Sunday, 26 August 2012

Are holidays (and travelling to them) more stressful now?

I remember flying abroad when I was a child.  Those memories are vastly different to the flight we take every year for holidays now with our own children. Are we more demanding or has the whole holiday experience become something different?

When I was young, my dad worked very hard and did a second job in order for us to have holidays.  I remember the excitement of going away - whether it was to Devon or abroad.

If we went to Devon, invariably staying in a caravan or, occasionally, a chalet, I would be woken up around 2am, dressed in the dark and plonked in the car ready for the journey.  Why on earth my parents always left for Devon in the middle of the night is a total mystery.  I know there were less motorways then but surely it didn't that *that* much longer to drive the distance?

Another quirk of driving to our holiday destination was me asking dad to 'go a bit faster' and sometimes even wanting him to 'over-take'.  This rarely happened.  I am sure my dad drove at a very sensible pace but I have this vivid memory of my mum saying about anyone who overtook us "We will get there before them anyway." How she calculated this was beyond me. They were driving faster than us and overtaking various other cars so how would we get their first. Was it a 'Hare and Tortoise' thing?  Was she sure that everyone who drove faster had to stop somewhere on route for a long picnic and then we would come trundling past? I don't think I'll ever understand her logic but it makes me smile to think of her saying that even today.

Our Devon holidays were relaxing. We sat in the sunshine (it was always sunny you know), found crabs and little fish in rock pools, walked around cliffs and had fish & chip suppers.  We didn't eat out often as it wasn't really the done thing then but we would all dress up for the occasional meal out.  In fact, I remember us all being dressed to the nines to go to a Harvester for dinner!

When we went abroad, this was an even more exciting adventure.  The whole household would be buzzing weeks before the holiday was due.   I am sure mum probably starting ironing and packing about a month in advance!

The day before the flight I would hardly sleep.  It was almost as exciting as Christmas.  The morning of our trip we would be up early and dressed up. Yes, I do mean 'dressed up'.  Dad *always* wore a suit and tie on the plane!  Mum would wear a smart outfit and I would be in some kind of dress or nice trousers.  Our family would never have dreamed of getting onto an aircraft in jeans.

The flight was exciting. There was no TV or video games.  I would play 'word search' with dad or we'd get the cards out and play Crib (I was taught that very young), snap, etc.  Newspapers and magazines were read and colouring was done.

Mum and dad both smoked so sometimes we had the first row of smoking on the flight or the last row of no-smoking so they could just take turns to walk backwards for a cigarette.  Yes, smoking on aircraft. Can you imagine how revolting that was?  What makes me laugh on reflection was that you had a certain number of 'smoking rows' on the plane straight behind the 'non-smoking' section.  So, basically, the seats behind you could be puffing away 20 to the dozen and you'd be in front in no-smoking inhaling more than the occupants behind you were. There was no 'barrier' between the seats. No glass section that slid down to stop the rest of the plane being contaminated.  For me, as an asthmatic, it wasn't always the best of things.  However, my parents did buy little fans that were battery operated to try and keep the smoke away from me.  It was a different ethos back then you know ;-)

When we arrived at our destination, we more often than not, departed the plane to get onto a coach to run us 200 yards into the airport terminal, where we got off the bus, went through passport control (where you got your passport stamped in pretty much every country you visited which was nice) and off to collect the baggage.  Bag spotting was something I loved to do with my dad while mum stayed with the trolley.  Once we'd collected them, off we went onto another coach to be driven around most of the country we were visiting until we were dropped off at our hotel, often at night.

Again, holidays were relaxing.  Playing on the beach or by the pool all day, stopping for a light lunch at the hotel (we never went self-catering) and then up to the room at the end of the day to get washed and changed before going out for a walk around the town and getting dinner, normally at the hotel again.

What is is like now?

The children are excited about their holiday but not to the point they don't sleep. It's like they take it in their stride.  S often says "Where are we going on holiday next year?" like it's an acceptable part of life that you just *have* holidays.

Hubby and I tolerate every part of the travelling from the airport check-in to getting off the plane at our destination.  We don't enjoy it though.  Our children are pretty good on aircraft. We have bought a portable DVD player and a couple of sets of headphones for them and we take a selection of their favourite films and TV programmes.  This often means switching between discs every 15-20 mins but if it keeps them quiet that's just fine. We take crayons and paper or colouring books and lots of 'treat' foods to bribe them (yes it's bad but it's only a few hours a couple of times a year).

The last time we truly enjoyed flying was when we went away a few times before having the girls and flew upper class with Virgin and had a ball in the lounge and on the flight.  We can't afford that nonsense now ;-)

Perhaps it's just that it is so crowded at the airports now.  Finding a place to sit and have a little time is hard work.  The whole place is geared up for you spending money, not entertaining your children or relaxing.

How things have changed.  Do you enjoy your holiday travelling or have you noticed a difference that is making it less fun now?

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