The ‘family summer holiday’ is a big event in our calendar. We work hard to make sure we have two weeks away because we find this makes all the difference; it really does take nearly a week for us to relax properly. It’s a very special time when all five of us are together, away from the routines and treadmill of school, work, after school activities etc etc. I think this is the same story for many families and it therefore generates a lot of pressure to make sure that it’s a success. Precious time, precious annual leave and very precious family funds. You can sense that pressure in the airport or ferry terminal where you see people falling out with each other, parents shouting at kids and a general sense of stress! Thankfully we travel calmly and have become interested observers of this behaviour.
Sometimes we’re really organised, like last year, when we were booked and sorted twelve months before we travelled. Most years are like this year, when there’s six weeks to go and we still don’t have anything arranged! I think I prefer the former because you can really look forward to something. We usually end up with the latter because we like to research and book everything ourselves, rather than buy a package, which does involve hours of internet searching and that’s often at the bottom on the ‘to-do list’, until it becomes an urgent task!
Our question is, how do we please everyone? My daughter simply wants water to swim in … every day … for hours. One of my sons just wants pure adrenaline … every day. The other doesn’t mind as long as there’s really good food, no camping and he doesn’t have to put on too much sun cream. I like it very hot and for there to be somewhere for me to run. My husband wants it cool enough to be able to cycle and ‘do stuff’.
We’ve stayed in caravans, Air BnBs, hotels, apartments … a huge variety. We’ve flown, we’ve driven … for days. We generally manage to stick roughly within our modest budget. No matter how we’ve done it, we always have a good time. I guess that in itself puts pressure on you to a make sure the next year is as good. You can’t help but compare. I’m not sure any holiday could ever be as good as Iceland. We feast off our holiday stories and memories for years to come.
Anyway, this year, despite the last minute planning, we nailed it again. Phew! There was something for everyone. We got cheap flights to Venice where we grabbed a hire car. Then we drove into Slovenia for a week, then on to Austria for a week and flew back home again from Venice. A real DIY holiday.
It was a holiday of contrasts and surprises. We’d booked an Air BnB in the Soca Valley in Slovenia. It turned out to be a huge, stunning, farmhouse right up in the hills with incredible views – a real retreat.
Not a route for nervous drivers (in fact don’t go to Slovenia at all if you don’t like driving single track, hairpin bends). The Soca Valley is the perfect destination mecca for active families. It is absolutely stunning. The Soca river will take your breath away, with its freezing cold temperature and it’s incredible blueness.
The hiking, mountain biking and kayaking is beyond amazing. The valley sits in the Triglav National Park where there are more rivers, warm lakes, deep gorges, lovely people and great food. We had so much fun exploring.
The second week we rented a small holiday apartment on the shores of Lake Worthersee, near Klagenfurt in Southern Austria. Not a common destination for British tourists, unless you are a triathlete and have been let into this beautiful secret. We chilled out by the lake, swimming and kayaking every day. The water was 27 degrees – that’s my kind of open water swimming!
We took the tourist boat across the lake, hiked up to the Pyramidenkogel and slid down the terrifying slide back to the bottom of the tower. Klagenfurt is a wonderful little city to wander in. There’s also so much to see in the area and Castle Hochosterwitz was a real highlight. Very different to the remoteness of the first week in a Slovenian mansion but just as good. Splitting the holiday into two weeks somehow made it feel longer.
We hiked, paddle boarded, swam, kayaked, ran, climbed, slept, ate, read, played cards and came back feeling refreshed. Perfect for us. I had a digital detox which further added to my relation and enjoyment. The only question we have now is … what are we going to do next year?!
What are your priorities for a good holiday? Do you find it hard to please everyone? Do you plan way ahead or grab a last minute bargain?