Nigel DonnellySee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Nigel Donnelly
Guest blogger Suzanne Asquith explains how her young family, tried loads of different holidays, but ended up in a caravan
I CAN'T REALLY remember how or when it happened, but at some point the entire responsibility for selecting and booking our family holiday fell to me.
Perhaps it was because, left to my husband, any holiday would be booked four minutes before we needed to set off and my nightmare about still being at home, looking for my passport and not having packed whilst the plane is taxiing down the runway, would actually come true.
Or maybe it was because the idea of touring Germany on the back of a motorbike, with a tent strapped to my back visiting old RAF bases he had once served at did not make my eyes misty as well. Either way, it suddenly fell to me to make sure we had at least a few days a year where we could maybe take our coats off.
Booking holidays used to be easy
At one time, about five hundred years ago when it was just the two of us, holidays were so easy. All it took was a ten minute trawl through Teletext (so long ago that lastminute.com hadn’t even been born), then the ensuing half an hour call to a travel agency based in Croydon where someone on work experience, or perhaps even community service would patiently explain to me why the holiday was no longer available at that remarkably cheap price but there was a similar one for only three times as much provided I could fly out yesterday with thirty four friends.
But fast forward a few years and features such as “spa hotel” and “hydrotherapy pool” become as useful as slippers and a dressing gown in an Ibizan club. Hotels become sinister places filled with the lurking evils of swimming pools, balconies, concrete steps and water that will turn a baby’s stomach inside out if you so much as wash their face with it. There are, I know, some reputable hotels that are specifically designed to cater for today’s paranoid mother. I know this because when I gave birth to our first son, a friend of mine bought me a subscription to a (very) upmarket parenting magazine which gave me the best laugh since my husband asked why I don’t wear bikinis anymore. This particular edition of the magazine focused on holidays and specifically, family friendly ones. Friendly if your name happens to be Onassis, Goldsmith or any from a Premier League football team. Apparently, you can fly to an island in the Caribbean, and stay in a villa that comes not just with jet skis, a tennis court and plasma TVs in every room, but also with a live-in chef, housemaid and nanny so you can actually get to enjoy the aforementioned activities. Given that one of the pictured children was wearing a swimsuit costing more than our entire two week holiday budget, it became glaringly obvious that I was not the family they were being friendly towards.
So, as a blatant novice, there were a couple of unsuccessful attempts at family holidays. Five days at Disneyland Paris when absolutely every person in the whole world was also queuing for the Peter Pan ride. Then there was a week in a hut, in a holiday park, self-catering, where we had two forks, the lid of a casserole dish, a doorless fridge and spent our life savings on tokens for the go-carts. As it had already become my job to book the holidays, I felt hideously responsible for these let-downs and it was made known to me that I was hideously responsible. Therefore each holiday had inadvertently became a sort of cliff hanger-ending from the time I pressed “Book Now” on the internet to the time we actually arrived with a car full of eager expectations. And invariably we were always disappointed with the results.
Budget hotel let downs
I have to say at this point that we are only budget travellers and as such, there are only certain expectations that you can realistically have. However, I am a great believer in hotels changing bed linen between the departure of one guest and the arrival of another and am also a keen advocate of hoovering being something that extends under the bed as well as around it. Luxuries such as a toilet paper and a remote control for the can-only-be-operated- by-remote-control television seem to remain, well, luxuries. And each time this happens, it is my fault. “Didn’t you check first?” bellows M as he searches the TV menu for the umpteenth time looking for Sky Sports. At this point I cringe and continue picking mould off the shower curtain and wait for the sobbing to begin as he attempts to launch the Sky-less TV out of the window that I know only opens three-quarter of an inch.
And so, we had a brain wave. We bought a caravan. A brand new Lunar Zenith 6 that became affectionately known as “Loony”. Of course we got all the stick from friends and colleagues who associate caravans with a) the over 60’s; b) the travelling fraternity or c) people that are put on the earth just to annoy them on motorways. But they didn’t feel quite so smug each time we waved goodbye as we were off on our umpteenth break of the year. In fact, many of them came over to scoff and within a few weeks were sheepishly sloping off to buy their own holiday homes on wheels. And we’ve never looked back; it’s been fabulous. Even the time we drove round Catford town centre seventeen times to the bemused stares of local residents. Or the time I took us down the narrowest street in France, with a dead end.Actually that wasn’t fabulous at all. But apart from that we now benefit from several wonderful family holidays a year, the boys have progressed from a Moses basket on top of the hob to fixed bunks and any dust under the bed is of our own creation.
And there is definitely no mould on our shower curtain.