How to survive the holidays

Booked a family break in the sun? From Peppa Pig to packing, Lindsay Woods and Pat Fitzpatrick bring us the ultimate summer holiday survival guide


Congratulations! You’ve survived another year of school intact; slightly bruised, but intact.

How to survive the holidays

It therefore stands to reason that you deserve some well-earned escapism. Not the type of escapism you currently favour (googling images of male celebrities holding babies when you are two glasses in to your ‘supermarket special’. What?!); no, the type of escapism of warmer climes, sandy beaches unencumbered by slimy tendrils of seaweed and a cocktail hour that begins at 11am.

However, much like the worrisome development of certain wedding trends, ‘no ring, no bring’, holiday destinations are also beginning to impose their own ideals along the lines of, ‘don’t you even dream of bringing your children near us. In fact, don’t even stand outside the locked gates gazing in. Longingly. Walk on by’.

While I thoroughly understand the need for certain hotels to prohibit the presence of children, (let’s be honest: I could do with not listening to the whining protestations of my offspring for a minimum of six days, seven nights, also), this seems to be somewhat more of the norm in recent years than the exception.

So, what do you do? You go where they will take you is what! A generic resort that you would have scoffed at mockingly in your days pre-children. Now, you just have to pack.

The ‘YouTube lady’ last year suggested making a list, which warranted you purchasing new stationery, because the back of an envelope from a recent utility bill will not do. She has sticky note things and aggressive looking arrow paperclips attached to everything. And she is overly fond of posting several tutorials detailing how best to fold socks. Her label maker is also an extension of her right arm. So, you had to break up with her. For both of your sakes.

This year you are taking matters into your own hands. You tackle your objectives with the gusto of a woman who has imbibed nothing but green juice for a week and has just caught a whiff of a cheeseburger.

This year, you are the wisest of the wise in relation to holiday prep. You signed your children up to a year’s worth of swimming lessons so as not to have to endure the dulcet tones of, ‘MUUUUUUMMMMM! CAN YOU HELP ME OUT OF THE POOL?????’

You have confirmed that ‘Leo The Lemur’ will most definitely be in residence for the entire duration of your stay and has a repertoire of dance moves to keep your kids absorbed for a full hour each day (you have pushed the envelope with the enquiries of the lemur’s lunchbreaks, his home address etc. but if anything, this highlights your appreciation of the resort’s facilities, doesn’t it?). You will case the other families on immediate arrival to ascertain who has only a few days of their stay left; thus, ensuring a few days of small talk on your part will result in the donation of unwanted sun creams, therefore negating additional purchases of same. You convince your husband that ‘all inclusive’ is the only way to go, so that in between the lemur teaching them the Macarena, the children can gorge themselves on a bountiful buffet of fruit and a never-ending supply of ice-cold bottled waters (which last year, almost warranted the re-mortgaging of the house to finance same).

However, without doubt; the highlight of all your smug accomplishments in relation to the prep is the packing. Gone are the days of a large suitcase each containing several costume changes with shoes to match. No, these days, you can shoehorn an entire wardrobe for a family of four into one case. You might have taken ‘YouTube lady’s’ advice re the ‘rolling’ and now your smug factor is at warp level and, while each bedroom may look like a hurricane has ripped through it, a zipped, nondescript black case sits quietly in the hall.

There’s nothing left to do except to leave the key and instructions re the feeding of your wayward cat with the neighbour.

The alarm is set for 5:30am. You rise serenely upon waking instead of repeatedly punching the ‘snooze’ button. Breakfast is a jovial affair with the promise of being poolside with a bottomless Tom Collins by lunchtime. Your husband is still wary as to the alarming alteration in your mood at this early hour: ‘Is she drunk already? Will it last? She must have been googling ‘Thor holding babies’ already’.’ You arrive at the carpark praising your foresight to have pre-booked your space for the week with a nod to the attendant and a smug, ‘oh, it’s very busy, isn’t it?’ The shuttle bus arrives and you practically pirouette onto same.

At the airport, you glide to the check in desk with your glowing family behind you and wonder why you can’t retain this air of composure daily. You make a silent promise that from this day forth you will be a beacon of calm in the stormy waters of life for your family.

“Passports please?”

“Darling, give the lady the passports, will you please?” What do you mean? I don’t have them… I thought you did?’ ‘Oh, for fuuuuccc……..’

