How to relax on holiday with a toddler

The 5MF guide to sun, sea and siestas

Image: Getty | Words: Sara Conway

What do you remember from your holidays? For me, it’s a feeling of total relaxation as I listen to waves lapping at the shore. The clink of a cocktail glass, slippery with condensation. Lying on a sunbed, heavy beneath the weight of the sun. A book open on my chest, eyes closed, lazily wondering what to order for lunch. The last time I holidayed like that was in 2015. Then along came our daughter and life changed.

I knew holidaying with a toddler was unlikely to be relaxing. And, of course, it isn’t what we’re used to. But despite the change of pace, we are having fun. And we are managing to relax… really! Partly, it’s about enjoying quality time with our daughter. She’s learnt to say “beach!” and “seagull!”. She’s buried mummy’s feet in the sand. The first thing she puts on each morning is a swimsuit. She demands to go to the pool now instead of the park.

It’s also about accepting a new kind of holiday. I had no idea the world was so magical at 7am. The beach is cool, quiet and calm. There’s amazing wildlife everywhere. And you’ve got to hand it to her… siestas are amazing. Plus, if you’re smart, it’s possible to grab some horizontal sunbed time in between the craziness. Here’s my guide to relaxing on holiday with a toddler. I hope you find it useful and enjoy your trips away this summer!

Have mini-breaks away from your family

OK, I don’t mean sleep in the hotel next door. But it is possible to lie on a sunbed, drinking in the sun and lapping up a cocktail – you just need to strike a deal with your other half (or parents – see below). You lie on a sunbed while they give your toddler lunch and put them down for a nap. And vice versa. An hour bobbing around on a lilo feels extra-luxurious when the time is stolen from an otherwise hectic day.

Holiday with your family
If taking a trip with your parents reminds you of your teenage self, plugged into a Walkman and despising them for breathing, then maybe it’s time to refresh your view. Kids LOVE grandparents. Grandparents LOVE kids. And those extra hands mean lots of free time for you. Plus, you’ve probably changed a bit since you were a teenager… probably.

Be sun smart
We invested in a full-length UV suit and a good quality once-a-day sun cream, with a high-factor spray to make sun care easy. You slap on the cream, pop on the suit and then only have to worry about spraying the exposed bits after swims. It’s also good to time lunch and their nap so they’re not in the sun between 12 and 3.

Let them take the lead
You’ve got big plans today and your kids are going to love it… the beach, an aquarium, ice cream! But they’re happy playing and don’t want to put on sun cream, get dressed or do anything helpful. For an easier life, accept that sometimes it might be best to drop your idea of the perfect day and embrace theirs. If they’re happy playing, leave them to it and enjoy your own R&R time. Pick up a book, step out on the balcony or take a siesta.

Believe in the Holiday Gods 
On the last day of our holiday we really wanted to eat in a grown-up restaurant we’d spied. We decided to go early and hope for the best. Getting ready was terrible. We had to wrestle G into her clothes and carry her, mid-tantrum, out of the apartment. When we got there, we realised there was NOTHING she liked to eat on the menu. It should have been a disaster. But our raging child smiled sweetly, sat in a high chair, ate food she usually refused and charmed everyone in the restaurant. Sometimes, you have to do what you want to do and let the Holiday Gods take care of the rest.

 

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