Tag Archives: family vacations

Travelling with family gets ugly

They say family reunions on vacation is a wonderful idea and a great way to see those cousins, aunties and grandparents that you haven’t seen for such a long time. Some people might disagree. In fact a lot of people probably feel this way because it only happens roughly once every ten years (if at all).

First of all the organisation involved is multi-layered so it usually takes the OCD member of the family to do all the detail stuff such as explaining to Aunt Hilda that she cannot bring her dachshund Willy to the resort. Of course cousin Joe will have to be told not to bring THAT type of girl to the function – the aunts will be shocked and Great Uncle Bill won’t be able to keep his hands to himself. Oh and we have to make sure that our flight doesn’t connect in a US airport because you know Uncle Dennis had that “incident” with the police years ago – it really wasn’t his fault!

Things can go wrong rather quickly – On a trip with my family, many years ago, to Dublin to reconnect with cousins and aunts the excitement was overwhelming (at least to us kids). If you have ever heard a crowd of Irish people talking you probably won’t have understood much of it. I still have problems today when I phone my cousin in Dublin because the accent is so strong and she talks so fast. Now multiply that by 20. Everyone hugging and talking – Mom and Dad were over from England, Auntie Betty had come from New York and Uncle Joe had come down from his hermit like existence in his hilltop farmhouse. After much back slapping and “Jaysus, Mary and Joseph – look at the grey hair on you, will ya?” it was decided to make off for the pub where everyone could enjoy a Guinness together. Out the little house they all piled into their separate cars and drove off in six different directions – all going to a different pub. You see – organisation was very lacking there – but it was all very Irish.

As a child I grew up in Mullion, Cornwall – a favourite seaside destination for people from “up north”. As my grandmother lived in Birmingham it was decided that she should get the train and come down and have a holiday with us. My parents gave her the main bedroom and mom and dad made do with a single bed in the spare room – well it was only for a week – right? Hahaha – the gods were laughing. We took a lovely trip out to St Michael’s Mount – the tide was low so we were able to walk all along the causeway to the castle but we didn’t make very good timing because of Nanny. Well it wasn’t that she couldn’t walk very well – it was because she had noticed the periwinkles latched to the side of the causeway and started picking them. Periwinkles are described thus in wiki –

“The common periwinkle or winkle (Littorina littorea) is a species of small edible whelk or sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc that has gills and an operculum, and is classified within the family Littorinidae, the periwinkles. This is a robust intertidal species with a dark and sometimes banded shell.”

These, apparently, are a popular snack in British sea side coastal towns. I found them listed in an article about 25 Classic British foods that foreigners find gross – and I am definitely in the foreigners club here. So were my mom and dad. “Mom, c’mon stop picking them periwinkles. What are you going to do with them for Chris’sake” said my dad. “Oooh son, you’d pay a fortune for a packet of these. Going to cook them up when I get home. I just happen to have a paper bag her in my handbag.” Yep – that paper bag was full before we knew it and we had to sit in the back of the car with Nanny and the periwinkles. UGH.

But it got worse – Nanny kept the packet of winkles on the dressing table – and they were STILL ALIVE. My sister and I would creep into the room when she was out and listen to the rustling going on inside the packet. They were trying to escape. We had nightmares of being chased by huge periwinkles all slimy. That was until they died.

After a week my mom and dad were threadbare with sharing a single bed and not getting much sleep – but they had done their job and now the next day we would take Nanny to the station and she would get on the train back to Birmingham. Except that afternoon she tripped, fell and broke her arm. We all went in the car to the hospital while she had her arm set in a plaster cast. My dad was so fed up. “She’d trip on her own spit” he said! The nurse was shocked. She was even more shocked when my dad asked if she would be alright to get on the train the next day. “Mr Holland” she said sternly “Your mother is an elderly lady and she has broken her arm.”

“Exactly!” said my dad. “Her arm – not her leg!”

Yep – family vacations – small and big – can be stressful and sometimes don’t have such a happy ending.

The kids made me do it

We just had to go to Disney. For kids who where born and grew up in a small kingdom in Africa the idea of a trip to Disneyworld was so incredible we just had to make it happen. It was a long trip – a four hour drive from our home in Mbabane Swaziland to Johannesburg International airport.

Then 11.5 hours flying time to London – and then another 9.5 hours to Orlando. Boy this Mickey Mouse better be worth it. And he was, as well as the Ninja Turtles and Goofy …. just the look on the kids’ faces was enough reward for me.

Having said that I did have to laugh when I came across this British comedy skit of a travel agent booking a Disney trip …. if you have time check this out. (“It’s just a man in a suit!”)

