It takes a while once you have kids to come to terms with how you need to reframe your holiday (vacation) expectations. I remember clinging to the old life for a bit. We’d pay extreme amounts of money for middle-class, baby friendly hotels, (the kind I’d imagine Jamie Oliver would go to). The kind that served baby food in the restaurants and provided baby monitors for when grown ups went to to dinner. (Agonisingly, even if the thing didn’t go off, you’d spend the whole meal watching it anyway thinking it was broken).
Soon though, you realise you just need to forget it. Let it go. The minute you understand that there’s no point in trying to holiday like you used to (i.e. for your own selfish pleasure) is the minute you can start working out how to navigate what is now your life.
That’s when you go to place like BUTLINS (Americans, I don’t think you don’t have an equivalent – it’s basically Vegas for kids). What you get there is to see your offspring having the most fun ever (that in itself is pretty satisfying), but also, here’s the good bit… the burdensome responsibility of having to provide perennial, joyful distraction for your kids is handed over IN FULL, to excitable, young adults in red coats.
*There’s also the sneaky “take the grandparents/HIGHLY TRUSTED babysitters option or to take another family who have similar age kids. **Both of these replicate the function of a red coat.
But, if you are in America you have this: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS!
Now, after 3 goes at this, I would like to confirm that this concept is PERFECT for all family things. In England there are cottages to rent (but it can be hit and miss). There’s CenterParcs (the cabin in the woods is very similar, with no Center and no Parcs), but definitely, American cabins have got it ALL.
So far we have done 3 such trips: Brown County, Indiana, Norris Lakes and Gatlinburg, both Tennessee. I think I can be confident of the formula as follows:
- Location somewhere you can drive to… shouts.. ROAD TRIIIIIP… and thus can pack kids up with tech, snacks and a boot (trunk) full of … anything you like! *electrical charge is an issue
- Secluded tucked away cabin location…in the woods, often up a mountain
- Awesome cosiness, just like you’re in someone’s actual house, someone who knows how to live in said environment
- HOT TUB! Making you feel like you are in an incredibly posh situation, especially as there are going to be ZERO random humans in it for you to have to try and avoid eye contact with
- GAMES! Board games (all) then a combo of at least 2 of the following: table football, pool table, air hockey, retro pacman table, pinball machine etc.
- Facilitation of (mostly safe) opportunities for men to make fire (BBQs and fire pits)
- Frequently cited threat of bears, whilst filling cabin with cute fake bears, slightly messing with your ability to judge bears
- Heart felt and religious placards coupled with the odd bawdy one that makes you twitch as and look back at the 2 previous kinds and note the incongruence. (Live, laugh, love…. KISS MY GRITS.. whaaaa?)
- The ability to RUN with everything nature can offer! (See also: threat of bears, mountains and seclusion)
The cabin in the wood, is perfect.
FOOTNOTE: American friends who have got even this far reading my jibber jabber, if you go to Gatlinburg, I so recommend Anakeesta Mountain Theme Park. You get to go up a chair lift, walk through gardens, go on the coolest rollercoaster that you control yourself, do a treetop walk and eat delicious ice cream (and.or meaty things from food trucks that meat people like.. if you like that sort of thing)
That’s all. You’re welcome.