PARENTS

The Summer Of Your Life: Our Favourite Family Holidays

14/08/2014 17:03 | Updated 20 May 2015

Family summer holidays

The memories of a happy summer holiday spent with family last a lifetime.

The blissful feeling of warm sun on your skin, dipping in and out of paddling pools and even slathering on sun tan lotion can invoke powerful memories of summer fun gone by.

Here, Parentdish writers and editors share their fondest memory of a summer spent with family. What's yours?

Liz Stansfield, deputy editor

"I grew up in Cornwall, and every summer my parents would take my sister and I walking to the top of Roughtor – a large hill on Bodmin Moor. They certainly started us young, and we marched to the top from a very early age. I would nearly always need a carry, and my dad would handily oblige - scooping me up to the top much faster than my little wellies ever could.

"At the top, mum would dig out her thermos and we'd have a mug of tea (in horrible plastic mugs), a slab of fruit cake and an iced fairy cake – normally by this point the cakes were missing half the icing and their jelly diamond as they were always my favourite. Whenever I head home I climb to the top and remember those family walks. Unfortunately I'm far too big now for a carry."

Rebecca Gillie, editorial assistant

"When my younger brothers and I were kids, we had a family holiday to Ibiza in a villa which had its own small swimming pool. Obviously we loved it, but our granddad would never go in because, despite being from Portsmouth, he couldn't swim. We went on and on at him about joining us in the pool, and finally, he agreed.

"As he lowered himself into the water and took a few steps, everyone made a collective gasp – he had forgotten to empty the pockets of his never-swum-in swimming shorts, and an impressive array of soggy cash, tickets, receipts, and even a handkerchief slowly rose to the surface. We couldn't stop laughing, but he stayed on the sun lounger after that."

Ellen Wallwork, senior writer

"I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents in Spain. We always used to buy ice cream from the same woman, who we knew as Mrs. Helados. This was before ice cream parlours became popular, so being able to choose a flavor was a novelty.

"I always got a flavor called Mora, and due to my lack of Spanish and Mrs. Helados's lack of English I never knew what it was, but it was bright pink and sweeter than strawberry, and perhaps because of the mystery I never got bored of it. I recently discovered it's Loganberry – so I don't think I would have known what that was then even if there wasn't a language barrier!)."

Ben Wakeling, Parentdish columnist

"When I was a child my family would go to France every year with our close friends, who had two sons my age. For 10 days we did nothing but run around, play games, and throw ourselves in the swimming pool. Every year we would try (and fail) to impress the attractive girls on the campsite, and it became tradition to have a football match against our dads. We lost every year, but it didn't stop us from having a great time.

"One year we were obsessed with buying necklaces, and - despite what everyone said - thought we looked like the coolest kids in the world; another time, we attempted to kayak down a river and ended up falling in inelegantly. They were the sunniest, most carefree days of my life, and I wouldn't swap them for the world."

Keith Kendrick, contributing editor and columnist

"In the Seventies, Blackpool was a different place to the town it is now. Stags and hens were animals, not parties of marauding half-clothed drunks trying to snog or fight each other. It was for families. And our family went every year. This was before the motorway was built so the 50-odd mile trip from Manchester was a half-day expedition, but always made worthwhile by the first sight of Blackpool Tower on the horizon, like a Northerner's Eiffel Tower.

"Blackpool was every child's dream of heaven. Three amusement arcade-packed piers stretched out across a mile of the deepest, longest sands you could imagine. And the Pleasure Beach – a theme park of head-spinning wild delights like the Mad Mouse and the Log Flume. But amidst the chaos, the memory that sticks most in my mind is of staying in a ropey B&B with nylon sheets that sent electric shocks across our nylon pyjamas.

"As mam got me and my three younger brothers ready for bed – four boys, aged between nine and four, in one huge bed that filled the room! – my dad came in with armfuls of piping hot fish and chips and Holland's meat pies wrapped in newspaper. Then all six of us feasted, washing it down with a huge bottle of Shaw's Dandelion & Burdock, until my youngest brother fell asleep on mam's lap – before soaking the bed with a torrent of wee. We slept in our parents' room that night!"

Liat Hughes-Joshi, Parentdish writer and columnist

"I grew up in a seaside town so in some ways every day was like a holiday. Each summer, my ancient Scottish great aunt called Auntie Louie would come and stay to look after us kids (our parents both worked). She probably wasn't actually that ancient by today's standards but she had that old lady uniform of the time: extremely sensible Scholl shoes, loose fitting floral 'frock', grey tied back hair and specs.

"She would take us to the park and then make us sit for an age, bored silly watching crown green bowling (not exactly scintillating for most kids) but on a good day - and this is the favourite memory - when she was obviously feeling adventurous and throwing caution to the wind, she would declare in her lovely Highlands accent that we were going to the beach. This actually involved a walk of all of about 250 metres but it still felt like quite an event as we ignored the sands for most of the year (it was always blowing a gale where we lived).

