I love and loathe them in equal measures. They morph over time. Just when you're used to the Isle of Wight bucket, spade and ice cream variety when your kids are young, you realise that sand between the toes is not going to cut the mustard when they reach thirteen. Having said that, my boys are generally happy with whatever we present them with although eldest finds a break from routine tricky to navigate.
And as for me, the planning, packing and covering of all potenial eventualities means I usualy arrive exhausted. The decision-making process that precedes every holiday - when , where and how - causes sleepless night before hand and at least a week to recover afterwards.
Then there are all those stupid things you have to do before you leave, from emptying the fridge (which is why we always find ourselves eating slightly dodgy, past the sell by dates items the night before we leave) , finding obliging cat-loving pet feeders , boil washing flip flops that have seen better days and locating that prohibitively expensive can of insect repellant that you took last year.
Painting toe nails would be a luxury and if I even dare attempt it, I usually end up smudging it everywhere as there's never enough time to leave it to dry properly.
Not only that but husband has usually arranged for some untimely and complicated buiding project on the house that entails leaving keys for builders, burglar-friendly ladders strewn across the front garden and the need to leave windows open for paint to dry. We might as well put up a sign that says " Help Yourself to Valuables in our Absence" . And talking of husband , he always considers holidays to be 'effortless' which is generaly because he hasn't spent months online reseraching, choosing and booking nor been involved in any way with currency, passports, re-chargers, bulging first-aid kits, packing, transport, feeding logistics or contingency plans. The first night usually finds him with a beer in hand declaring the whole process a success. A bit like Christmas really - the other halves only have to turn up.
Having said that what would we do without them ? Well, probably be a lot better off. But then they do give you that thinking time that you never get in the normal day to day humdrum of life and the odd laugh along the way. This year's came in the form of a 'scene' at the mini golf. Having engineered the entire week's entertainment, dining arrangements and general logistics of getting youngest son plus two friends, eldest plus girlfriend and other half to our destination, we found ourselves on the last day at a nearby adventure golf course ( a must have for any seaside holiday ) having played a round of 18 holes for youngest son's eighteenth birthday, which also involved my hiding behind a bush attempting to inflate a giant surprise metallic '18' birthday balloon for the eighteenth hole . That day had already entailed birthday breakfast for eight , birthday presents, balloons, banners and birthday cake ( no small feat when you've had to pack and hide that lot ). The evening's entertainment had been planned too - a beautiful restaurant located in a stunning deer park - no detail left to chance as I'd had to book it weeks in advance due to its popularity. This just left one teensy detail unplanned - where to have lunch. Thought I'd leave that to husband. After dithering around for half an hour declaring my suggestion of afternoon tea unpopular and writing off the cafe at the Craft Barn next door , there followed much faffing at which I asked husband to just make a ( bloody ) decision. Youngest son came to the rescue with a phone app which offers suggestions on where to eat nearby. A five minute drive later we found ouselves on an industrial estate eating Thai Noodles from an unlikely looking shed in the car park. Could have been a disaster but looking back, it was pretty hilarious.
And what did I learn from this whole experience ? Never leave anything to your husband, never forget that five hungry youngsters are an ugly sight to behold and thank god for mobile phones.