‘Have you remembered to pack the Loominoodle?’ Mr H asked as we drove across the scenic Yorkshire Dales en-route to our first ever camping trip as a family of five.
‘Oh yes’, I reply smugly, as I sit, squashed between camp chairs and cool boxes.
My list had been quite epic for this trip. It was like no other list I’d complied (and I do love a list) as we had to ensure we survived in a muddy field for three days.
From warm clothes to fleeces, sausages to flip flops, the entire contents of our house were seemingly packed into bags and travelling along the A65 with us.
Packing for the trip had been quite stressful and I’d long since forgot about my own needs, as I put everyone else first. Finally, everything on the list was ticked off and now we were on the road, I was feeling a little bit more relaxed. I’d even bought this funky ‘Loominoodle’, which is a string of LED lights that doubles up as a lantern especially for the trip. I had visions of seasoned campers coming over to us, in their Gortex and walking boots and asking, ‘Wow – that’s kind of cool – where did you get that from?
Admittedly a camping trip was probably a bit brave with 3 children under six but hey – what could go wrong?
Moments become memories
There are certain memories that never leave you from when you’re a child. Wobbly teeth and getting money from the tooth fairy, soda streams, cat’s cradle in the playground and watching Dallas on a Friday night with treats from the shop are all up there for me.
But by far the strongest and happiest childhood memories are the holidays. From Spain to the Skegness, Bridlington to Yugoslavia- it didn’t matter where we went, good times were had and memories made. I’ll never forget a trip to Majorca when I was about seven years old. I was wearing a bin bag (…bare with me) over my party dress and dancing to ‘Star Trekking across the USA..’ with all my new holiday friends, while my parents watched on from their table, sipping their holiday drinks and looking bronzed and relaxed. It summed up everything that’s good about holidays – new adventures, staying up late, making pen pal friends, getting braids in your hair. Good times.
One of my mums rules was always ‘when you’re on your holiday’s, you can have what you want’. What a brilliant ethos! Just splash out, over-indulge and go wild. You’re on holiday!
But now I’m the grown up – I’m the mummy who needs to offer my children the same opportunities so they can store those precious holiday times in the memory bank. It’s my parental duty to do that, isn’t it? Like teaching them to tell the time, tie their own shoelaces and go to the toilet. I want them to experience warm sand under their feet, paddle in aqua coloured seas, stay up late dancing in a bin bag and having the most wondering time on their dream holiday.
Oh and I want to feel like that too – like I did when I was a child on holiday. Happy, care-free and content. A cheeky gin and tonic for breakfast? And why not, I’m on holiday! #sorry #notsorry
Travelling is so important to both me and Mr H. We used to love a little city break here and there, pre-children, but in recent years our family dynamics have changed somewhat. We’ve gone from just the two of us, to three, to…five! Having twins in 2013 pretty much put an end to any ideas of far away adventures. Truth is we’re just not that portable anymore and the holidays we have had in recent years have just not been what they once were. (Violin at the ready…)
It’s been challenging few years that’s for sure! Just going to the post office can feel like a massive mission. Twins are wonderful but can make you feel like you’re losing your mind on occasions. Just as you’re about to leave the house one of them needs the toilet, has lost their glove, hasn’t brushed their teeth or has their shoes on the wrong way. You do finally get out the house, only to realise you’ve forgotten the parcel you need to post and glimpse your passing reflection in a shop window to discover you’ve not brushed your hair and look like a shadow of your former self.
So the prospect of leaving the safety of our home and transporting three little people to a foreign location is rather daunting. But it hasn’t stopped us from discussing, planning and dreaming.
The dreaded holiday pressure
There are so many factors to consider when choosing the perfect family holiday. I’ve become a bit anxious about holidays recently. It’s because it’s the fear of the unknown. You plan and save and actually put a lot of pressure on yourself to try and find the perfect holiday and get it right for everyone in the family and then, what if it’s not perfect? How will we get there? What will the accommodation be like when we do get there? Will there be the right facilities? Will there be enough to do for the children? Will it meet their expectations (all my 6-year-old wants is a pool with a slide) – and will we need another holiday when we get back!?
Staycations are the new vacations
We’ve played it safe with holidays recently – from camping to cottages in Cornwall and Centre Parcs too – staycations have been our saviour but we want to up our game now!
The twins are four in May and so we’ve decided we want to be more adventurous this year and actually go on a plane with them, go somewhere exotic (OK, so it’s only France but hey) and blow their tiny little minds. We want to exceed their expectations and more, we want to create those special memories that will be for keeps.