"We had nothing as extravagant, or indeed comfortable, as a deck chair, never mind a sun lounger – she would take some 'poly bags' for us to sit on. We'd eat chocolate digestives, sip from a thermos, play on the sands and look for interesting shells whilst sure read her library books. IF we'd been well-behaved (tricky as she had ridiculously high, Victorian style standards), there was the treat of an ice cream at the end of it all too – a 99 flake or a mint Cornetto. Good old–fashioned fun and it makes me realise how innocent those times were but also how children now can still enjoy such simple pleasures as messing about on a beach away from their screens and without loads of toys."

Jennifer Barton, Parentdish writer and columnist

"Growing up with a skin-doctor mother who overheated easily, hated crowds and anything touristy, dressed in heels exclusively and didn't believe children should have unnecessary sun exposure, my summers weren't like the summers of my friends.

"We never went on beach holidays, adventure park day trips or camping weekends. Instead, my mother would find obscure places to take me to in the south of France, with the added bonus that this would improve my French conversation (as if attempting to speak a foreign language to strangers and waitstaff in restaurants wasn't the most embarrassing thing to make your seven-year-old child do).

"These trips were always an adventure,though: Roquebillière was the sleepy place we stayed and got sulphur treatments at nearby Digne-les-Bains (again, inhaling the scent of rotten eggs is not the dream way to spend the month of August for most 11-year-olds), while Menton was the small town in between Monte Carlo and Italy, affordably priced but within easy distance of Monte Carlo's casino square Häagen-Dazs cafe, where we'd sit outside and get enormous sundaes.

"These trips were always our special time together (my mother worked full-time), and I'll never forget how my mother always turned even the most unpleasant situations (a morning stroll to a nearby medieval mountain village became a dehydrating four-hour climb when we got lost - my mother in heels of course) into new and exciting adventures. That day trip ended with us stumbling upon a gorgeous local wedding.and having one of the most delicious meals I can remember to this day.

"I think my mother's sense of adventure and ability to turn even the most uneventful, obscure or non-child friendly place into a world of wonder will be with me forever. Even though letting me sit in a park somewhere would have been a more relaxing summer holiday for her, she didn't do relaxing. She did do spontaneous, inventive and fun, which I can now appreciate isn't easy for a working, stressed-out parent. I let her take the credit when I decided to study French literature at uni..."

Marianne Kavanagh, Parentdish writer, columnist and author of For Once In My Life

"When I was a child, we used to go on holiday to north Wales to see my grandparents who lived in Llandudno. Sometimes we went with my mum and dad, and climbed up the headland called the Great Orme. I remember the springy turf beneath my feet, and the seagulls calling and the sheep bleating in the sun. It rained a lot, too. On grey days, we used to go on the pier and drop gravel through the wooden slats into the sea. We bought candyfloss and sticks of pink rock.

"One summer my brother and I went to see our grandparents on our own. They took us to the theatre, and the town was bright with lights, and the shiny taxis splashed through the rain, and my grandfather jingled all the coins in his pocket. I thought he must be very rich. But he wasn't, of course. He was just good at making nights magical.

"We always took our children to seaside resorts, too, when they were growing up. Every year, my husband pleaded for us to go somewhere hot and sunny. But I always overruled him. You need that solid foundation in your memory – grey skies, ice cream, fish and chips."

Heidi Scrimgeour, Parentdish writer

"My favourite family holiday is the one that involved the least stress - not too far to travel (just a cottage less than two hours drive from where we live but a real change of scenery), no need to sort passports or fork out for overpriced flights in school holiday time, and minimal packing or pre-holiday prep needed.

"I ordered groceries online (including some extra holiday treats) to be delivered to our cottage, and we just loaded the car and headed off to spend 10 days exploring a beautiful pat of the world (around the Mourne mountains and Strangford Lough in County Down) and enjoying family time together at a much more relaxed pace. The weather was kind too, and I have great memories of teaching the kids to play Happy Families while drinking Guinness in the sunshine by the sea. Bliss!"

Laura Kemp, Parentdish writer and author of Mums Like Us

"I absolutely love greycations and we try to get two in every year. One with my parents and another with my in-laws. There are the obvious reasons - such as free babysitting for our six-year-old son and being able to afford a bigger place. But most of all, I love to watch the two generations sharing something timeless, like making a sandcastle on a freezing west Wales beach or colluding over a secret second ice cream of the day in a breathtakingly beautiful Majorcan town. And preferably, I like to watch it from a safe distance. At a bar. Through binoculars.

"There are drawbacks, for example, when my dad runs through his top five parking ticket moments or my father-in-law's snoring. But there is a real comfort, not to mention total hilarity, in nothing changing. We follow the exact same routine every time, we all know the ropes and we share a common dream: wearing out the boy so we get a lie-in each morning."

Pip Jones, Parentdish columnist and author of Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat!

