I mean, is it completely mad to take your toddler on a trip away?
Living through the meltdown years, my husband, P and I decided to test the waters by taking our toddler, R and our baby, S to my father-in-law’s holiday home by the coast. It was free accommodation and only an hour away from home. And thank the Lord of the Dance we did, because it was a nightmare from start to finish…. We, of course, moved the finish a lot earlier than we initially planned.
Here are some lessons we learnt:
- Travelling light is not an option.
I remember when P, and I used to go away for a few nights. We’d have a small cabin bag each – and maybe a laptop bag.
That. Was. It.
Now, we pack our entire daily lives, because not taking the monitors, or the pram, or the bed guard – means:
- you’ll fear for your baby’s life as they sleep
- carry them around… in your arms… everywhere
- your toddler will fall out of bed several times a night.
Not. Worth. It.
By the time all their essentials are rammed in the boot, the space remaining only allows room for one cabin bag, which means – I have to have the other cabin bag on my lap the whole way – and forget taking your laptop. I know, it’s only small, but trust me… not small enough. Every nook and cranny will be used, and your stuff is completely irrelevant. If it comes down to your laptop, or their farm animals, the farm animals win, no question.
2. Get accommodation on the ground floor.
R was going through a very clingy stage, where if he felt anything other than perfectly fine, he’d need to be held. P and I don’t like to deny him cuddles if we can help it, because if we are the comfort in this awfully uncomfortable time, then we want to hold him when he needs it. However, when you have a car full of luggage to carry up three flights of stairs, losing your left arm to cuddle your two-year-old at this point, is quite the challenge. It means more trips, more sweat and more weight.
3. Who are you doing this for?
P and I were excited to take the boys for a woodland walk to see some wild horses. R is obsessed with horses; we are constantly galloping about the house, down the road and around the supermarket. But as soon as we set off on our family adventure, the crying began. For whatever reason, R didn’t want to walk, run, gallop, sit in the backpack or go on P’s shoulders. S also started to cry because R was crying. We continued the walk because I figured that R would stop crying when he caught sight of a wild horse. So, we carried them and trudged on with our wailing soundtrack, and just as I was about to join in with the crying, P said:
“Who are we doing this for?”
We looked at each other and started to chuckle. Who were we doing this for? S didn’t care and P and I could give or take a wild horse. This was all for R, and he was absolutely hating it. So, we left the wild horses to their wilderness and went back to the holiday apartment for some more emotional hugging.
There is no perseverance badge when it comes to outings with your little kids. If everyone is having a terrible time, just go home.
4. Don’t mess with their sleep.
This was our biggest lesson. R has always been a good sleeper. He would sleep 12 hours at night and have a 2-hour nap in the day, consistently. However, in a one-bedroom apartment, this was not going to happen. The novelty of having a sleepover with Mummy, Daddy and baby bro was way too exciting for R to miss. So he didn’t miss it. He was wide awake, smiling, all night. The rest of us were also wide awake, but some of us were smiling less than others. P. I’m talking about P. He was not smiling.
So, my advice is to find accommodation with enough bedrooms for you and your family to sleep as well as you do at home, or put in some practice sleepover nights. Since this holiday we have bought R a toddler blow-up bed and have had several sleepovers to help the novelty wear off. It has worked, and I’ve also been able to use sleepovers as a reward for good behaviour. So win win. Of course, if you’re a co-sleeping family, like my sister’s, then a one-bedroom apartment will work perfectly.
5. Be realistic about the weather.
Yes, this is Britain. Yes, we tend to go to the beach whatever the weather. But, if there is a toddler in your party, make an exception. Cradling a weeping child on wet sand, being spat at by sideways rain is the worst.
6. History may not repeat itself.
Remember that woodland walk I mentioned previously. Well, the day before that, we went on that very same woodland walk, and it was successful. We walked, we found horses, we frolicked, we laughed, we balanced on fallen trees, it was glorious. Nothing is a guarantee.
7. Appreciate your co-parent
Whether it be your partner, your Mum or your BFF, you must work as a team, or things will unravel quickly. In fact, they may unravel anyway, so you may as well be friends while it’s all crashing down around you. It is very important that your ship is running as smoothly as possible, which means you both need to communicate well, support and appreciate each other, and pull your weight. You’re also on holiday, which means that you both deserve to relax and have a good time too. The only way that could potentially happen, is if you work together to make it happen. I’m saying this because… our ship did not run smoothly, and at points P and I were certainly not friends.
To those unbelievable single parents out there, if you have managed to take your little kids away on a holiday alone, you are truly magnificent and deserve a bottomless glass of your tipple. I tried a night away with the both of them alone and although there were fleeting moments of magic, the rest of the time was… well, I have no words. They ruined me.
Anyway, after our wet and windy beach misery, P again turned to me and said, “Who are we doing this for?” and we agreed to abandon ship together, learn from our mistakes and try again another time.
Instead of going home, we went to my mother-in-law’s house. We got the boys off to sleep there and Granny held the fort while P and I ran off into the night for some much-needed emotional hugging.
We’ve since been on a family holiday and absolutely nailed it, to the point where I didn’t want to come home (mainly because I didn’t want to pack the car). So it is possible to have a great time away with littlies, but you may need to go through some trial and error to achieve it.