The Hidden Joys of a Family Holiday

Feeling frazzled? Our Travel Expert, Rose Jacobs, explains why you should take time out for a holiday with your family. 

Let’s be honest, when you’ve got a couple of ankle biters, the last thing your nervous system wants to do is shove a stack of unnecessary items into a heavy suitcase and lug your kids, your hubby, your pram, nappy bag, floaties, travel cot, surf board, the dogs and the in-laws to an unfamiliar destination in the hope that you’ll all Have. A. Fun. Time.

But, if we’re being really honest, when was the last time you actually dared to venture beyond your comfort zone, with the ones you love most, and returned home to say that was The. Worst. Idea. Ever?

Sure, it takes courage, and let’s face it days, if not weeks, to mentally and physically prepare for a family holiday – and this is regardless of the enormity of the trip. But often it’s more of a mountain to travel three hours in the car up the road than to board an international flight. Perhaps its something about the “car” that makes us think it is a bottomless vessel for carrying half the house, whereas we are all fully aware of the exorbitant charges the airlines sting us with when we dare go a few kilos over and the result is we pack lighter and feel freer for it!

No matter how many trips away my hubby Steven and I do with our two little girls (now aged three and one), we are still struck by the same waves of emotions. Sure, there’s the panic… the regret… the resentment… and the inevitable few days it takes to actually get into holiday mode… like on the first morning you notice the rooster in the property next door is waking you at five in the morning. On day two you start planning how to secretly strangle ‘Rupert’ in the dead of night. By day three, you think Rupert is kinda sweet and by day four, you are up and about at 4:55am waiting for that friendly morning greeting that has given you so many more hours in your day to enjoy. By day five, you’re emailing the owners to ask if Rupert would like to join you in Sydney as your new family pet. And yes, you’re prepared to give them your son’s surfboard in exchange.

Those are some of the initial waves of emotion that come from a family holiday. The others can often come from your family members themselves. As each and every individual is finding their own spiral out of their every day hustle and bustle and into this unknown family dynamic of strangely happy and present parents, kids who speak more than a few mono-syllabic words at a time, dogs with grins permanently plastered ear to ear, toddlers who for once stop screaming and sleep like concrete after a day of stimulation…family holidays can without doubt bring out the best in all of us. And it’s contagious.

For Mums, I speak from experience when I say holidays can in fact be easier than being at home. You’re less focused on the constant maintenance of your living space. Without a fully stocked kitchen, you’re more likely to enjoy dinner out, a bbq cooked by Dad, room service or the simplest of meals with ingredients you possibly can’t find at home. The world looks different – and surprisingly, everyone else pitches in!!  

It might be the different surroundings or it might be the extra attention the kids are getting from their folks, but either way, kids on a family holiday somehow rise to the occasion too. There’s a bonding that happens. Perhaps it’s the unfamiliar territory of seeing their parents happy that freaks them into best-behaviour. Or maybe they realise finally just how hard Mum and Dad both work to be able to provide these trips for them. Maybe they suddenly see their family members as real people with feelings, not just dropper-offers and chefs and cleaners. Suddenly they start laughing at family jokes. They aren’t embarrassed to sit next to their Mum in public. They realise that Mum and Dad are more fun when they’re not so stressed. 

And then there’s Dad. Men cannot help but rediscover the old “hunter” psyche when on a family holiday. They insist on driving the car. They try new water sports their physio would never advise at home. They would most likely attempt to climb a coconut tree if someone dared them. They chat jovially to other Dads on similar family holidays, maybe even attempting to “make a new friend”. They skip a footy final on TV for an afternoon of rock fishing at the beach. They cook steaks. They claim to have knowledge of birdlife they’ve never demonstrated before. They get tan lines in places that have rarely seen the sun. They hold hands with their wives. They give the kids horsie-rides and act like big kids. And they only complain about back pain half as much the next day because the tide is perfect for more rock fishing!

Food tastes better on holidays. The sun feels warmer. The sheets feel softer. The air is cleaner. The music is the sort you find your foot tapping to. The sunsets are memorable. The dad jokes are way funnier. The dog’s smells are less offensive. The smiles from your kids are the ones you will never forget. The respect you have for the people in your life is renewed – not because they are your family but because they are the people you most adore in your world. And no matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve seen, you’ve been and seen it together.

And when you walk back in the door at home, and the kids go straight to their room and shut the door, and the TV is mindlessly switched back on, the laundry starts overflowing, the fridge needs re-stocking, the bills need paying and the noise of daily life slowly starts getting louder, there is one thing that will get you through and keep that holiday fresh in your mind. It’ll remind you that family holidays are always a great idea. They make you stronger. They change your perspective. They give you memories you will never forget.

His name is Rupert.

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