Leona O'Neill: Help – I need advice on how to plan a non-disastrous family holiday
It's that time of year again – when you realise you've left until the last minute to organise the family holiday due to having been pretending it wasn't happening. But all those concerns about weather, wi-fi, cost and siblings strangling each other haven't gone away you know, writes Leona O'Neill
IT'S that time of year again when I start looking for somewhere to take my family away on holiday.
For most super-organised people, this time of year actually arrives in January when they start booking and saving and planning. But I like to live life on the edge and leave it to the last minute. I find it adds another dimension of relaxation to the prospect of summer holidays with four children.
Actually, that last bit was a lie. I look upon organising a trip away with two teenagers and two small children in much the same way as I would gaze upon the letter from the dentist telling me I'm due a filling or indeed root-canal treatment. I go through various emotions with each of those scenarios – denial, procrastination, irritable acceptance of the inevitable, facing the music, dread, doing it, trying to survive.
O'Neill holidays in the past have been epic disasters. We have yet to go abroad, partly because paying for the six of us to travel has a similar cost to a family car, an item we could also be doing with. Another aspect is that one or two of our children are rather 'lively' and I couldn't guarantee that they wouldn't open the door of a plane at 10,000ft or press buttons on the plane's TV remote control in a perfect sequence that makes the engines turn off mid flight.
These last few years when the kids were young we have went on staycations in Donegal and beyond. These always seemed like a good idea at the time. I have booked beautiful cottages in the wilds of Donegal, wooden lodges up in the mountains away from all civilisation, chalets overlooking glorious beaches. It always ends up the same way.
My city slicker children are amused for one day and then advanced boredom and intense complaining sets in. I'm fearful that the only memories that my kids will have of their childhood holidays is of us arguing in the car about where we should go for the day or me, storming out of the car and dramatically dumping all the brochures from the Donegal Tourist Office in a roadside bin and telling them all to sort it out themselves, that I'm walking home.
Last year we went to beautiful Wicklow. I have a very stressful job and the thought of residing even for a week in a wooden cabin in the middle of the nowhere overlooking the glorious Wicklow Mountains and the peace and quiet that comes with it, just spoke volumes to me. I imagined us all, switched off from our various devices, talking and laughing in the living room, reconnecting as a family. Sitting watching DVDs with our arms all around one another like those families on the TV advertisements for show houses.
But no, this is the O'Neills. It was so far removed from the perfect Irish holiday it might as well have been on the moon. There was no wi-fi, there was advanced irritability, there were teenagers asking where the nearest McDonald's was while we were on the top of a mountain surveying some of the finest scenery in the world. There were arguments, there were people who wanted to go home after the first day, there was intense boredom and there was a poltergeist or some other spooky shizzle that made weird growling noises in the middle of the night and gave everyone night terrors.
It was, in every sense of the word, a nightmare, but one which has caused much amusement in recalling since.
As we drove home from what ended up being an exhausting week of supposed relaxation we swore we'd never go on holiday ever again, or indeed speak to one another again. There was talk of divorce and also various children swearing that they were going to live with Granny.
So, we're not doing that again. I am open to ideas. Where can I take my children and husband that has plenty of things to do, will not break the bank or indeed destroy everyone's sanity. Hit me with your ideas, I'm at @leonaoneill1 on Twitter.