Holidays and kids and expectations

I have long admitted my problem with expectations and the frustrations I have when they are not met. I think I first wrote about back in 2014 when the kids were a little smaller, and I was a little younger I suppose. I definitely think that they have dropped somewhat since then. Maybe it’s exhaustion? Maybe the kids have grown up? Maybe I have grown up? Maybe I have communicated better so that I am clear about how I am feeling rather than bottling them up and getting frustrated. Who knows!

My sister is heading off on a family holiday for a few days and I was talking to her about travel with kids and the expectations that we can have when we plan these trips. Especially when they are little. And especially when you have been saving up and working hard for a break. You want a holiday. You want the kids to have fun, but you know, appreciate that you are away. You want you and your partner to have some time together. You want everyone to enjoy themselves AND have a break AND do different stuff. See what I mean about expectation?

The vision in our minds of holidays can be quite different to the reality. Time in the car with screaming kids is not the vision of cool music blaring and deep and meaningful chats with your partner while the kids sleep happily in the back seat. When you eat out you can spend a LOT of time refereeing the kids with your partner who might be getting frustrated at silliness or loudness, then there are spilt drinks, refusing to eat food, knocking stuff down, running around, man we have hot some restaurants at 5pm and are OUT OF THERE by 5.35pm in a snatch and grab situation as you try and neck a prosecco in between it all. IT’S FULL ON.

There’s hotel rooms that are tiny, that require quiet and dark for one kid to sleep, while another stays awake, then there’s no time for adults as they finally sleep with alone time confined to the bathroom. So fun to be hanging next to a toilet or taking shifts to escape the hotel room.

See what I mean about different in reality?

Kids and all their needs and quirks and frustrations continue on whether you are at home or not without much of a care as to whether it’s holidays or not. They still need down time, rests, time doing nothing, despite you wanting to be somewhere new and exploring.

I have learnt a lot about travel with kids over the 11 and a half years of being a Mum, and especially about kids who are littler. My top tips?

Lower your expectations then everything else will be a bonus!
Got visions of wholesome family fun in restaurants? Keep them in your dreams!
Grab some takeaway and hit the park instead.
There will be spilt drinks at tables until your kids are like 10.
Kids don’t care that you are in some amazing destination, they just don’t.
Allow for plenty of rest and down time.
The best bits of any holiday are the bits that aren’t planned.
You will be happy to be home at the end of it, everyone will be.
And the memories will far outweigh any of the dramas that happen along the way, they just will.

We had a run of overseas holidays a few years ago for long planned family trips (a joint 40th one year and a 70th a year later) and since then it has been family holidays to family holiday homes. They can still be fraught with all the normal stuff you have when you kids and filled with lots of the normal stuff we usually do at home, but there are lots of photos, the odd travel journal filled with postcards and stories along the way, and the odd eye twitch from one too many spilt drinks at restaurants! And now we have the constant requests from the kids of “when are we going on a plane again Mum?” Talk about expectations! Trying to keep those kinds of things in check can also be tricky as the kids get older, and expenses grow.

But…I’d love to know some of your tips for family travel to share with others!
Or any horror stories along the way of trips gone bad?
We have ALL been there!
Got any family holidays planned soon?

And you know how they say that kids won’t remember trips that you make when they are little? They do. Between photo books, stories and talking about them, they do remember. Harper was only 4 when we went to Croatia and she STILL talks about them. Long rabbit hole trips into the vaults of photos certainly helps too – so if you can – book that trip!

And good luck Lucy!! x


  1. OMG Beth, this! The kids thing is HARD. But so is the husband thing (or is that just me?). Someone else gets cranky and has dummy spits and they are way older than 10….

    But there are also the expectations of managing the anticipation and then the actual experience of travelling. I love this quote by Alain de Botton on the Art of Travel:

    “But we never simply ‘journey through an afternoon’. We sit in a train. Lunch digests awkwardly within us. The seat cloth is grey. We look out the window at a field. We look back inside. A drum of anxieties resolves in our consciousness. We notice a luggage label affixed to a suitcase in a rack above the seats opposite. We tap a finger on the window ledge. A broken nail on an index finger catches a thread. It starts to rain. A drop wends a muddy path down the dust-coated window. We wonder where our ticket might be. We look back at the field. It continues to rain. At last, the train starts to move. It passes an iron bridge, after which it inexplicably stops. A fly lands on the window And still, we may have reached the end only of the first minute of a comprehensive account of the events lurking within the deceptive sentence ‘He journeyed through the afternoon’.”

    And as much as you want to, you can’t leave your overthinking brain behind and just enjoy. Alas, it comes with us to the perfect tropical beach!

    I just had the opportunity to by my selfes to Vienna for work. Sure I worked during the day, but the European summer evenings and weekend? All. By. My. Self. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it more than I should!

    (PS: sorry for the essay – I have so many thoughts)

  2. As daggy as it sounds, the answer is cruising! Once your kids reach an age where they can swim, a cruise is the perfect holiday. Entertainment for everyone, no cooking or cleaning for Mum, only one lot of unpacking, lots of time to relax by the pool and (best of all) Kids’ Club that runs through the night so the adults can have an adult dinner all to themselves 😁

    • I second this! Plus there’s the added bonus of booking your trip and being able to pay it off in bits – great for the budget!

    • I third this – been on 10 cruises now! And I keep going back because it’s easy and an actual holiday for me. And it’s SO affordable (especially if you keep an eye out for specials).

  3. Off to the UK next year to see the (mostly Harry Potter) sites! Staying in apartments and building in lots of down time. Going with a very small list of must do’s and just planning to soak it all in. Geocaching is a great distraction for kids if you have to walk a lot – usually a few finds along the way! Stop over in Singapore on the way home to break up that horrendous flight and chill by the pool.

  4. Recently back from a 5 week trip through Greece & Croatia. 24hrs a day of togetherness is a lot to cope with – surprisingly only had to lose it with the ungrateful fuckers (husband & 7yr old) once!

    My tips would be
    – build in lots of downtime
    – take a skipping rope for the kiddo – great for burning off some energy in a small space
    – find some kids books about the places you’re visiting (our kid now loves Greek mythology)

    Our finest parenting moment was sitting in a tiny bar in a small square drinking pre dinner spritz while our kiddo ‘fast walked’ laps of the square trying to beat his time on our phone stopwatch! We got at least 20 minutes peace!

  5. See, I don’t believe little little ones remember the actual holiday but they remember the feelings from it and adventures when kids are young helped to shape them into questioning and smart young adults. Our kids are pestering us for an overseas holiday (apart from our annual trip to NZ) but hubby and I are overdue some overseas away time just the two of us. It’s like we’re back dating when we go away sans kids, not that we’d trade them in for the world, but adult away time makes for a happier family all round I believe. xx

  6. A little shopping in Galleries Lafayette with my daughters, a delicious lunch and then met up with my husband and son for a tour of the louvre – sounds amazing doesn’t it – picture a family of five in a very hot louvre in summer with huge crowds and a very pale son threatening to vomit into the (empty) Galleries Lafayette shopping bag! Do we leave the tour?, stick it out?, find a bathroom? Well we stuck it out and managed to get back to the hotel before he threw up. There’s barely a country he hasn’t thrown up in and we kept going back for more! Now it’s just my husband and I and it’s so much easier not to mention cheaper. Great memories though.

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