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Image / Editorial

‘I have immense admiration, nay an almost religious awe, for parents who take young children abroad’

by Laurence Mackin
31st Dec 2019

Travelling with kids is a whole new adventure for first-time dad Laurence Mackin 

There are so many ways that having a child changes your life, but none is perhaps ruined more irrevocably than going on holidays.

Previously on Living Like Larry, holidays were an absolute breeze. Pick a destination, scrape the cash together, check out a hotel, realise your taste far exceeds your wallet, check out more hotels, start to feel a little put out by the whole enterprise, have a few drinks, book an overpriced hotel while half-steaming, decide to go ahead with it anyway the next morning and damn the consequences. A. Breeze.

But on season two, Living Like Larry’s Daughter’s Fetcher of Things, all is changed and changed forevermore. We have not to-date had the energy or the inclination to “go abroad”. I have immense admiration, nay an almost religious awe, for my compatriot parents.

(I had a delightful joke here about “compatrients” that punned on “packing my portmanteau”, thereby riffing on the travel theme established in paragraph one, but my wife read it and said: “Don’t be a dickhead, no one will get it, only you would find that funny”, so here we are.)

We have several friends who have travelled with their children, and some have even done it solo. I have left the house for a few days with my daughter and realised that I need a small van to transport all her puck. I have no idea how these friends do these things, but I imagine, like writing a novel or running a marathon, it probably takes so much effort and preparation that it’s entirely unworthy afterwards. “No,” they insist, “It is brilliant.” “Great,” I say, “I am very happy for you. But how do you get seven suitcases on a flight?” I assume they must all be smugglers, which as we look down the barrel of Brexit, seems like a good place to be.

The problems, though, with traveling with children are more basic than supply chain cargo management. The first issue is rooms, the most basic, hotly contested unit of any holiday endeavour. Our daughter does not sleep in our room, and hasn’t since a very early age. If we do share a room, she’ll toss and turn and make little noises, and you spend the whole night on high alert, responding to her non-distress signals, whether you intend to or not.

There is a second element to this that if you have never had a child, you will never have thought about before in your life. (Much like other things you’ve managed to ignore all this time, such as pensions, garden centres and Unionism.)

If you have a child asleep in your room, you are essentially trapped in that room with them. You cannot move (they awake!). You cannot have lights on (they awake!). You cannot get merrily drunk while sneaking out to the balcony for a smoke because you are on holidays (they awake and they will rat you out). This means for even a modicum of freedom, you basically end up sitting outside the room in the hallway, like a used breakfast tea tray. And no one needs that sloshing around in their self-confidence.

You could of course wait somewhere else, monitoring your child with the camera you’ve brought with you. But how close is the bar to the room? Will the wifi work? And how drunk will you be when you get back? All good questions you find yourself anxiously grappling with as you wrestle your many suitcases into the car.

Two rooms will solve the issue, but two rooms is ridiculously expensive, and look at her: she is only the size of a decent-sized drawer, despite the 17 bags she came with. So instead you end up trawling hotel sites looking for a room with two sections. These are the dream. These are the holy grail. These tend to be called suites, and they tend to fit into the two-room price bracket.

I always believed when I got to the age/wealth bracket where I could afford a suite, it would be because I was halfway through the world tour, and up to my eyes in the after-party. I didn’t think it would be because the most attractive thing in the room is the dividing wall and the bed and the promise of eight straight hours of unadulterated sleep.

There is of course the self-catering option, and there are now lots of hotels that have full houses on site, offering all the convenience of your own home but hopefully with nicer décor that doesn’t have sticky bits all over it (how does this keep happening? She doesn’t even eat jam and yet her palms seem to ooze the stuff). This is a good option but bear in mind, when it comes to hotel politics you are a second-class citizen. Not for you the thrill of the room service hustle – but it beats hanging around the hallway like a second-hand lunch.

Despite all this, we still went on a short break in November. We packed our worldly possessions and headed for the east Cork hills. We went to Fota Island Resort and although we were the only guests who were not a) in a foreign football team and b) part of an FAI delegation that I assume was preoccupied with their own imminent demise, I can’t speak highly enough of the place. We took a self-catering lodge for a bargain rate, the indoor playroom was a lifesaver, and despite having one of the fanciest spas in Europe, they are happy to let your child in during certain hours.

Fota was a delight, but I came back determined to show her those wild animals in their natural habitat. Her passport photo has been taken and I can’t wait to see her little pudding head immortalised in a square of official document cuteness. 2020 will finally be the year when I join my travelling compatrients. Even if I have to pack my own portmanteau.

Parenting tip no 7

If you are planning a little weekend away, or a longer trip, always check the terms and conditions on a hotel’s facilities. We got badly stung on a cheeky two-day trip to Wexford when we found out that the hotel spa had a no-children rule, which included the pool. Don’t believe the “family friendly” labels without studying the small print.

Photo: Pexels 

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