So when I saw that Mark Warner holidays had launched their family ambassador programme for 2017, I went all giddy and weak at the knees. It’s the talk of ‘blog town’ and I knew we had to enter. If you want a definition of the perfect ‘family holiday’ then look no further than this website. It’s smiley children and adults holding hands, it’s happiness and joy all wrapped up in a safe beautiful bubble. It looks like everything I want in a holiday and exactly what I need. What we all need.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve embraced the airbeds, muddy knees and toasting marshmallows around the campfire in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales. Looking up at the stars whilst wrapped in blankets are all lovely memories the girls still talk about but it was by no means MY perfect holiday! When we realised we’d forgotten our fire lighters, had no windbreak, I’d forgot to pack my face cleanser, moisturiser and that our fancy Loominoodle was actually pretty useless – I had to stop myself shedding a little tear or two. (It was actually faulty and didn’t charge up for more than two minutes). So we had total tent envy of the other happy campers. In fact our tent looked so uninviting it was embarrassing. No twinkly lights, no shelter from the wind and a sad fire-pit wasn’t what I had envisaged. It wasn’t relaxing for me and I came back mildly more stressed than before we went. If that was possible.
In some parallel world I was lounging on a sun-bed, shades on, magazine at the ready, enjoying the sun on my skin, the breeze in my hair and sipping a cocktail while the children played safely at the children’s club….a girl has to dream!
Top travel must haves
Mark Warner have asked for our top 10 travel must haves. If I was going camping this list would be VERY different of course but I’m imagining I’m packing for a Mark Warner holiday. It’s by no means exhaustive and there’s not a Loominoodle in sight! Yeah!
1. A bag. A bag is an absolute necessity. Every mum has one. Usually it ends up filled with raisins, wipes and half-eaten cereal bars of course. Rucksacks are the bag of choice at the moment for me, and I’m pretty fond of my Fjallraven one or my shiny new Tiba and Marl black one…a favourite with the Instamums too and allows me to feel organised – even when I’m not!
2. Jewellery. On holiday as a little girl I loved getting ready to go out to dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was so exciting! Wearing my favourite bracelets, necklaces and hair slides – it made me feel special and I liked looking like my mummy. Now my girls have their own little collections and so we’d pack everyone’s favourite beads and bangles.
3. Ice-cream. Who am I to stand in the way of a child and their love of ice-cream on holiday. I’m embracing my mum’s holiday rule – ‘You can have what you want on holiday’. I’ll have wine, Daddy will have beer, they’ll ice-creams- everyone is happy.
4. Double buggy. The single most important way to get around with twins. A travel must have for a long time..and we’ve taken it to all our staycations too, but now it’s creaky, wobbly and looks tired so maybe, just maybe, we might leave it behind.
5. Books. Magazines too. I have fond memories of the last holiday Mr H and I had before we had children, we hired a villa and took at least 10 books with us and just read. All. Day. Long.
That is the stuff of dreams now of course with the mini’s around but I’d never be without a book on holiday – even if it’s just reading 10 paragraphs now!
6. Sunglasses. An essential item of course. I can’t be in the sun without shades on. Ski holidays or sun, I will not be without them! Especially loving my Le Specs at the mo. They make you feel cool, hide the bags under your eyes caused by endless sleepless nights and actually serve a purpose too, no wrinkles for me!
7. Favourite things – I love getting all my bits and bobs together and ready for holidays. Perfume, nail varnish, luxury mini shower gels, lipsticks. All the things us busy mamas never get the chance to wear on a daily basis. On holiday there’s more time to pamper, relax and feel special.
8. Travel candle. A bit of a running joke with Mr H but I’m all about the travel candle! (He doesn’t quite see the point). I like to take it with me in my toiletry bag and create a bit of hygge! I love having a bath in the hotel with my travel candle flickering away.
9. Relaxing on a sun lounger. It’s a simple one. But the one I dream about most of all. A little doze while the waves lap in the distance – bliss! At home I just don’t stop – there is always a chore to do, a pile of ironing to deal with, dinner to cook, hoovering to do and oh yes, the tidying. I NEVER have time to sit down and do nothing – so the idea of being able to lie on a sunbed and do nothing is more excitement than I can take.
10. Sandcastles. As synonymous with holidays as the sun and the sea, and while Mr H and I are busy reading a chapter or two, the girls can spend hours building sandcastles and collecting shells. For children the beach is like a giant sandpit and they are simply living the dream!
So that’s about it from me – apart from our vlog of course. We had so much fun making it, the girls created their perfect holiday scene and we all got in the holiday spirit.
**This is my entry to be a #MarkWarnerMum for the Mark Warner Holidays’ family ambassador programme**