"I was so lucky as a child, we went on several foreign holidays – to France, Greece and Spain. Each trip was entrancing. Everything smelled different, and tasted different, and sounded different. The heat stepping off a plane for the first time when I was about five years old hit me like a steam train. It literally took my breath away.

"For me, the magic of foreign holidays was always (and still is) in the flora and fauna. We stayed on islands that exploded with the scent of jasmine the moment the sun went down. I remember gazing up at massive, towering yucca plants and chasing after skittish lizards who always eluded capture, however hard I tried.

"I'll never forget the first time I saw a humming bee. I watched it for hours, it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. Until, on a Greek island, it was usurped – on the evening I lost my first tooth. That first tooth is a Big Deal for any child because with it comes the magic of the tooth fairy.

"I remember being worried that the tooth fairy wouldn't find me, seeing as I wasn't at home in my own bed. My mum repeatedly assured me that the tooth fairy would find me, as long as I put my tooth under my pillow... and slept. I tried and tried, but it was hot and I was restless in the dark. Mum came back into my room. As she was whispering to soothe me to sleep, something amazing happened.

"Just briefly, the tooth fairy flew into my room. AND I SAW HER. Mum saw her too. 'You'll have to sleep now!' mum told me. 'She wants to come for your tooth, but she can't come back while you're awake.'

"Amazed and enchanted, and feeling like the luckiest little girl who'd ever lived, I somehow finally drifted off. I awoke to find quite a considerable amount of drachmas under my pillow (it turned out mum wasn't quite with it regarding the exchange rate), and my tooth had gone. The tooth fairy had come back, and she'd made my holiday the most magical one ever.

"I really hope, when my girls teeth start wobbling, we can go somewhere that has fireflies too."

Georgia James, Parentdish writer and columnist

"When my son, Elliot, was just over a year old, my parents moved to a beautiful Spanish seaside town in Andalucia. While it is sad that we can't just jump in the car to visit them whenever we feel like it, one of the great advantages (aside from free babysitters on holiday) is that Elliot will get to spend so much of his childhood summers in a warm climate, by the sea, having fun with grandma and grandad.

"Last summer, watching him scrunch up his nose in surprise then break into a big beaming smile as he dipped his tiny toes into the sea for the first time was an amazing moment. But seeing the looks on my parents' faces and sharing it with them was what made it really special.

"We're heading back there next week to celebrate my 40th birthday. This will be the first time we've been since Elliot learned to walk so there will be plenty of new memories to be made. I can't wait!"

James Moore, Parentdish writer

"My first real holiday memory is going to North Wales for a week back in the 1970s. We could only afford to rent a really basic cottage in an old mining village and it rained almost every day. But it didn't matter. The trip was the first occasion that I can remember going a long way from home and it seemed like a huge adventure. We went visiting castles, climbing fells and riding on steam trains. At that age I didn't care that it was bucketing down – every experience was new and fascinating.

"I didn't even mind when I fell in a river whilst clambering over rocks. I also vividly remember us all laughing around the dinner table in the cottage when a carton of milk exploded all over my little brother's face – him included. It may not have been the most exotic destination but I think it inspired a love of travel, a passion that has since seen me go all round the globe. In spite all the amazing places I've been it's that holiday in Snowdonia that comes to mind when I imagine the perfect family holiday – just quality time together that seemed utterly carefree."

Jenny Cornish, Parentdish writer

"Summer holidays of my childhood were long, hot, busy and lucrative. My mother was the manager of the local 'pick-your-own' fruit farm, and my three brothers and I, ranging in age from about seven to 18, were all employees too. Customers would roll up to the farm with neither the time nor the inclination to pick fruit for themselves; and that's where we came in.

"We picked tons of soft fruit every summer, earning glorious suntans and scratches all over our arms, stains on our clothes and strong backs from hauling the crates full of fruit back to the kiosks. We got paid 10p per punnet of strawberries; more for raspberries and blackberries. Redcurrants were easy; you could pick them by the bunch. Blackcurrants were painful. Blueberries were painstaking. Wasps were scary.

"We were paid in raffle tickets, and traded them in for hard cash at the end of each week. We reckoned we could earn a minimum of £1 an hour; it could be a lot more, depending on the fruit and the conditions. The best job came towards the end of the summer, when the flower fields of helichrysum and statice were in full bloom and they all needed picking to be hung up to dry. The rate of pay for this peaceful, fragrant job was so good that we could rake in around £5 per hour if we worked hard.

"At the end of the day, I would return home, aching slightly, hot, tired, but with a sense of achievement as I totted up my raffle tickets and watched the day's Wimbledon highlights in the cooling evening. I learned so much from these holidays; the value of hard work, the feeling of satisfaction at having earned something, the pleasure of relaxing after a long day outdoors.

"I sometimes wish, if only I could put my own daughters to work before the age of 10. But I suspect it's frowned upon these days..."

What's your favourite holiday memory? What's the best holiday you've ever had with your children?

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