24th April 2019
We’ve just got back from a last minute break. A week in Portugal @nauhotels #SalemaBeachVillage – just the five of us. Booked six days before we went on an impulsive whim with #easyjetholidays. To a villa (aside from Center Parcs we’ve not done one before) on a resort with zero facilities (We normally seek out kids clubs or some kind of entertainment). Holidays are so different with young children. Particularly multiples of them. The prep, the travel, being away, the post holiday trauma and the comparison to your BC (before children) travels can sometimes hurt. However, this break was the best we’ve had as a family. Even my husband agrees and anyone who knows us knows that is HUGE! I’ll share a few things that we found made it easier for us as a family of five.
General rule I’m chaotic and disorganized. I’m always late and/or forgotten something. A couple of days before a holiday BC I would pop to Superdrug and get a heap of over priced miniatures. Pack a dress for every evening and then some extra for good measure. Various shoes and a good handful of bikinis. We’ve been to the wrong airport, we’ve missed flights. I hated carrying bags – still not a fan – so literally would walk on with my phone, purse and lip balm.
Since having T1 and traveling to Mexico when he was five months everything changed. I was so anxious in the lead up I almost spoilt it for all of us. I stressed out every day about naps and meals (taking an entire suitcase of Ella’s pouches panicking he’d want to wean whilst we were there). On the way home I had a panic attack in the airport before we got on the plane. This was with one child that couldn’t even crawl – oh hindsight is a wonderful thing
I’m now a maniac with a clipboard and prep begins with lists a couple of weeks before (in this case under a week before – when we booked it). A list for each child starting with necessities. Nappies, milks, bottles, swimming bits, wipes, dummies and comforters – those sorts of things. They each have different requirements so I list it all out then add day and evening clothes, jammies, shoes and they chose two books each. Then hand luggage lists for each of them with essentials like spare pants, nappies, wipes, calpol. I get the cases out and have piles EVERYWHERE. I allocate each of them a small backpack as hand luggage with a thin @AdenandAnais blanket – perfect for snuggling on the plane or sitting on whilst away, their bubbas (comfort bunnies) and dummies. A dried fruit snack like a yo-yo bear or wiggles and a A4 jiffy envelope each and in it I’ve spent about £5 in the factory shop on stickers, a new activity or age themed book, coloring pencils and a pez. T1 does have a Nintendo DS so he’ll also have that. We don’t have iPads or anything. My rucksack will have T3’s baby bits in, medicines and passports.
We check in as much as possible. Any boarding passes or tickets are on our phones. We print nothing. We already have a double buggy and three kids to contend with – it’s just more to lose! As well as my rucksack and T1 & T2’s little backpacks I always take our @babyBjorn sling. TOP TIP: Take a sling even if you aren’t a baby wearer. When you get off the plane it can be a really long walk and wait to get to (& through) security, to baggage reclaim and more often than not buggies come out last – or at a different point. Trying to carry non walking children or walking ones that are sleepy depending on when you’ve landed is a nightmare when you are also exhausted and have all your hand luggage too. I’ve come through Gatwick security at 3am with a rucksack on my back, a four month old sleeping in the sling on my front and an 18 month old sleeping on my shoulder on my side with my husband carrying the sleepy 3yo! It’s still hard but a total godsend having a sling!! This trip we traveled from our local @londonSouthendairport. Amazing. 10min taxi and it’s small & so efficient getting through security. On the way home we were on our sofa 45min after we landed. We now primarily look at destinations Southend travel to for our holiday options. An hour getting through large airport security, a long busy wait for bags coupled with three tired kids and an hour transfer home is a killer. TOP TIP: don’t book an early morning flight on daylight savings time day!! Our 4.30 start turned into a 3.30 alarm and almost ruined the first day as everyone was completely shattered! Personally we would always book day flights. We were told when we had T1 to go for night flights as they’ll just sleep but we can categorically say we’ve so far taken roughly 24 flights with kids and we’ve barely seen one of them have a 20min cat nap let alone a full on sleep!
In the past we’ve veered toward hotels. I couldn’t understand the point of a villa – cook, clean and basically all the same sh1t I do every day but abroad. I wanted to be fed. I wanted my all inclusive buffet breakfasts, I thought we needed kids clubs and non stop entertainment. However many (so many!) hotels sleep max four a room. The ones we do find with ‘family’ rooms tends to be an extra bit of communal space or a sofa bed/space for a cot. We’ve tried many variants of hotel rooms but it drives us all absolutely nuts. Our terrors are all in different time zones. T1 is early to bed, early to rise with a few night terrors thrown in. T2 is later to bed and is a complete teenager in the mornings but an absolute legend overnight. T3 is early to bed, wakes up numerous times overnight and is early to rise. Not to mention different nap schedules. My husband, although completely deaf in one ear, is a total princess and the pea with sleeping. He’ll often be seen dismantling smoke alarms in the room to stop any tiny flashing lights and turning off all air con despite sweltering temperatures because the sound is too much. Me, I am used to taking what I can get and therefore have zero problems falling asleep in any conditions .
So, we had a three bedroom villa this time. It was ideal! Well almost – four bedrooms would have been ideal – T3 was an absolute nightmare in our room! The space was a winner though. Yes we cooked our own food but the kids could eat in the nude if they wanted to. T1 did. Frequently. They didn’t have to eat at the same time. T1 wants brekkie shortly after he wakes at 6.30. T2 laid in until 9.30 some mornings. We didn’t have to spend €100 on a meal that quite frankly was a bit cr@p, no one really ate and we couldn’t enjoy because it’s 5pm and we aren’t hungry and are busy trying to get the kids to actually eat something, not bang forks on the table, throw everything on the floor or screech really loudly. Instead we bought wine, pasta and bits from the shops. We fed the kids in underpants (them not us)! We put them to bed by 7 and cracked open the wine, scrabble, olives and crisps and actually had a conversation. Something to point out about holidays now is you find it almost impossible to actually close your eyes during the day (mine don’t close all that much during the night at the moment either to be fair). I do vaguely remember BC laying on a sun lounger sleepy in the heat. Firstly I can’t remember when I last laid on a sun lounger but if I do I definitely can’t close my eyes. With one child its possible when they nap. More than one and unless you can time a double or triple nap there’s no chance to close those eyes!
In all we had a brilliant week in Salema. There was a pool on site which was too cold for the kids at this time of year. There was a small snack bar which opened part way through our break – we only used for g&t’s. There was no restaurant, no entertainment, no kids club, pirate ships, water slides or organized activities and it was heavenly. We played on the beach with buckets and spades, barefoot, all day with the kids eating sandy villa made ham and crisp sandwiches. It reminded me of family holidays to Jersey when I was young. Back to basics. It’s exactly what we wanted and needed from a break (although I would have definitely preferred more sleep). Quality time together.
If you arrive home at the start of the school holidays – making the most of term time travel before T1 starts school in Sept – be prepared for the unpacking, washing and sorting of five humans to take 1,000 times longer as you are also trying to keep happy, healthy and entertained three non stop different aged terrors who still want to be on holiday!
This beautiful chaos