The streets are quieter than ever this August and recent ONS statistics show that more people are going on holidays than ever. But for those of us with kids, is a holiday really a break?
Is looking at the travel section of the weekend papers a dreamy thing for you to do at the weekend? Do you lounge in bed in your pyjamas, flicking through the fantasy trips and imagining that one day you could be there too?
That used to be me. Today I look at images of relaxed people frolicking in turquoise seas or adventurous types exploring magical villages in faraway hills with a tinge of sadness. Since having kids, the notion of holidays isn't so idyllic.
Where there used to be exciting adventures or opportunities to totally unwind, holidays nowadays are tolerated rather than enjoyed. I used to travel regularly, saving up for incredible long haul trips, loving the challenge of filling my passport with stamps from as many countries as possible.
I love my kids and every day with them is an adventure but in terms of a holiday experience, the best I can hope for in terms of spending time away from home, is well, a bit of a change of scenery, no more. Whether we are at home or not, they need feeding, entertaining and putting to bed.
If you have kids too, chances are you'll know exactly what I mean and if you don't, well, perhaps you'll have a smirk at this. Here are the top five ways kids have ruined my idea of a holiday:
1. You can't put your feet up and do nothing: the minute you sit down to read a book, one of them will pipe up, "I'm hungry" or, "Do you know where my game/hat/brain is?". Most kids aren't good at relaxing and seem to have a second sense for causing chaos when you decide to sit down: they want to play a game, go exploring, chat about things, eat a snack, make a mess. Sure there are kids who like reading quietly or colouring-in books or playing on the iPad. Unfortunately, not mine.
2. You can't drift around art galleries, museums and churches: so you want to go exploring, you say? One way to make the kids change their minds swiftly about the idea of 'adventure' is to suggest a trip involving sites of historic or cultural interest. What about a fourteenth century church or an archaeological site that might once have been a castle? Death-stares. Find me a kid who want to idly drift around art galleries with me and then maybe join me for a coffee watching passers-by and I'll exchange mine in a blink of an eye.
3. You can't stay out till the sun rises: Aside from being too old and too tired to do this with or without kids, I kind of resent the fact that I can't even have the option of staying out till dawn on holiday, because well, the tired wee kids need to be tucked up in bed or else they will be fiendish grumpy creatures the next day. Being on holiday together as 'a family' and probably squished into the same room, make it more likely that we'll all be going to bed early at the same time and be up at dawn anyway to see the sunrise. But nah, it's not quite the same.
4. You can't have random and slightly dangerous adventures: Holidays used to mean spontaneity. Booking a cheap flight that lands at 2am without anywhere to stay. Taking a chance that you'd find a bed and breakfast or taking a long bus trip to the next town just because a random person you chatted to on the plane said it was better there. Or hunting down quirky bars or distant lakes or finding friends of your grandma's cousin. With kids in tow, holidays tend to be a bit more predictable. Not having anywhere to stay late at night with tired drooping hungry kids takes the fun right out of spontaneity.
5. You can't go on big trips lasting months: Saving up money and going away for months on backpacking adventures between temporary jobs was something I did a fair bit before kids. And how fantastic that was. I would have done it more if I'd known it was going to come to an end. Now a crushing combination of having to stay around for work and school holidays mean that loafing off isn't even a dream.
5. It's all a bit expensive: Paying for just me to take a holiday was more than enough but paying for extra people too? Eek. Even when those little people belong to me, it hurts to have to pay so much more for every flight, bed and for all the fun things we want to do. Oh for the days when I just paid for one. I could stretch out a meal to last all day. I could sleep on a sofa or hitch a lift if I ran out of money. But now more responsible and everything is a bit more about budgeting and organisation.
So will I book a holiday this year? The answer is yes, a trip away has been booked. But don't you think there should be another word for it?