Our first holiday as a family just ended. As much as we tried to be prepared and foresee problems before we left for Wales, we were bound to make mistakes.

Here’s a list of things we’ll do differently next time.

1. Not splitting the journey into small chunks

On our way to Wales, we travelled the four hours journey there in one go. We only stopped for a quick picnic on the side of the road, probably for not longer than 20 minutes. Ben behaved reasonably well, but understandably last hour of the journey was hard on him. We struggled in the attempt to keep him entertained, and by the end of the journey nothing we tried to keep him occupied worked anymore: not singing ABC countless times, not playing “I spy with my little eye”, not counting all the red cars passing by, not spotting cows and sheep in the fields (that was understandably too easy).

We learned our lesson quickly enough. On our way back, we broke the journey in two parts. We chose on the map a nice (random) town where to stop after about one hour and a half by car. We had a relaxed walk around, we popped at the local second-hand market, and visited the castle overlooking the town. Ben run and burn some energies, just before sitting down for a tasty Italian pizza and setting off again. Ben slept for over 2 hours once back in the car, and the journey back home seemed so much less stressful for all of us (if it wasn’t for the torrential rain we then found around Birmingham!).

2. Not thinking about baby proofing

We thought about explaining Ben well in advance about the hotel, his room adjacent to ours, and the “big” bed he was going to sleep in. When we arrived at the hotel he was very excited to explore the new place. By the time bedtime arrived, Ben was feeling perfectly at ease with the new environment. What we didn’t really anticipate was the suitability of the hotel bed.

When at home, Ben sleeps in a toddler bed with bed guard. In the hotel, he only had a single bed. Not surprisingly the first night he fell on the floor after about one hour into his sleep and ended up spending the rest of the night in our bed.

For the second night, we put some pillows and cushions to stop him falling, but he slowly slid off the bed and a few hours later I found him sleeping on the floor. So I picked him up, and put him in our bed, again.

The third night, we travelled hundreds of miles to what it seemed to be the only Argos in the whole of Wales and bought a bed guard. Finally, a good night sleep for all three of us.

3. Improvised walkabouts

After settling in our hotel, we decided to go for a walk in the woods and explore the area. After all, we were right in the heart of Snowdonia National Park, and we wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

We set off with our new-ish buggy, no jumpers or water, no map and no information about where we were heading. We just started walking: we went down a path, we crossed a river, went on a small wobbly bridge, up a hill, down a hill, another bridge… and 3 hours later we knew we were lost in the woods.

Finally, we met a nice family on the mountain bike route we were on. We asked for direction to the next rest point, which happened to be two miles away on a very steep track. And off we went: two miles on a woodland path, with a toddler on a city buggy, hot, thirsty and tired. But eventually we reach the information point, just to realise that we walked even further away from our hotel, which was another two miles in the opposite direction. The man at the info point offered to give us a lift by car, but Diego gently declined. The nice man looked pitifully at us setting off again in the woods, and asked: “do you have water with you?”. That was also the moment Diego realised he had all the maps of the area available offline on his phone, so technically we were never lost!

4. Not booking well in advance

Our hotel was only one hour away from the famous Snowdon mountain. To be honest, everything seemed to be one hour away: Snowdon, the seaside, castles, the local supermarket…

We googled Snowden and how to get up to the top, and found out there is a panoramic railway that travels up to the summit. Great, we thought, perfect with a toddler. Unfortunately, we decided to book the train trip too late, and there wasn’t any availability for the following few days.

It would had been worth looking into a couple of places we wanted to go and see, and book them in advance. Availability of activities and special places reduce greatly if they are child-friendly, and a little forward thinking can avoid disappointing the little ones, and grown ups too.

5. Not managing our return home

We invested long hours telling Ben about the holidays, what he would have found in the new place, and what we would have done once there. We wanted to make sure he was going to be happy, calm, relaxed, and be able to enjoy the time away from home.

Foolishly, we didn’t plan for our return home. It’s difficult for us adult to come back to reality once the holiday is over, and it must be even more confusing for a child.

Ben understood the difference between being at home and on holiday. He enjoyed the time away, but once back, he was definitely glad to have all his toys back, to be sleeping in his own bed, and to be in a familiar environment. The drawback was that he struggled to get back to his old routine. We should have planned our return home better, and jump at the opportunity to bring back from holidays some of the good habits and new little positive behaviours he acquired while away.

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