Taking the Headaches Out of Holidays

Last week, my family and I went away on holiday. We stayed in a flat in Swanage, which we used as a base for days out to the beach and surrounding countryside. I have a love-hate relationship with holidays. I love taking a break from home, seeing different sights, walking different walks, breathing different air, but I hate the decision-making that goes into it – what should we pack, what should we eat, where should we go, what should we do? Such questions can make the whole event mentally taxing when it should be mentally relaxing!

One of the things I’ve done to reduce the mental taxation of holidays is to create a digital packing list. I have a list of everything each member of the family needs to pack, plus a list of all the things we need to pack as a family, from clothes to toiletries to food to entertainment. Whenever it’s time to pack, I review it, update it and print it off so that everything that needs to get packed, gets packed and ticked off the list. If I find that something is missing from the list, I make a note of it and add it to the digital list once we return from our holiday, so it’s up-to-date for the next time we go away.

(On a side note: it’s fun to look back on past lists and see how family life has changed. When the kids were smaller, it featured things like toys and colouring books, now it features phones and chargers.)

Eating well while on holiday can be a bit of a challenge. At home, I do all the meal-planning, grocery shopping and cooking, and obviously, while on holiday, I wanted a break from all that, but just saying, ‘I’m not doing it,’ is not really an option – that would be more of a headache than it’s worth! Someone needs to take responsibility for feeding the family, so this time, all I did was pack enough food for the week’s breakfasts, snacks and lunches and then left the evening meal to chance. It worked out okay in the end; we decided on the day what we wanted for dinner and ended up having fish ‘n’ chips on the beach, takeaway pizza, quick-and-easy cold meats and salad (twice), and a quick-and easy-stir fry. All the last two required were a couple of ten minute trips to the supermarket (by my husband) which was just around the corner.

Although I ate differently than I would have done had I been home, I feel I ate well. I made sure I ate the rainbow each day and didn’t binge on ultra-processed foods. I ate in moderation, and I’m happy with that.

We did a lot of things on holiday, more activity than I’d normally do in a week. We:

  • walked around The Blue Pool in Wareham
  • walked along Studland Beach (collecting seaglass)
  • walked around Swanage (several times)
  • did The Woodland Walk at Durlston Country Park

The rest of the family did more exercise than I did. There was also a walk to Corfe Castle (and a steam train ride back) and a walk to Winspit. In the evenings, we chilled at the flat, watching movies (and the footie), reading, surfing the web etc. Some days, choosing what to do was easy, somedays it wasn’t, depending on our individual moods and energy levels. It did help to have an idea of what we wanted from the holiday and a list of ideas to choose from. Before the holiday, we’d all sat down and discussed how we each wanted to spend our time, and we used our local knowledge and the tourist information website to come up with a list of possible activities. We also agreed that we didn’t have to do everything together.

As children grow up, family holidays change. It always seems to take us by surprise that what was fun last year, won’t necessarily be fun the next – this year, there were no trips to the arcades, no crabbing from the jetty, no sitting on the beach all day digging holes. The kids were less content to hang around with us, taking life slowly, just resting and relaxing, and that did cause some huffing and puffing, but we worked it all out in the end and had a (mostly) enjoyable time together.

(On another side note: the kids are actually old enough now to go off and do things on their own, but I don’t think they’ve quite realised that yet! Maybe next year.)

So, all this to say that a little forethought, an honest discussion or two, plenty of give-and-take and a bunch of lists can go a long way to taking the headaches out of holidays. Now, if only I’ll remember that next summer …

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