The Family Holiday

Holiday – def. a day or period of leisure taken off or set aside for leisure and enjoyment as a break from work or usual activity.

Once upon a time, when I was single, fleet-footed and free, a ‘holiday’ was an experience filled with surprises. It usually involved interminable bus rides across three states in a tin can driven by a pot-bellied, grey moustached driver whose wife had left him two months ago and told sexually inappropriate jokes. Destinations along the way were a combination of guess work, selected at random from tourist maps, or recommended by some sunburnt English nurse with a gigantic cold sore on her upper lip.

These wild jaunts saw me hitch hiking to isolated beaches with hippies and slumming it in smelly, noisy rooms crammed with six or more back packers from countries of no fixed address. Drinking games, limbo under the stars, sleazy tour guides, condoms, book swaps, deeply intimate lifelong friendships formed in four hours (with people whose names I have since forgotten) over too many crappy happy hour cocktails and shared bowls of fries.

Roll on the years, the marriage, the kid and watch the nature of my holiday change– irrevocably – to become the much over rated Family Holiday.

The Family Holiday is an entity all of its own, which is why they have separate advertising campaigns for them, showing beaming kids and parents sharing fun times together and building a lifetime’s worth of fuzzy focus memories. The reality could not be further from these saccharine soaked ads.

Family Holiday’s are designed specifically to make us glad we have a boring job to go back to when we return home. There is nothing like whiny, homesick kids, two over-worked partners desperate for some time out, and a deaf Nana, to transform the once glittering ‘holiday’ into parody. Forget spontaneous adventure, eating porridge for dinner, snogging with a stranger after drinking a gallon of cheap Moselle and good travelling music. The Family Holiday is a nether world – a place of nagging, arguments, and embarrassing tantrums (and that’s just the grown-ups).

The torture usually starts in the car with the standard arguments about what to listen to on the way – Wiggles? Dean Martin? Nirvana? This holiday I got to listen to exactly 2.5 Violent Femmes songs before the tape deck is commandeered and I’m forced to listen to Disney Classics, Frank Sinatra show tunes and the soundtrack to High Society. (What a swellegant, elegant car trip this is!)

The real highlight of this year’s FH (Viva Lakes Entrance) was the discovery of a Bowls Club (within walking distance of course) that offered kids a ‘2-course-all-the-trans-fats-and-sugar-you-can-eat-buffet’ for $6.50 (Yeah, $6.50! We couldn’t believe it either!). This was an absolute BOON for my greedy partner who adores a smorgasbord and was not in the least put off by the fact it was a kids-only-food-fest. He ordered his entrée and main and then, like a pimp, got our daughter to return to the bain-marie three times so he could be supplied with mini dim sims.

The next best thing was the discovery of the 137 flavour ice-cream parlour around the corner. (‘Can we try them all?’- ‘Sure – if you want to look like that family of fatties eating the four flavours in a bucket and oozing over their seats.’) And, for our endless convenience, right across the road from our accommodation, a supermarket, video library, police station (just in case someone stole our 15 year old sun tent with the broken zip) and an all hours chemist – what more could intrepid travellers seeking something new and exotic ask for?

All the Danish drinking games, the cheap mini-bus tours, the short lived and endlessly satisfying romances of my earlier holiday’s fade in comparison to this meca of delight that is the Family Holiday. Who wouldn’t rather spend the morning roaming $2 shops looking for the cheapest plastic bucket and spade than lounging about swapping travel stories with a stoned Danish fire fighter? What sort of idiot wouldn’t prefer the constant negotiation, cajoling, pouting and bribery with a spoilt seven year old to a cheap bunk bed and a whole day opening up before you like an unread best seller?

Family Holiday’s are a misnomer. By definition they don’t really mean ‘holiday’. You take all your usual household responsibilities with you. You cook, get woken early, wash dishes and clothes sticky with soft drink and icy poles and sweep an entire beach of sand out of the bathroom or tent every day. You must remember to hang out the bathers and towels so they’re dry for the next day at the beach or be prepared to cop the worst kind of family abuse about having to wear claggy bathers.

Necessities include: accessible beaches, nearby public toilets, buckets of sunscreen and calamine lotion, and innumerable trips to the chemist (we totalled five – magnifying reading glasses, paracetamol, Zinc cream, a prescription and aloe vera gel). All those and an Oscar winning ability to grit your teeth and grin into the camera like you’re actually enjoying yourself.

It was so much fun this year we’ve booked in again for next year. At the same place of course. Same unit. Same time of year. Best not to leave anything to chance. Oh, and we’ve added an extra couple of days, so we don’t miss the paddle boats – like we did this year!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Diane Simonelli
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 10:42:11

    It’s all packaged up as the best ever, isn’t it? Thanks Kate, for showing the real. Though you make it so funny, I almost want to come with you!


  2. Angie
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 15:38:46

    ah Kate, i remember these “holidays” well! the best advice i can offer is to share the load by going with other parents of a 7 year old – that way you can share the ‘fun’, and get a bit of time off too!


  3. Colleen Power
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 08:14:54

    Love it Kate xx


  4. Michelle Holt
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 00:07:47

    I do love a good family holiday story, glad you had a great time 😉


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