Sunday, 11 August 2013

Hapless Dad's holiday verdict

Ah yes, here we are. Back in Blighty after a week across the channel. Those who read this blog will know that I have a slightly negative view of family holidays. However in the interest of balance and impartiality I thought I would take a genuine look at what worked and what didn't. Hopefully this will provide some useful information for those about to embark on their summer break, or preparing to book for next year. Failing that, it will give those of you who had a thoroughly enjoyable break a chance to take the piss out of me.

What worked:
  1. Travelling to northern France. Basically, northern France is just like West Wales but with weird bread. However it did have some distinct advantages. It gave us the chance to enjoy a holiday abroad but without any major travelling stress. Our resort was only 45 mins from the ferry port so, whilst France sounds like a long drive, in reality the major part of the journey was a leisurely pootle down to Portsmouth.
  2. Travelling by Ferry. This was a definite success. I didn't have anything to do with the booking of our holiday, preferring to ignore the prospect hoping it would go away. So on our day of departure I casually asked Mrs Hapless how long the ferry crossing was. When she replied "6 hours" I was nearly sick in my pino grigio. However, compared to a 6 hour flight, 6 hours on a ferry was like heaven. The kids could get up and wander around at any point without fear of ruining the flight of a childless couple, falling over a inflight meal trolley or being sick. The ferry had a small softplay area, a cinema, a children's entertainer, a magician and an expansive deck area with no prospect of falling over board unless that was the intention. As such the kids were occupied and excited throughout the journey, while we sat on our already expanding arses.
  3. Wine. In France, actually cheaper than water. What could be better.
  4. The way the French do stuff. One lunch time we wandered into a nearby town looking for food. everywhere was closed, except for a grotty looking burger/kebab place at the end of the high street. We went in, desperate for grub and wholly disappointed that we couldn't visit one of the many lovely restaurants. It was just like any takeaway I had ever been in - with one notable exception - waiter service! Yes I had kebab and chips but we were served at a table, with a table cloth and napkins, and wine. This was supplemented by the fact that the takeaway service at the resort delivered 3 different kinds of delicious muscles. Yummy.
  5. Driving in France. Empty, well maintained roads with *gasp* no road works. Enough said.

What didn't work:
  1. Sleep. Anyone who reads my blog or follows me on twitter will know that my kids are early risers. For many families this situation miraculously changes as soon as they start using Euros. Before departure we were literally battered with stories of children having to be woken up at 1030 after having later than usual bedtimes. All that activity will certainly tire them out, we were told. Of course on holiday they are up much later so they will sleep on, people suggested. I have one word for that. Bollocks!! When we are at home the kids are up by 6am at the latest. Our only saving grace is that we damn well make sure they are in bed at a reasonable hour so we can relax. No bloody chance on holiday. Yes my kids were up much later than usual, outside playing with other children until well after 10 some nights. Did they sleep on? DID THEY FUCK!! This presented us with a dilemma. Either we put our kids to bed at 7 listening to the other kids playing outside or we let them stay up ensuring they only had 10 minutes sleep and spent the entire day grizzling and arguing. In the end we opted for a combination of the two. It also meant that our adult relaxation time amounted to about 18 seconds in between putting the kids to bed and falling asleep on the sofa. I must stress, I'm not bitter as I expected as much. However I must warn everyone that the first person to tell me they had to wake their kids up when on holiday is going to get knocked on their smug backside!
  2. Sleeping arrangements. Our accommodation was clean and tidy but quite small. As such Mrs Hapless spent the week sleeping in with the kids, which meant she was woken every 2 minutes during the night. I had to sleep on the sofa bed in the living room, which meant I spent the week lying on the small pile of dis-guarded pistachio nut shells that had been dropped down the back of the sofa by my daughter. This result is that after a week my wife and I have had less sleep than an unwilling guest at Guantanamo Bay.
  3. Cost. I won't go into detail here. However, once you take into account, the accommodation, the ferry, spending money, new clothes, stuff for the car etc our holiday cost approximately £1000 per second. This has naturally been added to our ever expanding credit card debt along with our honey moon from 7 years ago and every holiday since.
  4. Tea. I drink coffee. The reason I drink coffee instead of Tea is that it is absolutely impossible to get a cup of coffee wrong. No matter where you are in the world, coffee tastes the same. This is not true of tea. Mrs Hapless only drinks tea, so most of the start of our holiday involved trying to track down tea that didn't taste like shit - with little success.
  5. French children. French children are incredibly well behaved. Most people would not see this as a negative. However, this means your own children, and your parenting skills have absolutely nowhere to hide. When you venture out in public in the UK your kids can do exactly as they like. This is because however badly behaved they are you can guarantee they are not the worst in the room/restaurant/airport/children's disco. There is always a family taking a short break in between filming back to back episodes of the Jeremy Kyle show who will take the heat and the disapproving looks of other parents. In France, that family is you!
On the whole though, the holiday was relatively successful. My children are now 4 and nearly 6 so this was the first family holiday where we didn't have to take ten tonnes of baby crap and a pushchair, just in case.

However It would be fair to say I am looking forward to being able to put my kids to bed at 7 and put my feet up for a bit.

Happy holidays.

Monsieur Hapless Dad.


  1. I love how much of an impact Sleepgate made! I'm quite jealous of the driving experience, I can only dream of a land with no roadworks...

  2. I am actually very tempted by France. As for your coffee statement my husband and friends would challenge you to drink a cup made by me! Glad the kids had a great time. : )