Over Christmas we spent some time up north in Yamba. We hired a house, hit the beach and just generally chilled out – it was very much a home away from home.
It was great for us to spend time together as a family and highlighted that holidays are about the company, not the place.
I’ve long held the belief that escaping can only be done if it means leaving the country. Yet, with a toddler in tow going overseas is actually quite stressful. This break cemented this realisation for me, and this is why I’m holidaying near home for the next few years.
Toddlers are creatures of habit and getting them into a routine takes time, dedication and often much hair pulling. You wouldn’t suddenly adjust their bedtimes at home, feed them in the night or throw out naps in place of playing, would you? Well, entering a different time zone is much the same thing.
Even the most well-adjusted toddlers find a change in routine hard, especially if it’s a significant change in time. They don’t understand they should be asleep when awake and vice versa, and nor do they understand that they’re on holiday so should simply ‘suck it up’ instead of being a sulk.
You will spend most of the holiday feeling shattered while simultaneously trying to get your toddler to eat, sleep and play at the appropriate times. Just when you think you’ve nailed it, you fly home only to have to do it all again.
Travelling long haul
To simulate a travel experience, strap yourself into your dining chair. Allow your toddler to throw things at you, quite possibly your dinner, scream at you to change the TV channel 250 times (hide the remote for an extra challenge) and jump all over you.
Do this for an hour, then times it by the hours you’ll be travelling. You’re welcome.
Travelling with toddlers long haul is as fun as surrendering yourself to a pack of hungry wolves. No matter how well prepared you are, something will go wrong.
In the first ten minutes, you’ll have used up all the crayons (they’ll likely be under the goddamn chair in front – cue you scrambling around on the feral floor), have fed your toddler all the snacks and be waving down the hostess to ask for a vat of wine.
The reality versus the dream
In an ideal world, holidaying toddlers would play on the beach, build sandcastles and paddle in the sea. They would happily try new foods, enthusiastically run into the kids’ club and be happy to indulge in down time and sleep.
In reality, holidaying toddlers play on the beach until sand gets into their eyes. They build sandcastles happily until one doesn’t come out in a perfectly domed form. And they scream that the sea is too wet.
In reality, holidaying toddlers won’t eat anything unless it’s a chip, chicken nugget or ice cream. They’re not old enough for the kids club so hang out with you ALL.THE.TIME and the only sleep they plan on taking is when you’ve paid for them to go to the zoo.
Visiting tourist attractions overseas is memorable and with a toddler in tow even more so … but not always for the right reasons.
Try telling a toddler that standing in the hour-long queue to see a camouflaged animal is worth the wait. Try engaging their interest or making them sit still longer than five minutes to listen to a talk. And try to wrestle the toy off them in the gift shop with a price tag equivalent to a night in your hotel.
Then there’s the screaming meltdowns brought on by the heat and over tiredness. And by the time you’ve negotiated another crowd free route with the stroller, you’ll likely be having a meltdown yourself.
The cost (to your wallet and mental health)
Going overseas is expensive from a monetary point of view – no matter how much you budget and how much you plan. But what comes at more of a cost is often your mental health!
Being away from home with toddlers takes us into the unknown. You stress about the flight, the packing and the time zones. On arrival, you stress about just being away. Relaxation feels as far flung as the location, and the only thing toddler proof is the kids club they can’t get in.
So, are you really going to pay good money to return home more tired and stressed than you left? You know what my answer is now. Maybe it’s time you reconsidered it too?