Sorry no vacancies to-night

There seems to be a lot of debate about British holidays at the moment. Already today I've read this ridiculous Guardian article about camping (in a £1000 tipi) and seen something on BBC Breakfast that had lots of people complaining about how expensive and dismal it is to holiday here. Up til now we've gone abroad, but this year we couldn't afford it and I got the feeling that we'd be better off at home anyway. Although we've had some great foreign holidays it feels like we all enjoy different bits for different reasons and it's a struggle trying to find something that we all want to do. And Tommy shouts loudest so keeping him entertained is the priority. Now we've got two kids it feels like we're on a sliding scale of discomfort, that runs from hotels through self-catering apartments, holiday camps, caravans and camper vans until it hits the ground with camping. I'm not slagging any of these options, I'm just aware that none of them feel natural yet but I've a feeling they're going to be our lot for the next few years. So as an experiment, we booked a week at Pontin's. I realise that I often champion things here where the reality might not match up to my romantic idea of it and that maybe it was time to put my money where my mouth was. So to cut a long story short it was the best family holiday we've ever had. It was cheap, easy to arrange, not much travelling, lots of things to do and see and we all enjoyed it equally. I worry constantly about everything most of the time, but in this week away everything felt right. I've been trying to make sense of it for a week (because I did a lot of thinking while I was there) but so much happened I thought I'd report back in bits. It seems a bit fragmented but it's that or nothing and I'm interested in hearing about how it compares to other people's experiences, so stay tuned for a day by day account of our travels.

Next: The Great British Holiday Day 1: Glasgow-Blackpool

I love the variety of the UK. If you stay away from the over-visited honeypot destinations it's pretty hard to beat. Talking of Pontins... when we were in Morecambe last weekend, we took a diversion to Middleton to see if Pontins was still open (though as kids we were more of a Butlins family). The Middleton Tower site is about to be made into a retirement village. The chalets are in the process of being demolished, and the famous 'SS Berengaria' Ship On Land seems to have vanished. Shame – I'd have like to blagged my way in with my camera.

Hi Gareth. That's sad about the SS Berengaria. I took a photo last time we were there and it didn't look long for this world. I'm sure the old folk would have loved it as well. They could have had ballroom dancing every afternoon.

I remember (pre-kids) asking a colleague who had kids how his holiday had been. He just shrugged and said 'It was alright'. To me then having a rubbish holiday was about the worst thing I could imagine. He explained that when you holiday with your kids it's basically a damage limitation exercise. They don't like doing what you like doing and vice versa. So, as you put it 'they shout loudest' so they do what they like doing and you hang around and watch. His words seemed incredibly negative back then, now they describe the holiday experience almost completely. You learn to enjoy small victories as a parent on holiday like a nicely situated bench, a takeaway coffee or a half finished crossword. Don't get me wrong I love seeing my lads having a good time but 8 hours of every day for a week is a long time to keep that grin fixed. It has got better as the lads have got older (now 5 & 9) and our last break down at Legoland Windsor was actually really good fun. It took me completely by surprise. I look forward to hearing of your Pontins experience.

Hi Anne. I'm not surprised it was the best holiday you've ever had; apart from looking and sounding fantastic I tend to think the British seaside really is just about perfect for small children. I also remember loving Pontins and Butlins when I was a child. And caravan parks. I hated camping though, but we always had rubbish equipment and slept basically right on the ground and got really, really cold. Even when it had been a really hot day.
Our best holiday ever was at the Welsh seaside last year - staying in a youth hostel (which are incredibly family friendly as it turns out) and doing little else but pottering about on the beach. Even on days when it was a bit cold and windy the children still had a great time on the beach and the chips at tea time tasted even better. A really great thing about staying in a youth hostel is that it has lots of room for adults to read, drink a beer, relax, etc., in the evening all within ear shot of a crying child. And there seems to be a lot of camaraderie between the parents so everyone sort of listens out for everyone else's children. There are always people to chat to as well.
Not quite built up the courage for a camping holiday yet (the initial cost of buying a tent and all the equipment is a bit of a limiting factor - don't know if you can hire this stuff?) but possibly next year.
As far as general holidaying with small children goes, my approach now (after a disastrous long weekend in Barcelona) is to plan on doing nothing but do it outside. And really, the British weather is actually nicer for small children than blistering sunshine.
Really nice to hear about your holiday though. Looking at your pictures I want to go to all of these places too! Look forward to hearing some more.

Thanks both. Mike - the words "damage limitation" did spring to mind and you're right about the small victories. John - I hadn't thought of youth hostels. Don't the youth mind? I feel the same about camping. Buying all the gear is quite a commitment if it's not going to work out, but saying that everyone I know who has been loves it.

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