As a family of six, with all of us being very different and unique individuals, finding a holiday that suits us all can be tricky and it often takes a huge amount of planning and research to find something that works for everyone. It’s usually down to me to book our holidays, and with four girls ranging from eight to sixteen years of age and a totally outnumbered husband, you can probably imagine how hard it can be to keep everyone happy.
The teenager’s main concern is whether there is a good wifi connection so she can stay in touch with her friends via WhatsApp and SnapChat (and Instagram and Facebook and Tumblr…), watch re-runs of her favourite TV shows (currently ‘Friends’, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Glee’), and keep up-to-date with all the vloggers she follows on YouTube. Since we gave her a camera for her 16th birthday she’s been super keen to learn how it works and is constantly taking photos of all the pretty things she comes across, so sunsets, flowers and the sea – her happy place – need to feature too.
Our tween is a history buff – she is utterly obsessed with Greek mythology and knows all the stories inside out. She once drew me an incredibly detailed ‘family tree’ of how all the Gods and Goddesses interconnect with each other and it completely blew my mind. And it’s not just the Greeks that she finds fascinating – she loves anything to do with the past and the culture of a place. Her eleven year old mind is incredibly active and brings forth a constant barrage of questions to ask us. She reads up as much as she can about a place before we visit it, soaking up as much knowledge as she can and often interjecting a conversation with little titbits of information that she’s read and memorised. She has a little space on this blog where she writes up her thoughts and feelings about the books she’s read and the places we travel to as well – writing is her passion. She always brings lots of books to read with her on holiday too, so a ‘snug’ or little reading nook is an essential requirement for her.
Our tomboy, our wild one, loves to be active. As long as there’s space to run and a pool to swim in then she’s happy. For her there is nothing better than feeling the wind in her hair as she races along a beach, doing the biggest divebomb into the swimming pool or climbing the highest up the rocks. She’s a nine year old daredevil and loves nothing more than getting messy (she’s always the one covered in mud splatters and grass stains) and out of breath from the exhilaration of trying something new. As a result of expending all that energy, she also loves her sleep and so comfy beds with soft pillows are vital for her to recharge and be ready for another set of adventures the next day.
The littlest one is our cuddly one. As long as she’s with us, her family, she’s happy. Every day, without fail, she slips her arms around my neck, pulls me in close and whispers in my ear “I love my family with all my heart”, and I genuinely believe that it wouldn’t matter where we went or what we did for a holiday as long as we were all together. As she’s only eight she is still a big fan of playgrounds & parks and so we try and make sure that there’s one nearby when we’re choosing where to go.
Oh, and good ice cream is an absolute must. It’s a little family tradition of ours to have an ice cream every single day when we’re on holiday and so far we’ve managed it on every single trip we’ve been on.
The husband likes to keep things simple when he’s on holiday. I think being surrounded by five females has given him the approach of “anything for an easy life” when it comes to making decisions about where we should go, and he’s usually happy to go along with the majority vote regarding both destinations and planning what to do whilst we’re there. He just wants to eat good food, drink good beer, enjoy some sunshine and do very little else. Although a nice car to drive is always a bonus (he’s the driver whilst we’re on holiday as I’m too nervous to drive on the wrong side of the road!)
And as for me? I want to go off exploring. I love trying new things, visiting new places that we’ve not been to before, and diving into the detail of a place – finding out what makes it tick, what stories are waiting to be told and what goes on off the beaten track are what gets me excited about going on holiday. The wanderlust I developed after travelling around Australia and New Zealand for fifteen months in my late teens/early twenties has never really gone away and I don’t think it ever will – the travel bug is an itch that can never be scratched. I’m not very good at sitting still and doing nothing either (much to the dismay of the rest of my family!) and so it’ll usually be me staying up into the early hours of the morning figuring out what day trips we can go on, which little villages might be interesting to visit and where the best place to catch the sunset is. I also need heat and sunshine – I’m pretty sure I’m solar-powered.
