I hadn’t been to a child friendly/ family friendly caravan holiday park since I was a child myself. But the promotional video looked so promising: The smiley parents with their smiley children skipping along the beach in their khaki outfits, frolicking in the near empty soft play, splashing in the near empty swimming pool, playing rounders around the lawns, eating sorbet, laughing lovingly with their parents and then back to their enormous caravan (with veranda – soaked in sun) for a Caesar salad and breadsticks.
“Look at this mum!” I screamed, from the hole in the sofa I wallowed in, stroking my massive pregnant belly, the toddler rampaging through the living room, throwing malt loaf at the ceiling.
“We don’t need to go to a hotel! Or a B&B – we can go here!” Mum leans over. We watch the promotional video five times and book a weekend in one of their deluxe suites.
The Promise of a child friendly caravan park holiday:
1. Our toddler can make as much noise as he likes, no neighbours, no adjoining rooms.
2. Our toddler will never get bored. There are a million things for him to do – soft play, swimming pool, kids clubs, arcades, acres of land, playgrounds, go carts, mini boats and other children to play with.
3. I can have some time to myself and can relax. Key word: RELAX
I looked forward to this break for over a month and soon the time had come. I would go on Friday morning with mother, my partner would be able to come for two days of it (due to work [that’s his story and he’s sticking to it]) and then my dad would come too and do a swap – to ensure I could take full advantage of the whole four days of relaxation with all the family.
“Do you want to take the laptop? Or the iPad? Or the tablet darling?” My partner enquired the night before our departure.
“Hah! No!” I laughed, “I am not going on holiday to watch TV! I am not the sort of person who goes on holiday to go on the Internet! There is more than enough to do thank you!”
And off we go. The toddler, mother and me (and six month bump) – Relaxation here I come!
As we have the car, I take every possible weather possibility outfit for the toddler which basically equates to every outfit we own that fits him. Myself – I don’t even take a coat. We set off on our drive. A couple of hours later and we are there. Toddler is already furious that he has been restrained in the car for so long so it’s time to let him loose.
Of course he can’t run free because the huge car park is a definite death trap and none of the cars are adhering to the 10mph signs. He spots a massive playground cleverly placed just behind the reception.
“How do I get to that wonderful playground?” I ask.
“That is for the owners” I am told.
After a couple of minutes wondering how many children the owners have…why they would need such a vast playground. I realise they mean owners of caravans, not the owners of the company. As renters we are already demoted to peasants – unable to use the amazing facilities clearly viewable from reception – which include a go kart circuit and a little lake with tiny boats on it.
The answer to the question “How do I get to that wonderful playground?” apparently is:
“Buy a caravan.”
Toddler is so furious that I am still holding his hand and not allowing him to run into the owner’s-only lake that he bites my hand. What is this shit?! Have I spawned a pit bull? Mother and I stare at the owner’s only sanctuary wafted under our nose and go to our caravan.
It’s very nice. “Sleeps six” means two bedrooms and many pull out sofas – but it’s nice. We don’t seem to have that sun soaked veranda (we have a 2 foot by 2 foot step) but its nice. TV goes straight on. I am filled with excitement! I can’t wait to go to the on site Spar and stock up on Digestives! The sun is shining and Mother has been talking (nagging) about going to the beach before the sun goes out since 7am.
Despite the sun-going-out ticking bomb we decide to explore the site. We find the bar. Mother buys us a latte and we take it in turns running after the toddler who only wants to run towards the second, death-trap car park. Our lattes appear to have no coffee in them, so we sit and sip hot milk in the sun. Mother announces at the top of her lungs “I don’t think we will do much eating here darhling!” A Burger King and Papa John’s glowing behind her, as she sips on her frothy milk with a face like someone shat on her scallops.
We rush to the beach.
Toddler runs up and down the beach numerous times. Mother and I take it in turns monitoring toddler who is training to be the next Mo Farah. I give up and collapse into the wet sand. A large dog gallops up and pisses in the sand hole a foot away from me. I watch my poor, nearly pensioner, short-in-the-leg mum simultaneously run after little Mo and run after the ball we brought that is being carried off in the sea breeze. The clouds come over.
Mother curses for the next thirty minutes that we should have come earlier in the day. Now the bastard sun has gone. And that was the last time we were to have sun and warmth over the holiday.
Toddler wants to run up and down the slippery cobbled lifeboat ramp. He’s not allowed. He screams. We walk up the stretch, me complete with soggy bottom from the wet sand, and take him for Fish and Chips. He screams because they are too hot. He wants to run into the sea; where he came from, he’s not allowed. He bites my hand again. I put his reigns on – the shit hits the fan.
“Let’s just go back to the caravan mum” I say, utterly exhausted, rubbing my huge pregnant stomach as I am dragged back down the lifeboat ramp and along the cobbles by my furious Pit Bull.
We go back to the site and visit Spar. The on-site spar is designed specifically for toddlers. Half of the room stocks toddler toys – every toy you can imagine. There is a giant basket of balls. Toddler wants to take each ball out and throw across the shop. I spend my time picking up balls and apologising. We stock up on snacks and rush home. It has been a long day and the toddler should be exhausted!
Back in the caravan and Mother and I watch toddler stampede up and down the place in his pyjamas as we count the seconds down to CBeebies cut off time. After desperately trying to fill him up with yogurt and toast – finally it’s here. We put toddler to bed in the tiny, second room.
Reasons your child will not sleep in a caravan (see also, reasons your child will not sleep on holiday)
1. The walls are made of crepe paper so however much you try – the temperature will be arctic.
2. They do not come with black out blinds.
3. There is nothing more exciting than a different bed / different environment.
4. They will be able to hear everything you do, from running the hot tap, to flushing the toilet, to coughing, to picking your nose.
5. Later – when they wake up momentarily – they will see Grandma is sleeping in the bed next to them which is basically, the most exciting thing that you can wake up next to as a toddler, other than Mr Tumble. It would be comparable to me waking up momentarily to find I am sleeping next to Ryan Gosling. It would be highly unreasonable to expect me to drift off naturally again after that.
So we put him to bed and about thirty minutes later the door handle starts rattling like the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park.
“Ignore him” I say, “he’ll soon drop off.”
Moments later and a smiley face appears next to us. He is tall enough to open the bastard caravan doors. I know at this point that no ‘relaxation’ will occur. We let him run up and down the caravan as we tuck into our take away Papa John’s pizza because we no longer care.
Eventually he is put back to bed and two chairs are wedged up against the outside door handle.
I sit on the sofa sucking on Rennies, regretting the Papa John’s, watching Masterchef. It’s all too much for mother and she’s on the Vino. She wants to talk to me about the bloke out of ‘Game of Thrones’. The caravan has no wifi and there is no way of connecting to the internet. I can not quickly Google facts. The long arse day ends with Mother trying to remember his name:
“wassit Parker Dlinknige?”
I pass out and await what joys day two will bring.