Motherhood: (also, interestingly, Murder. Not entirely uncoincidentally I think). Motherhood barely takes a nap, let alone a holiday, so best not to get your hopes up about having a break from the responsibilities of parenthood (see also: Expectations). Unless you are a Russian Oligarch with a 50,000 square foot Balearic villa and a staff of dozens (and, frankly, little interest in the raising of your children*), you will either be on an all-inclusive package deal (see also: Buffet; Laundry) or will be in a 500 square-foot insect-infested villa (see also: Kids; Laundry; Old Woman); either way you’re going to remain shackled to food gathering / preparing, off-spring clothing, as well as the hell that is the Bath and Bed-time Shit Show. The bottom line is that while you may have gotten away from your neighbourhood, there’s never any escaping motherhood. Sigh. (*That bitchy comment is entirely due to jealousy).
Novels: Or rather, novel. You can pack as many as you want, but you won’t get through more than one. And seeing as there’s nothing more annoying than picking up a book seventeen times a day and trying to remember what the flip was going on when you were last interrupted (see also: Kids; Motherhood), you might as well forget the latest Booker / Pulitzer / Orange winners – your brain will not be in any position at any point on the holiday to digest them (see also: Alcohol; Old Women). In fact, forget even Richard and Judy’s choice, and go straight for Jilly Cooper / Jackie Collins. (Somewhat embarrassingly, for the longest time I thought they were the same person; though from a literary perspective, they might as well be.) Depending on your holiday destination, you might also want to bring a high-brow magazine behind which you can hide your reading choice.
Old Women: On arriving at your holiday destination, you are likely to catch a glimpse of some haggard old dames, their eyes hollow and blood-shot, their pale, un-tanned faces creviced and drawn. These women will have a couple of bronzed, hyper children hanging out of them, and will be walking into the airport as you walk out. Do not sneer or feel superior. Just avoid all mirrors on your way back to the airport in a fortnight’s time.
(Also, as pointed out by Heaton, for Open Wallet. However, you can instead opt for all-inclusive, and swop Open Wallet for Buffet, Ice-Cream, and Vomit; it’s a tough call, both will result in Old Woman).
Packing: Packing is to holidays what childbirth is to motherhood – a really shit way to start the journey (Except it’s even worse because you have to do it all over again at the end of the journey...) Packing is truly the work of the devil. A devil with Alzheimer’s. You will forget everything you swore you’d remember the last time you packed, and either completely overpack – in which case you’ll end up with forking out thousands of pounds to Michael O’Leary and dressing your children in everything at once, just to get your money’s worth – or completely underpack, and your children will be wearing the same rags day in, day out (see also: Laundry). It goes without saying that whatever your packing madness, you will fall into the latter sartorial category.
Queues: To fully prepare for your family holiday, go to your local Post Office and invite seventeen of the most stupid-looking customers* to hang around your home. Ideally they should loiter in your bathroom first thing in the morning and last thing at night, hog the cooker / fridge / kitchen sink before, during and after mealtimes, and stand in front of the door just as you’re trying to bundle both kids into the double buggy and out to a class which started ten minutes ago. The only risk with this exercise is that you’ll decide that, actually, there’s really no reason to go on holidays at all, and may lose your deposit. (*Admittedly, deciding such may not be the easiest of tasks.)
Routine: Or lack thereof. All that hard work creating a routine will have gone the way of the Dodo by the second morning of your family holiday. You can expect your children to embrace jet lag (despite it only being an hour’s time difference) with a fervour reserved only for lollipops and Peppa Pig, and to treat bed-time, naps and set meals like they do a plate of greens. Eventually they’ll fall into a routine of sorts, which will involve (bathroom/closet/balcony/wherever they insist on sleeping) lights out at 11pm, and a dawn chorus comprising toddlers bellowing for Octonauts dubbed in Turkish at 420am. In a strange twist of physics, the routine which you have spent your entire parenthood trying to implement will be entirely eradicated by this short holiday stint, and the meagre 7 (or 14, or however long or short, it won’t matter) days of new routine will be burned on your child’s mind forever more. (See also: Jesus; Old Women).
Sex: Once upon a time, a VERY long time ago, there was a mummy and a daddy, and they loved each other very much. Several times a year they’d read about some lovely destination, immediately pack their books and beach-wear into teeny tiny carry-on bags and then loll about, bored, in airport lounges, reading papers and sipping coffees. Eventually, after a long, dull flight, with nothing to do but watch movies, drink, and read magazines, they’d get to their boutique hotel, in beautiful, tropical, multi-stepped surroundings - without a safety-fence in sight - flop into a crisp, clean, crumb-free bed, and shag like bunnies. They had to, you see, because back in their normal lives they only managed to have sex three or four times a week... A small part of your brain will convince you that the family holiday will be no different in this (or any other) element of those (holi)days of old (see also: Expectations), but the reality is that all that will be no different will be the calculation you’ll both make when you flop into bed and do the sleep v. sex arithmetic. Now, however, sleep will (naturally) win (not least because by the time you’ve finished with the math, the other party to the calculation is already snoring).
Television: See the entry for Ice-cream and replace the sentiment.
Vomit: It might be that children vomit a lot anyway, and you tend not to notice – or count – it so much at home (because really – what’s one more sleepless night and another load of laundry?) but for some reason it seems that children really do vomit an awful lot on holiday; certainly, alot more than is fair or reasonable, particularly when you’re PAYING for the privilege of it. As they sit there, seemingly uncaring that the contents of their stomachs are covering your feet, you will come up with more and more ludicrous explanations for the sudden increase in barf: Germs, Foreign, the heat, exhaustion, heat exhaustion, excitement, too much television, too much Foreign television, etc; deep down however you know that it’s because they ate four plates of chips and two double ice-creams for lunch, and you did NOTHING to stop it. (Helpful tip: ants like vomit. Good if the vom is on the balcony, not so good if it’s on your feet.)
Whining: The soundtrack to Family Holidays would be a child’s whining voice on a loop. “Mummmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”, “Nooooooooooooooooo”, “I DON’T CARE,” “Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeasse” “I feel siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick” “It’s all saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannndyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” “It’s all wettttttttttttttttttttttttttt” “I don’t LIKE it” and a million other variations thereupon. (See also: Kids; Old Women;
Xenophobia: No matter where you go on your Family Holiday, you will come home hating Johnny Foreigner. Not just Johnny Foreigner who comes from your holiday destination, but all foreigners who happen to also be visiting there at the same time. The French (snooty and surrender-monkeyish); Germans (authoritative and sun-lounger-hogging); Swedes (dull, and oppressively good-looking); Irish (provincial [who brings tea-bags and rashers on holiday?] and so damn loud); Italians (queue-hoppers, and way too stylish) and of course Americans (cocky and wear stupid baseball caps). Don’t be too concerned about this however – you are not a racist. You’re going to come home hating EVERYBODY, irrespective of nationality.
Yelling: Bring ear-plugs. And lozenges.
Zen: And finally, the key to surviving Family Holidays? Be Zen. Breathe In, Breathe Out. It’ll all be over soon, and within weeks you’ll be looking back on it with fondness and nostalgia. I swear to (a Zen) God.