Family holidays are tense.
I don't mean a family holiday with your spouse and children (although they have their moments).
I mean those family holidays with grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts. They are great fun but they are inevitably tricky when you realise everyone does holidays differently.
We went to Devon a little while ago with my wife's family, including a total of three families.
The main point of contention was the one before we had even booked.
I am very much of the opinion that hotels and toddlers do not mix. We've had the odd night at a Lenny Henry themed hotel off a motorway to break up an intolerable long journey but the thought of a week in a hotel with a little one or two doesn't appeal.
Our toddler’s eating schedule is an hour or two earlier than full sized people’s with breakfast in the early hours, lunch instead of elevenses and an evening meal at about 4.30 or 5pm. Decent hotels try their best to accommodate families but you can hardly ask the chef to get up an hour earlier to get you some porridge which probably won’t be eaten anyway.
Our main issue is the risk of being publicly exposed as parents whose children aren’t always perfectly behaved. What if the little one decides to deliberately decorate the hotel carpet with honey or face dive into her yogurt? Do you tell her off and make a scene or keep quiet and appear to be undisciplined parents?
And then there’s the sleeping arrangements which in a hotel usually involve piling everyone into the same room and regressing to the first few months of their lives where you counted down the days until you could put them in their own room without feeling guilty.
In a hotel I would spend the night stiff as a board and playing on my phone under the duvet, terrified that if I fell asleep I would break wind or shout in my sleep and wake everyone up.
No, I’d much rather stick to the freedom to choose meal times that suit us and sleeping arrangements which enable at least a reasonable chance of rest.
And so we agreed to split into two parties with two families staying in a hotel and us in a nearby holiday park. We chose a basic site near Sidmouth with a set of swings and a field, rather than a big park with flumes and bingo. Personally, I prefer the peace and quiet that comes from quieter parks, but there is something to be said for onsite facilities if it starts to rain or you want a low hassle holiday.
The holiday itself was much less tense than I was expecting. We took turns to choose attractions around Devon, compromised on mealtimes and spent a couple of days doing our own thing.
I’m sure we could have managed most of that in a hotel, but I think I’ll leave it a few more years, just in case.
Holiday Park Guru Blog
Occasional thoughts on holidays in England, Wales and Scotland