The mom’s face says it all

So I did Disney (twice) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the kids had more fun looking at me being terrified of the rides. And we did pace ourselves. Disney can be pretty exhausting if you are determined to get your money’s worth. I had to laugh the last time I was down there for a travel function. I have honestly never seen so many crying children and so many moms with strollers where the beverage holder had a beer! Well maybe it was a Coke!

Are we having fun yet?

Family holidays can be a challenge at the best of times but they do create some wonderful memories and some good stories to share over dinner.

Fishing trips were a big one in our family and the kids were taught at an early stage to fly fish. We took many camping trips while we lived in Africa. We would hitch up the trailer and drive down to the coast. The beach was miles long and almost deserted and we had to take the 4×4 to drive along it. Lunch in the cooler box, a fishing rod and not a life guard to be seen. Alas when we got back to the camp we found the monkeys had cleverly broken into the trailer and opened every Tupperware container they could find. What a mess!

No – I am not having fun – so there!

Or the time we took a cruise from Durban stopping off at a small port on Madagascar island. We took a taxi from the port to a nearby beach. Imagine the look on the boys’ faces when they saw that there was no floor in the car at the back – it had completely rusted away – so they had to keep their feet up away from the axle. And you wonder why they call that port Hellville!

Or our first cruise in North America – out of LAX along the Mexican Riviera. Our first sea day sitting up on deck I could not find the youngest one anywhere. I started to panic until I saw him leading the conga line – having the time of his life! That’s what you have to do on a family vacation – just roll with the punches and make sure you get a photo!

Family vacations and herding cats

So hubby says to you “Honey I think we should plan a vacation to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary”.  What a great idea.  Maybe a Caribbean cruise?  You happen to mention it to your sister who says “Fantastic – we’ll join you”.  ….  OK.  Well now that your sister is coming you should maybe invite your brother and sister-in-law.  Then you have to invite your parents and …… his parents.

Now your parents and his parents get along just fine – in small doses – and you can usually get through the Thanksgivings and Christmasses without any hassles but a whole week together?  They are very different.  Your parents like bingo, stand up comedy and a few glasses of wine.  His parents prefer a small glass of sherry and a string quartet.  But hey!  They say cruises these days cater to all types and with 2000 people on board then it should be easy to get lost in the crowd.

But then Great Aunt Ethel pops up on the radar. Of course she wants to come – how can we leave Great Aunt Ethel out of the picture?  Only problem is Great Aunt Ethel is 75 and is travelling as a single as Great Uncle Ernest shuffled off his mortal coil a few years back.  This provokes a family debate about how unfair the cruise lines are to charge double just because Great Uncle Ernest is not around any more and after all you are a travel agent – isn’t there someone you can speak to?  Tell you what – let’s put Tamara in with Great Aunt Ethel.  Then Tamara’s mom and dad only have to share their cabin with two kids intead of three and Great Aunt Ethel doesn’t have to pay the single supplement.  

No-one refers this to Tamara – after all she is only 14.  However Tamara finds out about this scheme via her younger sister Chloe (aged 6) who has radar ears and picks up everything.

“Hahahaha – you’re going to have to share a cabin with Great Stinky Aunt Ethel”….

Tamara – “My life is ruined!  MOM…. you can’t do this to me.  Then I am not coming.  That’s it.  I am going to run away.”

No amount of reasoning or bribes can convince Tamara to share a cabin with Great Aunt Ethel.  However your mother in law has already phoned the cruise line directly despite the fact that you are the travel agent on file.  Naturally the cruise line can do ANYTHING for a member of the public and immediately offers a reduced single supplement for Great Aunt Ethel.  Wonderful, now you look like a complete idiot but at least Great Aunt Ethel is off your hands.

In the meantime your father in law has been reading online reviews about the cruise ship and is starting to question your choice of ship, cruise line, itinerary, pre cruise hotel and flights.


You reassure him about the cruise line, gently advise him that he has been looking up the wrong ship and reassure him regarding the itinerary which you have done before and absolutely loved.

After getting everyone’s deposits on file your get a phone call from your brother-in-law.  He needs to tell you confidentially that he is considering leaving your sister and therefore the timing of this cruise is totally out for him.  He hasn’t told your sister any of this and now he has dumped this in your lap.  Do you say anything or not?  How can you not?  And of course the deposit is non-refundable.


Isn’t this supposed to be about your wedding anniversary?  Phone the cruise line rep, call in a favour, get all the deposits fully refundable, cancel all the bookings and get the refunds to everyone’s cards.  Quickly get the last two seats on that flight to Tahiti, book the overwater bungalow, tell your husband…..