So as you can see, there are a whole range of different needs and wants that have to be satisfied if we’re going to find a holiday that we all love.
The other thing to take into account is that spending so much time together can be quite challenging on many different levels. We all
like need our space – not just to be comfortable but to actually survive a holiday together! We love each other deeply, but sometimes you just need some time on your own, you know? Cramming into a hotel room together simply doesn’t work for us – we need space to spread out, to do our own thing from time to time and to be able to relax in our own way in between the busy days. We figured out early on that a self catering villa is always going to be our best option simply because it gives us both the freedom and the privacy that we all require.
We do like to go to places where we can get a bit of insider knowledge. There is only so much planning you can do in advance and whilst there’s a certain magic in discovering things unexpectedly for yourselves, a little tip here and there from the people who know a place really well can lead to something special. Like the time we stayed in Bude in Cornwall and Tim and Maria, the owners of the property we were staying in, told us about a shipwreck we could explore. That ended up being one of the best (and most memorable) days we had.
Then there was our trip to Jersey where Andrew, the owner of our holiday accommodation, hinted at where the best (and most deserted) beaches might be.
And sometimes those tips are a little more on the practical side, such as in Florida when the villa manager drew us a map with a shortcut to the nearest supermarket – absolutely invaluable insider knowledge when you’ve got four jet-lagged and ‘hangry’ kids desperate for a bite to eat. It’s the little things like that, the personal touch, that can make a holiday that little bit easier, or even more special.
For us, holidays are all about making memories and creating moments that matter. Yes, the girls remember the big things, like seeing Cinderella’s Castle for the first time at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World for example (there’s not much that can beat that kind of magic!).
But they also remember the little things: like getting a hole-in-one on the crazy golf course; playing in the pool; watching the sunset over the ocean; and paddling in the sea. There are so many different elements that go into making a holiday unforgettable and when I’m planning where we go next, that’s what I’m looking for in a holiday company – how can they help us make our trip, whether in the UK or abroad, unforgettable?
Holidays aren’t just a break away from the monotony and routine of everyday life. They’re a chance to spend a different kind of quality time together, a time to talk and make plans for the future and dream up seemingly impossibly ideas that might just be do-able. They offer the opportunity to play and have fun together, to reconnect as a family (and as a couple), and to relax and recharge. In short, to do all the things that we don’t make enough time to do when school and work and ‘life’ get in the way. Holidays also offer the possibility of showing our girls another part of the world – something that has been important to me since even before they were born. I want them to learn that there’s so much more to life than they already know, I want them to experience a different way of living and to stretch their boundaries and their imaginations that little bit further beyond their comfort zone.
One of my favourite ever quotes is this, from a poem by Robert Frost:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”.
I’ve lived my entire life in this way, doing everything off the beaten track and rarely following the path that others tread. My husband and I continue to try to do this as a family as much as we can and it’s a way of being that I’m doing my best to instil in my girls, teaching them that going their own way and going the extra mile is often the difference that makes the difference.
Thankfully I think that more and more holiday companies are beginning to realise this: that a family holiday is so much more than *just* a holiday. They appear to be significantly upping their game and one company in particular that I’ve come across, Simpson Travel, seems to have the exact same philosophy and values on travel as we do – they go above and beyond for all of their guests, taking care of all the tiny details and making sure that everything is just so, leaving you free to make your holiday whatever experience you want it to be. I’ve spent a long time exploring their website and I think they tick every single box in terms of the requirements we would have in a holiday: a luxury family villa holiday to exciting destinations we’ve not explored before, easily catering for everyone’s wants and needs and offering the opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime.
So why am I sharing all this about what we look for when planning a family holiday? Well, as I’ve been spending time trying to figure out our travel plans for the year, I discovered that Simpson Travel happen to be on the hunt for two Ambassadors for 2018. They want these ambassadors to share their same philosophy and values and be as passionate about family travel as they are. I think we fit the bill pretty perfectly and so this is my entry into their competition. Wish us luck