Lindsay overshares her life on Instagram @manolomummy


You’ll need a new name for sun holidays after you have kids. Purgatory, Torture and the Seventh Circle of Hell are already taken, so you’ll need to look elsewhere.

How to survive the holidays

Sorry if I seem a bit negative about the whole thing. It’s just myself and my wife used to have amazing holidays. Then the kids came along and our annual vacations started to feel like work. I say started, because our youngest guy is three now and we’re getting better at getting the most out of a trip away. So, for what it’s worth, here are my does and don’ts for going on sun holidays with the kids.

Don’t go near the packing. This one is for the Dads. Your partner will want to bring winter clothes even though you are going to Spain and it’s July. There is nothing you can do to stop her; there is nothing she can do to stop her. So butt out. And keep your views to yourself when she insists on checking in a separate bag for her shoes. Women like to bring all their shoes on holidays. There’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Don’t hop on a bus. Any money saved here will be pumped into relationship counselling when you get home. If you want to see why, you can simulate the experience before you head away. Just buy a blowtorch and keep your child awake all night. The next morning, walk to a nearby bus-stop with said child, heating both of you with the blowtorch while your wife insists you should have turned right at the top of the hill. That’s what it’s like getting a bus in southern Europe in summertime, with a child in tow. If you’re lucky.

Don’t fall into the octopus trap. You can’t get bacon and cabbage in Portugal. That’s a good enough reason to go there. But it means you’re down one of your mash ‘em up, farmer’s dinner with spuds. You might feel a temptation to put an octopus salad in front of your child, mainly so you can post a photo on Facebook with the caption, “Amazing parent or what?” You should resist this temptation with the same vigour your child will resist anything that looks like a fish. Just buy the nuggets and move on.

Don’t fall for a nice cup of tea. It is deeply engrained in the Irish psyche to never say no to a cup of tea. It has served us well down the ages, in all kinds of situations. One exception is when you are strapped in a seat at 33,000 feet. And not just because the tea costs more than the flight. It turns out there is actually one thing more nerve-wracking than getting through airport security with kids. And that’s putting a cup of steaming hot water between two wriggling toddlers. So, say no to tea.

Don’t bother with culture. It’s probably intellectual security, but a certain type of person feels they need to take in ‘a bit of culture’ when they travel abroad. You will see them dragging their kids to a local cathedral, which is funny, because they made such a big deal out of not getting said kids baptised, back home. There is also an easy way to spot these families at the departure gate, on the way home. They’re the ones with the morbidly obese kids, after all the ice-cream bribes. So, take a holiday from all this and don’t bother with the bit of culture you sampled before the kids. Which was, let’s face it, mainly ducking into an art gallery to get out of the heat.

Don’t avoid the Irish. You’ll find the ‘bit of culture’ person also likes to avoid Irish people on holidays. This is fine when you don’t have kids, because that guy in the Celtic jersey from Kildare would wear you down in the end. But picking a strip of coast that’s popular with the Dutch won’t cut it when you have kids. And not just because a Dutch toddler has better English than yourself. (Well, better English than the guy from Kildare anyway.) The real problem with this strip of coast is the kids’ clubs are run in Dutch. That means your kids will be with you all day. Think about that for a while. And then book a holiday in Torremolinos.

Don’t forget the iPad. Forget about a room with a view. What you need is a device to play that mini SD Card of movies your cousin got from a guy at work called Dodgy Donie. (Alright, you downloaded them yourself, but no one admits that in public.) Trust me, there is only one female that can bring back some pre-kids magic to your holiday in the sun. And her name is Peppa Pig.

Five things you must do

1: Seven euro minimum on wine. It’s as easy to get a bottle of wine for €3.50 as it is to get a hangover to last until mid-afternoon. The fact it’s called Vin du Paddy Pisshhead should have given you a clue. Spend a bit extra. Every euro is another hour off your hangover.

2: Check in at least one bag. Even if it costs more than the flight. (Or your car, judging by charges for a bag this summer.) Otherwise, you’ll become that couple trying to get liquids out of their carry-on luggage at security, while managing two kids. They’re divorced now, you know.

3: Hire a car. It’s got air conditioning and it puts your kids to sleep. You’d marry it if you could.

4: Ban the phone. No mobile phone use after 7 pm every evening, talk to your partner over a glass of wine instead. I know it’s scary, but it needs to be done. Who knows where it might lead.

5: Forget about it. That thing that’s been bothering you? Forget about it for a week or two. You’re messing around in the sun with your kids. It actually doesn’t get much better than this.


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