Our family holiday triumphs – and disasters

Don’t… forget the first aid kit

Every parent has a nightmare tale to tell about a holiday accident. Cycling down a steep slope in the South Tyrol, I heard my daughter shouting in a thrilled voice: “Dad, my speedometer is at 30!” before she crashed spectacularly. I could hardly bear to look. Thankfully, she was more shaken than hurt, but, to my shame, I didn’t even have a box of plasters. A kind and better prepared Italian cyclist called Umberto, who was passing by de ella, helped me patch her up and directed me to a chemist’s shop in the next town. Thank you, Umberto. Memo to self: never forget at least basic medical supplies.

Do… get to the restaurant before they’re hungry

Here’s a recipe for a terrible evening: take a tired and hungry family with small children, place them in a crowded restaurant, sprinkle with just too few well-meaning but overworked staff and simmer until everyone goes ballistic. This has happened to me quite often and it’s usually been my fault for not getting to the restaurant soon enough. It’s taken me too long to realize that holidays with children are no longer the follow-your-nose, I-wonder-about-the-next-taverna improvisation that they used to be. The best restaurant is the one where the kids like the food and it arrives before they’re weepy or enraged.

Marcel Theroux

Don’t… take a baby to a romantic restaurant

It was the perfect Provençal hilltop village, with a perfect medieval center of cobbled streets and courtyards. And we’d found the perfect restaurant: small, charming, with a leafy terrace overlooking the pine-clad valley below. We had our four-month-old with us, so we were sensitive and booked for 7pm, her bedtime. I’d feed her beforehand, and then she could drift into a peaceful slumber in the buggy while my husband and I tucked into daub de boeuf and a glass or two of rosé.

Our daughter had different ideas. She screamed as soon as we arrived, and carried on screaming as the worried-looking maître d’ led us to the table. “I’ll just wheel her about for a bit,” my husband whispered as I took my seat. So off he went, her wails becoming quieter as he headed deeper into the village, and then getting louder again as he came back. I darted out and we swapped, letting him have a sip of wine and a bite of food. And then we swapped again. We tag-teamed dinner that night, taking it in turns to eat and to wheel about our angry daughter, while old ladies leaned out of flower-festooned windows giving well-meaning but unwanted advice, in French.

Do… carry a change of clothes on a plane – for yourself

The flight over had been so simple. Our one-year-old had settled on my lap and slept for most of the eight-hour journey. My husband and I read and dozed and watched movies. What an angel, we said. What a breeze. We didn’t say that on the flight back.

It was just after take-off that my usually cheerful daughter started grumbling. She fidgeted and fussed, then gave a little frown, turned to my husband and vomited down his front from him. The crew rushed over with tissues, while we mopped up and apologized to our neighbours. Everyone was terribly kind. The baby gurgled and smiled, while a smell of curdled milk and rotten apples drifted through the cabin.

Then she did it again, on my lap. More tissues, more apologies. I changed the baby’s clothes and tried to clean myself up in the loo. And then she did it again, back on my husband. This time, the cabin crew wordlessly handed us a spare blanket. Our neighbors avoided our eyes. The smell worsened. Then she was sick on my shirt.

This continued, all night. The baby was fine. We, on the other hand, were disgusting. The crew ran out of sympathy – and blankets – and we were left to stew in our baby’s juices. I still feel bad for our neighbours.

Don’t… take small children on safari

I couldn’t wait to show my children Africa. I’d lived there in my 20s and the thought of opening their eyes to the wonders of the bush – those vast skies, those breathtaking plains, the mind-blowing majesty of nature at its most raw and powerful – it would be the experience of to lifetime.


Related Posts

George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *