I’m guessing you’ve all heard the term ‘threenager’ ? Sums up my nearly 3 year old perfectly. Toddlers are hard. There’s a reason why I’m writing this at 9:30pm with a well deserved glass of rosé next to me… This is the first moment of peace that I’ve had all day – make that all week! Mostly because I’ve decided to be brave, loaded up my car, and have taken the kids on their first ever seaside holiday!
Before we left, I was filled with a strange combination of both excitement and dread. Excitement because frankly, who doesn’t love the beach? Sun, sea, sand and ice cream. Heaven. But dread at having to occupy my kids for 168 hours all by myself without the delights of the school day to give me a much-needed breather.
Now admittedly, I’m a single mum so I’m pretty used to being the sole person to look after my children (excluding the 11 hours that they spend overnight at their father’s once a week, but don’t get me started with that…) however, a holiday is different. A holiday comes with high expectations of being fun, relaxing and utterly amazing with extra added over excitement. And I’m not just talking about the kids. Holidays can be stressful with when you’re a parent, so how can we make it easier on ourselves making sure that everyone, including Mum, enjoys the holiday?
1: Make a plan.
Our first step was to create a summer holiday bucket list of all the things that we wanted to do during this holiday. This gave us a starting point to help us decide what to do and to make a plan for the holidays. Involve the children in this (if they’re old enough) I asked both of mine for ideas, eldest requested the zoo, the baby suggested space….
I’m all about involving kids in making decisions, I even involved my eldest in choosing songs for our car journey. Thankfully, she has been indoctrinated with my music from an early age so I wasn’t subjected to rubbish for the two-hour drive. Otherwise, I may have reconsidered my decision.
I know planning sounds like I’m taking the fun out of holidays, but toddlers need routine. Whilst it makes sense to relax it somewhat when you’re on holiday, it’s probably best to keep some things consistent, if possible. Trust me, it will make your life easier both now and when life returns to normal. I’ve definitely learnt that the hard way…
2: Plan days out carefully
If you’re going to spend time, effort and money on a day out family day out, make sure you take the ages and interests of your children into consideration. There’s nothing worse than taking the kids to a theme park to discover your eldest is petrified of heights – even the baby rides. Been there done that.
My two are fairly close in age (5 and 2) so have similar interests. I try to plan things that both of them can do and will enjoy, which helps as my youngest is 2 going on 15. My eldest is absolutely animal and flower obsessed so animal sanctuaries, parks and gardens are good calls for her. I’ve looked for local ones that also have play areas to incorporate what my youngest likes – and also to tire them out. I’m no fool.
Also, please remember that the holiday isn’t just about kids, it’s a family holiday. Mums need to recharge their batteries too. Happy mum = happy kids. So, my girls often tag along to museums and art galleries, the sorts of places that I love to visit so my brain isn’t frazzled and I feel like I’m enjoying the holiday too.
3: Have a backup plan
This is essential, especially if you are holidaying in the U.K. British summers are renowned for the spectacular weather! So, in order to prepare for the inevitable wet weather, have a few tricks up your sleeve.
Soft play centres are always a good call, with many of them offering summer long passes at reduced prices, which is always a great backup. Also don’t feel guilty for using electronics, I sincerely doubt that using an iPad ever killed anyone.
5 Rainy Day activities
1: Blow up some balloons, hours of fun!
2: Musical Statues – my kids love this.
3: Movie afternoon – be sure to include popcorn in little party bags which can be bought from the pound shop to give a real cinema feel.
4: Arts and Crafts – draw, collage, paint if you’re brave, but stock up on cheap, toddler proof crafts materials from supermarkets or the pound shops.
5: The Rainy Day game – credit where it’s due, Daddy Pig may be silly and have a fat tummy but he has some ace ideas for games and if it’s good enough for Peppa and George, it’s good enough for my two. How to play? Literally, hide an everyday object and make the kids find it. Simple.
4: Have a budget and stick to it
Have a look around your local area, lots of museums, libraries and community centres have free or low cost activities for younger children. The park is always a good call. We have a fruit picking farm nearby that the kids love, almost as much as they enjoy the walk to the local supermarket. Free or low-cost activities are great.
Whatever your income, holidays can be very expensive. What frustrates me at the moment, is having to pay the same for my 5 year old as myself. I’ve come across a few places that do this, it’s crazy, so I either steer clear, or plan it into my budget if either I or the kids really want to go.
If you’re going to do an activity with a paid admission cost, shop around. Look online for savings as most places offer an online booking discount. Another place worth looking at online is Groupon. I’m new to it, but really love it! I’ve managed to get cinema tickets for the kids for £12 for the three of us. Total bargain as it’s usually £10 just for me. I also found gin cocktail tasting sessions at a bargain too, but that’s definitely just for me.
5: Stock up on essentials
I don’t know about anyone else’s kids but mine seem to be ravenous the minute we leave home. No matter what I make at home, eating out on holiday always seems more appealing to them! So I make sure to stock up on their favourite snacks before we leave the house. Just one of my toddler day-trip essentials.
With my first toddler, I totally winged it and made so many mistakes. Now, every outing is strategically planned. I have a list of essentials that I couldn’t do without.
5 toddler day trip essentials
1: Reins – I must have special kids but I could not get either of mine in a pushchair or to walk in a straight line as soon as they turned two. Reins are a god-send and you youngest can’t escape.
2: Rucksack – simply put a rucksack makes it easy to have a spare hand for each kid and all of their junk on my back. Next step – get them to carry it or find a stylish one.
3: Healthy snacks. Fruit. Cheese. Anything to stop my kids looking like I’ve starved them for weeks every time we go out in public.
4: Spray on suncream. Best invention ever. Quick and easy for fussy toddlers.
5: Car games. Please don’t play ‘I Spy’ with a toddler who doesn’t know letters and sounds. It’s incredibly frustrating! Try counting coloured cars, or even better the quiet game so that everyone arrives at their destination with sanity intact and is able to enjoy the holiday.
Hopefully these tips will help you and your family have a nice, relaxed holiday. Feel free to share any tips in the comments.