Yes — family holidays can be fun

2009-12-10 00:00

FAMILY holidays used to be a fun affair. My fondest memories of them involved long drives in the back of a crowded white kombie (Volkswagen Caravel), while playing card games on an old duvet cover and simultaneously trying to manoeuvre a cheese-and- Salticrax snack past squawking aunts and an over-eager two-year-old. I fondly recall the gleeful abandon with which we would unpack after “having arrived”, the rush to get the chalet or holiday house open, the long queue for the toilet and calling dibs on our rooms.

At the first mention of the words “pool” or ”beach”, we would slip into swim shorts and bathers faster than Clark Kent into a phone booth. The sacrificial lamb, marinaded overnight with Uncle’s secret blend, would be cast onto the red-hot coals later that afternoon, while a game of cricket ensued nearby. Curfew rules, like woolly socks, were never mentioned on holiday and nobody really cared much if you didn’t wash your hair. Ah, the good old days.

Of course, back then, I was seven.

Free of sin, or so to speak. The adolescent nightmare caught up with me eventually and with it came the painful social embarrassment that can only be derived from going on holiday with a group of people who, despite your awkward grimace, find every opportunity to gloat over you. Suddenly card games seemed mundane and swimming in an overcrowded pool foolish and grossly unhealthy.

Uncle’s marinade paled in comparison to a good Steers burger and there was only so much fun to be had at aiming your bowling at said Uncle’s head. By the time I reached 15, I swore I would give up on family holidays for good, choosing to concentrate my interests elsewhere, like on video games and comic books. Oh, and girls.

Come summer holidays, I would politely excuse myself from the family’s latest Garden Route endeavour. Year in and year out, I would accept the social responsibility of house-sitting, solemnly pointing out that I had a summer project that needed attending to, a task that would see me holed up in my room for the next two weeks anyway.

Of course, it never really went like that at all and the outcome of my supposed summer project involved a stream of parties the likes of which I won’t make a mention of here.

Then something happened which saw me returning once again to the tirade of the obscure family vacation.

I got married and we had kids.

Now suddenly, I found myself in a quaint dilemma. Rowdy bunch aside, these are the only people more capable of handling my kids on holiday than myself and my wife ... and after having two kids, you will want that extra bit of help.

I watch in amusement as my eldest daughter displays the same gleeful excitement that I once did at being on holiday. It’s like watching a little bit of magic suddenly come to life and realising that there’s no better way to spend your vacation time than with those you love (yes, even you Uncle).

Now before you assume that I have gone all mushy-faced, let me add that, in order to completely enjoy your holiday with relatives, take heed of these five tips.

 

Be patient, enjoy the drive

If you’re driving, you’re going to have enough of cries of “Are we there yet” coming from the little (and older) squids in your favourite mode of transportation. Coupled with this is the nightmare of having to maintain a sense of calm while navigating the holiday-rush traffic and roadworks predominant in our country at the moment. Try to keep healthy, less sugary, snacks on hand. Raisins, nuts, pretzels and popcorn are easy snacking foods. Use bottles with suction straws for drinks instead of cans (they will spill) and make sure you have enough wet wipes. Toys should be handed out one at a time as kids bore easily. Make a track list for your car that includes everything from Blowfish to Madonna to Barney (yes, as in the purple dinosaur). In this way, ever­yone gets to listen to their favourite song at least once.

 

Learn while you travel

South Africa is rich in culture and heritage, and it would be a shame to go on holiday without appreciating a little of our marvellous history. Make an effort to learn at least five facts about any of the towns you find yourself passing through. Encourage each other with facts and if you’re not sure, strike up a conversation with the other like- minded travellers at that Engen rest stop.

 

Bond with James

When last have you had a decent conversation with your cousin? Sure, you might not have anything in common at all, but you’re stuck with him for the next two weeks and may as well engage in mutual conversation of sorts. Throw aside the social imbalances and rely on the one thing more certain than your number of Twitter followers: your relatives are your blood, get to know them. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised. Who knew your gran was once a hippy and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Jimi Hendrix (or, she swears, he looked a lot like Hendrix). I make it my holiday task to get to know something more about each person I’m vacationing with and if all else fails, there’s always gossip, something the women-folk in my tribe never tire of.

 

Play with your inner child

I am unashamed to admit that when I am on holiday with my family, I let loose my inner kid. Arcade game parks, go-karting, themed water parks and even the Disney channel suddenly become really fun things to play/ ride/ watch, and since when did having fun have an age limit attached to it?

 

Knot the family ties

Whether it’s late-night board games or gathering around the braai toasting marshmallows or simply sitting around the dinner table and chatting, the chances are you will by now have gained a new-found respect for your clan of relatives. I, for example, found myself engaging in intellectual conversation with my aunt, who to my previous knowledge had a tendency to be a few cards short of a full deck. Yet her unique view of the world inspired me and I found myself actively scribbling down a few ideas and diagrams for a new blog. In fact, I heard mention that the best corporate ideas are thought up on vacations so why not on a family holiday? Strictly speaking, you’re not working, just brainstorming and it’s often interesting to see what everyone else’s input may be.

There’s something about family holidays that leaves you feeling slightly nostalgic long after the vacation has come to an end. Sure, their sanity may be questionable at times and Uncle’s tendency to express himself with excessive wind may be off-putting but they are your family. So, the next time the family holiday comes calling, make sure you have some leave days left to spend some time with that crazy bunch who don’t really mind if you forget to wash your hair.

As my wise grandfather used to say: “If you die tomorrow, your company will replace you in a matter of weeks but your family will feel your loss forever.” — News24.com

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