This year, we decided around May time that a COVID summer holiday abroad was not for us. Our travels with the boys have all been to large, all-inclusive hotels, and that’s exactly what we had planned this year too. We came to realise in May that it almost certainly wasn’t going to be the holiday we’d wanted when we booked it, especially with two young children.
But I’m a creature of habit, and not always entirely rational. This year it feels quite strange that I’m not panic-buying mosquito repellent, and planning things to keep the children occupied for a plane journey. So while my heart mournfully hears the echooes of previous holidays in the sun that won’t be happening this year, my head reminds me of how it would actually be if we’d gone on our usual type of jaunt.
I’m not entirely sure how TUI plan to work this one at their hotels – they were remarkably coy about it when we were trying to decide whether to go, which told us in itself that it probably wasn’t going to be good. Keeping more than a metre away from other guests all day around a pool, in the pool and worse – in a children’s splash park – feels like layers of stress I have no interest in when we’re supposed to be relaxing. Worst case scenario is that there are too many people wanting to enjoy the pool at once, which would lead to a part-day sun lounger slot…no thank you. What on earth would we do for the rest of the time?
One of my most treasured parts of our family holidays is the couple of well-chosen excursions we go on, which allow us to see a little of the country we’re visiting – it helps me to keep a taste of the travelling and discovering did before children, and helps the boys to connect where we are with some cultural learning. Unfortunately there was no way at all of finding out what excursions would be available on our COVID summer holiday, or how they would work if they did. Would you crew a sea trip with half the usual number of payng customers, and double the number of regulations? Another big deal-breaker for me.
The buffet in a large all-inclusive is a rush and a crush at the best of times, and most seriously in any given August. Remove half the tables to allow for distancing, and mealtimes double in duration. Add in a requirement to book your table timeslot for every meal, and you now have to clock-watch three times a day, after you’ve secured the time you want – or not. In which case you’re inconvenienced. Which is really not the idea of a holiday.
So while my heart is grieving for the week’s break from any sort of meal preparation, and the hours lying out in the warm sun while the kids serve themselves ice cream – the thought of keeping ourselves and the children distanced and sanitised, 24 hours a day, from the moment we leave home until the second we get back, just exhausts me – and being surrounded by people frustrated that their holiday isn’t what they’re used to also fills me with dread. And maybe, if the world has to live like this for some time to come, I don’t like the sound of that holiday at all any more. Perhaps hotels are just no longer for us, and what we need is a villa with a pool and a nice taverna or two – or perhaps we’ll just enjoy some of the beautiful British Isles for a while.
So this year, to borrow from Sir Cliff, We’re Not Going on a Covid Summer Holiday (Abroad) – we will put up a paddling pool outside, and look forward to a few days in Kent, the Garden of England, instead – with a big plate of fish and chips and a mug of tea for dinner…