Summer’s here; cue screaming toddlers on planes, sleepless nights and sandy sunscreen dramas, says father of two Jamie Day
Time for a holiday! Sun, sea and sangria. Plans for the week: remain horizontal. Oh wait, I forgot, I’ve got two kids. Sure, there will be plenty of sun, but not around midday or the kids will fry like rashers of bacon. There will be plenty of sea, but when I say ‘plenty’, I mean you’ll be shrivelled up like a walnut having spent nine hours tugging around an inflatable dolphin. There may also be the odd sangria, but good luck drinking it before it turns to hot lava, as it sits out in the sun while you’re shrivelling in the sea.
But before all that, you’ve got the flight. Get through a flight with an explorative toddler or a bored child, and you’ll be laughing. We found out first hand just how difficult flights are with young children while en route to our first family holiday to Italy. Edie (who was nine months at the time) screamed so loud, mountain goats in the Alps were reported to have been seen leaping off cliff faces to escape the noise echoing from 30,000 feet above.
A few months later, en route to California, and now walking, Edie toddled up and down the aisle 417 times. What started as something cute soon soured as the plane’s carpet started to wear thin, along with the fellow passengers’ patience.
But we’ve learnt some lessons from those airborne experiences. With young toddlers it’s important to be well-equipped – everything from milk and blankets to teddies. We even brought Ewan the Dream Sheep once; though I’m confident his discreet heartbeat couldn’t be heard over the plane’s engine, he made a fantastic pillow for me. With older children, choose entertainment and distraction. We load up with colouring books and stories – and the iPad. Yep, I said it. But you’ll be grateful when it means you can enjoy that £12 rosé miniature.
Unfortunately the challenges don’t end when you touch down. Like most children, Edie and Arlo howled the first time they were expected to go anywhere near sand. You spend all that money on a beach holiday and then your children react like you’re torturing their tiny soles (and souls). Best way to get over this? Bury daddy. You’ll be finding sand in every orifice for weeks, but it works.
Next up, the sleeping, or lack of. Unfamiliar beds, missed daytime naps, jetlag, climbing the walls after six-too-many ice lollies – you get the picture. I’m no professional sleep-training fairy, but all we’ve ever done on holiday is try to make bedtime as normal as possible. We’ve taken nightlights from home, read a couple of extra stories to settle them, and accepted they might take a little longer to drop off.
We’ve been on various holidays since becoming parents and while they’ve had their moments, they’ve also left us with some of our fondest times. Looking back, for the sake of a difficult flight, would I want to be without the memories of the children exploring beautiful countries and coastlines? Never. Even the restless nights, the tiredness and the dunking of over-priced ice creams in sand are all worth it for the moments filled with curiousity and shrieking laughter. Lava-like sangria, anyone?
• Thank goodness for Vichy’s anti-sand range, which offers high UV protection while stopping sand from sticking to their skin. That, to me, sounds like a modern-day engineering miracle.
• Homemade fresh fruit ice lollies. Get the kids to help you make them and that’s an afternoon’s activity done, too.
• For London’s three-day-long summer, Myla & Oscar has some super-stylish play tents that will keep the kids shaded and look good in the garden, too.