So, you spend months saving for a family holiday. By the end of the cycle of overtime and extra shifts, you feel that you are owed a relaxing getaway. You pack your kids and partner onto a plane, zip across to somewhere hot, and then spend the next week or two as a constantly swinging between tearing your hair out, trying to keep your family entertained, to lounging, bored out of your mind, by a grimy pool filled with squabbling, spoiled pre-teens. Your ideal holiday has become a nightmare reality of boredom and stress.
The reasons behind this rather too familiar situation are varied, and I cannot presume to know your exact circumstances. However, I can provide you with some advice which could prevent much of this holiday-horror. Furthermore, I shall guide you the whole way.
Let's go back to the beginning. Before you even book a holiday, have a long, hard think about where you want to go. Perhaps trawl Lonely Planet guidebooks for ideas, or even browse the web. Keep track of the news in your potential destinations, too. Forest fires, floods and widespread rioting can affect the quality of your chosen location's holiday experiences.
Booking. Shop-around and compare prices. You probably don't need me to tell you that, but I'll include it anyway. The temptation is always there to save-time by just clicking the first big, flashy corporate website which assures that it offers the 'lowest price, guaranteed'.
For some, 'package holidays' have everything that they need. That's fine. I'm not going to turn my nose up at pre-organised getaways. I've experienced several which have been wonderfully memorable, and I don't know about you, but I rather like not being financially ruined by a two-week summer retreat. However, I will say this about such experiences: they have the potential to be fairly restrictive. Consider carefully how much time you would like to leave for exploring, family activities and (best of all), lazing-around in your new environment. If a package holiday is not for you, that's also okay, but ensure you have a safety-net in case of emergencies. As well as the hotel in which you aim to stay, note-down nearby alternatives. Perhaps try to learn as much as possible about public transportation in the area. Planning is key to a stress-free holiday.
Finally, and I would happily advise any-and-all of you to do this, sample the local flavour. On a Turkish getaway with my family a few years ago, I grew restless. Everything seemed so painfully constructed around tourists. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for home-comforts, but the fabricated atmosphere drove me to hire a car and explore the surrounding towns and villages for the following days. Car hire can be expensive, and I probably couldn't afford to do it again on the fly like that but I certainly do not regret it. I enjoyed every moment of the adventure, from visiting a non-tourist cafe, in which the owners spoke not a word of English (and yet the children of both our families quickly became friends), right down to the part where I broke down in the middle of nowhere after the hire-firm's closing time. Even the fourty-five minutes of tinkering it took to fix the car and get us home just added to the experience.