Saturday, 8 October 2011

Holidays - what now?

So, here we are in 2008, and now we have a baby - but that's not a big deal - we just carry on with our holidays like before, right?

Well - as a couple, using just two seats on a plane, and with no children to worry about, a package holiday outside the school holidays, a room and self-catering really is the best option. What I did not realise was that everything was going to change.

First time out - May 2008 with 8 month Ollie, everything was pretty much to form. We went to Minorca (our honeymoon), he sat on Claire's lap on the plane, we hired a car, ate out most nights in restaurants, he had jars of baby food, no problem.

By our next holiday, February 2009 in Fuerteventura, things were getting a little more difficult. He still had to sit on our laps on the plane and it was a nightmare. We also had major problems in restaurants - he was too little for child portions and too big for baby food. By the time the following year came round, February 2010 this had become a major problem. He did not understand that you had to order food and wait for it, and then there was the double whammy that anything that came was way too hot and put in front of him and couldn't be eaten straightaway. Eating out at night changed from a pleasure to an ordeal - and it was also hideously expensive. Lucky to get away from any restaurant with change out of 50 euros. Plus we had to pay for his seat on the plane, effectively increasing the cost of the holiday by 50%.

And then we all got ill.

Don't take any notice of offers of "free child places" by travel agents, they merely increase the base price of the two adults accordingly. So you will see the same holiday priced at £750pp with one free child place - or reduced to £500pp but with no free child place. Either way you pay £1500.

So the Lanzarote holiday went badly, clearly time for a re-think. Prior to that we had our first trip to Butlins which went well. Monday - Friday in term time, very pleasant, none of the hen and stag nonsense of the weekends and the self-service nature of the food worked well with Ollie.

But I still wanted to go abroad, so looked for somewhere abroad with the same criteria as Butlins, and found a place in Ibiza, all-inclusive, and with kids club. It went reasonably well apart from the fact that the food was not a patch on Butlins, and again we all got ill.

But I can't see much future for us in these types of holidays. They are being priced out of our range. Not only are we going to have a 4th seat on the plane for Jamie, but going out of school holidays is going to start becoming a problem.

To summarise, what we used to do as a couple for £800 has risen to close to £2000 and to do what we have been doing as a family of four incoporating part of the school holidays has soared to £3000+. That's a lot of nights DJ'ing. Just looking at February half term for next year I cannot find anything decent for under £2000 and that's even with Jamie still sat on our lap. May is slightly cheaper, but for other reasons I can't go into here, booking a trip abroad that far ahead has other complications at present.

So what is to be done? No more foreign holidays? One thing is clear - the more our family grows the more economical it is to purchase holidays not per person - but per room. For example the chalets at Butlins cost the same however many people you have in them. This largely rules out flights - and any transport that's per seat. So cars and boats - good. Planes and trains - bad.

Butlins is good - but it's not long enough. Monday to Friday is not a proper holiday. You can book for 7 days but I am not sure I want to be there at the weekend and for my whole holiday. How can we get a decent holiday in the UK? And then I hit on an idea - for this year at least.

We don't have any restriction taking Ollie out this year, which makes May a favourable month to go away. When we go to Butlins we book Deluxe room and Premium Dining - which costs about £1000 during the school holidays but in May it's only £350. I want a holiday of a decent length but without missing too much work and I hit on this 3 stage plan.

1) We go down to Butlins for a 4 day holiday in Minehead on a Monday in May - say the 7th. We stay until the 11th.

2) We then drive on down into Cornwall - Padstow or somewhere like that is not far as we are already half way there, and stay in a nice self-catering cottage by the sea to for 3 days, from the Friday until Monday. Then we can eat out, drive around see a bit of my favourite county.

3) On Monday we drive back to Butlins at Minehead and have a second Monday - Friday week, returning home on the Friday.

In summary, we have had an 11 day holiday with a bit of variety, I have only missed one weekend of DJ'ing and all of this can be done on a budget of about a £1000 with all the food apart from the 3 days in Cornwall thrown in. And never more than 3 hours of travelling at any one time.

I have never heard of anyone else every doing anything like this - but I reckon it's a perfect plan. I'd be interested to hear your feedback!

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Jason x x

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