Our recipe for great family holidays – lessons learned from a crash with a Police car

[themify_quote]Daddy, please next time can you not bump into a police car?[/themify_quote]

Those were Mademoiselle’s (then 4 years old) famous words as we were leaving Toulouse and its police station behind in the summer of 2011.


A couple of hours before, Mr Big ‘s foot had slipped, missing the brake pedal at a traffic light and our rented car slowly but surely bumped into the vehicle ahead… which belonged to the Police ! The police officer complained of having whiplash and his colleagues took us to their offices.. ! NOT a good start of our holidays.

The theme carried through as our hotel, newly opened, couldn’t quite cope with the guests, the blocked water system, the chef’s hazardous cooking and other incidents.  The flat we rented was nicely decorated but with no outdoor space. Oh and we also had a massive traffic jam on our way to the beach one day.

Not wanting to reproduce such a bad experience, we wrote together our “lessons learned”. We have applied them ever since and always had great holidays.

1. Choose either the countryside or the seaside

Remember that there are too many people on the roads going to the beach in the summer in France so chances of being caught in traffic are high. We now pick one or the other.

2. Choose a place you all like

Choosing a place solely based on the hope that there will be friends for Mademoiselle is a gamble.  Most of the time, the kids-friendly places had kids but they were boys so she wouldn’t play with them. We decided it was better to go for a place we like and find ways to have activities she’ll enjoy.

3. If going away for two weeks, move accommodations only once

Initially we were doing three days here, three days there. We now have found our rhythm : one week in one place, generally self-catering and one week in a hotel. This applies to our holidays in France. If going to Spain, Greece, etc.. we will choose the same villa for two weeks. This allows us to really get accustomed to the country to enjoy our holidays more.

4. Have an outdoor space if self-catering

At the end of the day, we like being able to hang our towels outside or to just have a nice apéritif on the terrace or the garden.

5. Start every day with an early swim in the pool

The whole family  jumps in the pool or go to the beach for a swim just after waking up and before breakfast. It’s not something you can do at home, is it? And it makes you so full of energy for the rest of the day

6. Explore all possibilities of the local village and not venture too far away

If you read all the information about the nearest village, you are sure to find activities, fêtes, restaurants,markets that can keep you busy for most of your days in the region. And after a while, you may even start to feel like a local.

7. Alternate a day at the accommodation and a day exploring

We don’t like our holidays packed with visits but we also don’t want to ignore the country we choose to visit. We generally plan our week at the beginning of the holidays. That being said, we are also very likely to wake up in the morning and completely change our plans if we feel like doing nothing !

8. Explore no more than 30 km from the accommodation point

Especially when Mademoiselle was younger, going on long drives to go see an architectural site was not worth it. 30km is half an  hour of drive plus a few minutes at the end to find the place  (as generally you get lost).

9. When considering places to visit, one out of three should be child-related (zoo, activity camp, fun fair…)

As a child, I visited a LOT of old churches with my parents and would say “not another one again”. Funnily enough, I now love visiting old churches but am conscious that it could get boring for Mademoiselle. Something fun especially for her will make for a happy child for a couple of days…

10. Don’t be ambitious. Doing nothing is a good thing.

Need I say more ?

11. And finally…. take the car insurance (see above !)


And you what are your lessons learned or tips for a good family holiday ?

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