It is often said that a holiday with kids is an oxymoron. That more accurately it is a test of how well you can entertain your kids without the “props” of home. And I can relate to this. When you’ve got little ones even holidays require a degree of effort. We’ve had some holidays in the past that have seemed like far too much work to qualify as a true “break”. And when they are really little you need to readjust your holiday aspirations. It’s more a change of scene.
But that scene just changed….
Having just spent 9 days in Port Douglas, one of Australia’s most beautiful locations, I am calling this our best holiday yet. With kids. Let’s just qualify that. It doesn’t quite compare with our holiday to Eastern Europe, or India, or Vietnam, but that was a lifetime ago!
So, what made it so good?
A few things really…
How to have a real holiday with kids
1. Our little kids are not so little anymore
Having been on a few family holidays while pregnant, breastfeeding or simply wrangling babies and toddlers, I definitely noticed a shift in effort this time. That being, there was less of it. Our girls are now 5, 4 and 2 and with no nappies to worry about, and no rigid schedules, it enabled us greater flexibility. The older girls can entertain themselves and each other without parental supervision or involvement. They are all more self-sufficient and this made the trip a lot more relaxing and enjoyable. It enabled us small pockets of time to ourselves – I even managed to finish an entire novel! So if you have really young children, trust me when I say it gets better and easier!
2. We chose a very family friendly destination
Before having kids, my husband and I travelled to some pretty exotic locations. Our last trip before becoming parents was to Montenegro, Bosnia and Slovenia. As any parent knows you need to redefine your definition of travel when kids come along. There are two things that kids generally love on holidays: the pool and the beach! We went to Port Douglas and it was ideal in every sense. At this time of year, the weather is stunning and we were blessed with 8 consecutive days of sunshine and clear skies. It’s not too humid and you can swim in the ocean safely in October. Port Douglas offers many tourist attractions for families. But you can also easily amuse yourselves doing very little at all. That’s how we enjoyed this holiday. Most of our days were spent at the hotel pool or at the beach. We took a boat trip one day and visited a wildlife park but the whole aim for this trip was to relax and not cram too much into our days.
3. The swimming lessons have paid off!
When your kids can swim it makes a huge difference to beach/pool holiday. While only our eldest daughter can swim, our younger two are now more confident in the water and this alleviated anxiety we had felt on previous trips. All girls frolicked happily in the pool, with little assistance. And in the space of a week their confidence grew exponentially. So all those Saturday morning swimming lessons are a worthwhile investment!
4. We went outside of school holidays
Travelling off-peak is definitely the way to go for a relaxed holiday. While it meant taking the girls out of Kinder and childcare for a week, it was so much more enjoyable. There were fewer people, less crowds, and this contributed to a more relaxed, slower holiday pace.
5. We flew with Qantas
The night before we left for Port Douglas I packed the girls’ backpacks/carry on with meticulous planning and precision. Colouring in books, bribes to stagger throughout the flight, snacks, books, new crayons etc. And then, to my delight, as I boarded the flight I saw what would guarantee a quiet, tantrum-free flight – iPads for every passenger. We don’t have an iPad at home so this intensified their excitement. Thanks to Peppa, Justine, Hi 5, and of course, Qantas, I was even able to read my book. The passengers were happy, the parents were happy, the flight staff were happy. Genius.
6. Packing a few “props” from home
In the past we’ve noticed that our kids got bored quickly at the hotel without access to their library of toys and books back home. This time we spent less time in it, but we took some activities from home to keep them occupied when we were chilling out. I packed puzzles in zip-lock bags so they didn’t take up much suitcase space. And we took a selection of paperback books, crayons, dvds and a deck of cards.
7. A break from the routine
For me, the best part about this holiday was the respite from the daily routine. To escape the monotony, repetition and domesticity of Groundhod Day, even for a week, is the perfect antidote to parental fatigue. A departure form the frantic pace of life. No pick ups, no drop offs, no kinder lunches, and NO COOKING!! So our kids’ diet wasn’t fabulous on this trip. Most kids meals offered at the restaurants were a variation of fried something and chips but it was a holiday for one and all. The rules of day-t0-day family life are meant to be broken on holidays. Our kids enjoyed daily ice-creams, we enjoyed daily … and I enjoyed no cooking!
8. Bonding time
Hands down the best part about family holidays is the bonding time. The girls got to spend quality time with their dad, fun time with their “relaxed, holiday mum” (a version of myself I rather liked a lot) and we all had a fabulous time simply being together!
9. A detox in some areas…
Aside from uploading a few obligatory holiday pics to Instagram and Facebook, I enjoyed a digital detox – something that I very much needed and embraced. The DFD’s (digital free days) were great, as were the CFD’s (cooking free days) but I can assure you I didn’t have any AFD’s (alcohol free days)!
10. Throw out the rule book
Rules are meant to be broken on holidays and I enjoyed how freeing this felt. I am usually quite strict about what the girls eat and how much TV they can watch, but on this holiday I really did away with the rules. And it applied to the grown ups too. I wouldn’t normally have a beer with lunch!!
If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Port Douglas, do it! We stayed at Rendez-vous Resort (located 5-min drive out of town) and Cayman Villas (right in the heart of it). Both had something to offer and I would recommend both these places unreservedly. Please feel free to contact me for more information about accommodation.
See you next year, PD.
Have you had a really awesome family holiday? Where did you go? What made it so good?