Updated: Jun 16
Like many, the past few years’ travel plans have been a total write-off, and like most of us, this year is the opportunity to be let out and start exploring again. The countdown to eating my weight in French cheese and saucisson sec, and drinking red wine whilst we teach the kids a card game or two, has definitely started.
This half-term we are travelling to Le Domaine des Ormes which is one of Tested by Tots’ top 10 European Holiday Parks, and we are sure we won’t be disappointed. We will be staying in a 2 bedroom Classic (sleeps 5) from Alfresco which, given we are campers, will feel like such a luxury, since our usual is to pack us all in, with camping gear, like sardines. Alfresco is a great company to travel with, as there isn’t much more other than your swimming costumes that you need to take, as they have lots of add-ons that already lighten the load!
The good news about this trip is that we are travelling with some regular travel buddies, all with children the same age. Which means that the pressure is off, and the kids will keep each other entertained! The kids have actually known each other since they were born so it takes no introduction or hand holding from us.
Where we have travelled in convoy before, this time we are all travelling separately to Le Domaine des Ormes. Louise and her team of boys will be taking the overnight boat, Elisha and her party will be travelling the night before, and we, the mentalists, will be driving through the night from Dunkirk all the way. Whilst this is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, it’s the most time efficient way of making the journey by car, with me sleeping-in the day before to ensure I’ve had enough rest.
Travelling with friends has lots of benefits to it, including what we call ‘sharing the load’.
When we travel, we tend to pack just about everything we can carry, but with a little bit of planning the task of packing could be a lot easier. Because I can pretty much guarantee that whatever one family packs, the other 2 will do too!
Start with looking at your cooking and domestic arrangements. What can you take between you that can be split up when you reach your destination? We collectively are big fans of dining alfresco, so between us we can split up the basics: salt; pepper; tomato sauce; and the like. We can also make things easy on us by planning the first night's meal all together: Team Karen will do the food; Lou will bring the coals/BBQ equipment/snacks; and Elisha will be doing some corn on the cob rolls and potatoes.
All this sounds all well and good but it is all in the planning. We will be having a trip planning session on Zoom the week before we pack, so we can make sure we are covering things off.
Domestic stuff is another key area that you can cut your load down. If I pick up a 9 pack of toilet rolls, Lou grabs a kitchen roll and Elisha picks up a 3 pack of sponges… you have your domestic kit! It also applies to the fun stuff: we have 3 boys between us and 2 girls. We don’t need 3 footballs, 3 sets of bats and balls, or in fact 10 badminton racquets or 3 sets of UNO. With a bit of pre-planning you can have all the creature comforts without saying no to much loved toys.
Start with making your own list of must-haves, and then on your planning session look at where the items cross over.
I am very lucky with my travel companions because we all have had our children together. We have all seen each other at our very worst and our very best. But it’s essential that if you are new to travelling with people you set some ground rules, which means no one oversteps the mark. Have these and you will all want to do it together again, year after year.
It may be that you actually only want to see the people you are travelling with in the evening for dinner, or you want to do a day trip one day. Just be honest with one another. Our 5 children I suspect will be in each other’s mobile homes for most of the 7 days, but only because that is where our relationship is as a travelling pack and what we are comfortable with.
If you are travelling with children, it’s always good to remember that you have also set some different values to that of your buddies, so don’t feel that you can’t reinforce this because you are with other people’s children. One of my favorite lines, which tends to be on repeat is… ‘You know better than that’. Your rules are your rules at the end of the day!
It is also worth setting some boundaries as well as a group. For example, if the kids are playing outside the mobile home they can go between X point and X point, or ‘you only do a poo in your toilet’. Although this has never bothered me, dealing with another child’s skids may be enough to put you off travelling with friends for life. You might decide to have a bakery-run rota where the boys go one day and the girls another. And, of course, you stick together!
The best thing about travelling with friends is about making memories that will last a lifetime, for you and for them. Take pictures - lots of pictures! Check with the other parents it's ok to do so first and where you can use the photos; you can always file share on return. For the kids take time to select the best pictures that remind them of the adventure and make it into a photo book they can keep.
The most important thing is to just relax, sit back and enjoy yourself and the company…It’s been a long time overdue.
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