GG – Gorgeous Granny as she’s calling herself), is equally as thrilling and less expensive, without all the fuss of thinking ahead for multiple people and having to ensure the home is locked and secure and devoid of rotting food or smelly bins. The great part about holidaying with kids is that they don’t really mind where they are, so long as there are cardboard boxes, tractors or trains to point at and a mummy trying to relax somewhere (beside a pool, on the sofa, with a glass of wine, or trying to read) that they can interrupt. Indeed, our son’s highlight of the African adventure wasn’t spotting a white rhino or feeding giraffes; it was seeing his friend Olive!

So, with holiday season coming to an end, I’d like to draw your attention to a Sunday Times columnist who recently wrote about how to make summer last all year long. It’s not about where you go, or for how long, or how many sunsets you watch, it’s about the downtime experienced. The word ‘holiday’ is supposedly derived from ‘holy day - day of exemption from labour and recreation’ meaning a chance to take a deep breath and do nothing. India Knight calls this ‘mooching’, which I love. A day spent doing nothing is such a luxury these days that we feel guilty for not being productive. Whether spring cleaning, getting on top of admin, exercising, seeing friends, or ensuring we have content at the ready for our social media fees – this is a great video showing just how many photos and images are specially curated to give the impression that we lead busy and fulfilled lives – we rarely take time to just chill out and recharge our batteries.

In all honesty, it’s up to each of us just how we choose to relax and unwind. Some find hiking to the top of a mountain their idea of relaxation. Others want to rid their garden of weeds so they can sit and enjoy it in the evenings while we have some daylight. Some want to sleep all day so they can dance the night away. Many of us long for a lie in and for someone else to give the kids breakfast for two days. (Holidays just aren’t the same with children who don’t understand the concept of sleeping in.)

For me, especially since having kids, a holiday is ultimately about spending time by yourself and/or chosen loved ones doing your chosen activity, or lack thereof. If you can do that at home, or in your favourite coffee shop, or even by indulging in a Netflix binge, you can achieve the same effect as if you had been on holiday. Well, almost.

So, no need to end the summer feeling even though Strictly Come Dancing has already restarted. Try prolonging it with short breaks, periods of inactivity or relaxing. And ask friends to dinner and to stay over – it’s cheaper than a babysitter and they can help out with the kids the next morning!

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