Strategic Offensive: Maria Pieri
The frontline combat unit is for those with pre-schoolers who really need to get away...
WELCOME to the club. The first rule of the club is: you CANNOT COMPLAIN about being in the club. The second rule of the club: you are not important.
Third rule of the club: you must be patient above and beyond any human expectation. Fourth rule of the club: no shouting, screaming, hitting or behaviour that can be judged to be unreasonable by external sources. Fifth rule: be prepared to be prepared. You will be the navigator, the entertainer, the sergeant major. Sixth rule of the club: do not expect to sleep or have any me-time until everyone else is in bed. Seventh rule: you will suffer abuse. Eighth and final rule of the club: you must not fight. At any point.
These are the basic criteria for acceptance into this club. You must meet them all to qualify. Remember, you have chosen to join this club and successful adherence to these rules will ensure a trouble-free experience. It might even be enjoyable if you follow the rules with due diligence.
So get ready to take notes and read carefully. (Don’t worry, this is a club of many members — and thankfully one you will one day be able to leave.)
Are you ready for your mission?
You have two children to take on holiday. They are not of school age. They are classed as infants and yet they take up as much room, if not more, than adults. They come with baggage — literally. And a huge list of requirements that must be met. And they’re too young, too spoilt, too precious, too ‘whatever’ to be able to take part in most kids’ clubs or play areas.1 These kids will expect and demand to be entertained. And you must step up.
You must be prepared to discipline, feed, water and humour your charges — and remain focused on your end goal: to have a successful, trouble-free holiday (within at least two ‘whys’). You are the leader and the navigator.
You must ensure you can answer any question. You must not raise your voice for any reason and you cannot allow your charges to make a noise or cause offence.
Do not, I repeat, do not let your guard down for an instant. People will stare. People will judge. Expect tutting and discussions on what you should/shouldn’t do. Probably in languages you might not be able to speak but will instinctively understand. But that’s fine, of course, as you have already planned your journey meticulously. There are no reasons for things to go wrong or to get out of hand.
Are you driving? It’s easier if you drive as you can carry everything in the car. Not a small, sexy, single-life car. This is a car you have bought for its size and ease of loading/unloading. For its fuel consumption. For the number of seats and people it can carry, and the size of the boot. It’s not a car you can park easily or even enjoy driving. But that doesn’t matter. The safety of your charges and the size of the boot are the most important points to remember. And toilet stops. If you drive, don’t forget to plan for the toilet stops. You have, haven’t you?
Are you flying? That’s brave. Buy the extra seat if your flight is over two hours, otherwise you’ll be weighed down by a squirming child. And then you have to carry everything you planned to pack. Physically carry it yourself. Buggy and all. And don’t think about scrimping or trying to make do. If you think you need it, you need it. Take it or you’ll have to purchase it again.
The journey. This requires food and entertainment. Food will be eaten and the kids ‘played’ to boredom within two hours of departure. Then you wish for sleep. For all of you.
Once you reach your destination, everything there has been strictly planned. It is imperative you understand the importance of all of this information.
If you err or waver at any point, the consequences will be larger than you can possibly comprehend. Do you have your list of requests to hand, both your child’s and your own for the accommodation? Of course you do. This was planned months ago. The check list was/is extensive and difficult to meet, but it will ensure your survival.
You arrive. Relax. You’ve made it. Now the holiday [fun] begins...
Published in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of National Geographic Traveller
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