Alison is a big fan of the child-free mini break and here she shares her tips on planning a successful one…
Oh remember the days before you had kids when planning a mini break was as easy as pie? My main concern was usually ‘Can we afford this boutique bolthole in the countryside?’ But once I’d convinced myself that we could (“It’s a special offer!” I’d tell myself. Or “We work hard – we deserve a nice break!”) it was just a case of booking time off work and off we went.
Now…. it’s not as simple. My main concern is still ‘Can we afford this?’ but that’s coupled with ‘Can we organise someone to look after the six-year-old for a weekend?’ And even when we do organise someone to look after our little one, that’s when the mum guilt kicks in!
But I’m a firm believer in the importance of having some couple time and some space from family life. Heard the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup”? I think it’s one for all parents to remember.
This year, we’ve been on two fab mini breaks, just myself and Mr P, and I thought I’d share what made them work so well.
Split the childcare
If you can – and I’m aware not everyone can – split up the childcare between two different people. We went away for three nights earlier this year and on night one, my mum had our little one, night two, she went to my in-laws’ house, and night three, she was back with my mum again. It meant that nobody was being inconvenienced too much.
Plan in some activities
No, not for you (although that’s a good idea too, unless you want to stay in bed all day drinking gin…. actually that sounds like the only activity you should plan!) If you can, plan in fun things for your kiddos to do, while you’re away. We had my mum stay at our place to look after our daughter, when we went away earlier this year, and I planned in a playdate at a school friend’s house and booked cinema tickets for another day. If you know they’re having a fun (and easy) time, you’re more likely to relax.
Make sure your babysitters have everything they need
Whether it’s your kids’ favourite snacks, night time pull ups or the only toothpaste your little one likes the taste of, either pack it all or you could even do an online grocery order and have it delivered to their place. It’s also wise to pack your child’s nightlight, favourite teddy and some familiar books – basically anything that will make bedtime feel familiar is a winner.
Tell your kids with plenty notice
Not possible if you’ve managed to book a last-minute break and land childcare (lucky you!) but if you can, tell your kids a few weeks in advance about their ‘big adventure’ staying with their grandparents/auntie/friends. We sold it to our daughter as a really grown up thing to do (and mentioned we’d be doing “really boring grown up things” while we were away). This gave her lots of time to get used to the idea and by the time our break came around, she couldn’t wait to get rid of us.
Pick your destination wisely
This might sound obvious but the IDEAL place for a child-free mini break is somewhere WITH NO CHILDREN. Unless, you know, your thing is to hang out with other people’s kids for a few days. So when you’re searching for a hotel / B&B, avoid anything vaguely family-friendly. Check out Mr & Mrs Smith (avoid Smith & Family) and look for places with open fires (bad for crawling babies), sharp corners on tables (terrible for toddlers) and large cocktail menus (great for you).
Some of my favourites are:
The Scarlet, Cornwall – an adults-only hotel on the coast with amazing food and brilliant cocktails.
Babington House, Somerset – great if you like celeb spotting and mooching around drinking tea all day.
The King’s Head, Cirencester – a gorgeous hotel near lots of lovely little shops and cafes for wandering around.
The Gallivant, Camber Sands – a fab restaurant with rooms only a stone’s throw from the beach.
Do stuff you’d never do, if you had kids with you
Remember I mentioned staying in bed all day, drinking gin? That’s a pretty good starting point, but basically, channel your pre-parenthood self and do all the luxurious things you used to do (but didn’t actually appreciate at the time). Curl up on a sofa and read a book. Go for a walk along a beach without stopping to build sandcastles or empty small pebbles from a child’s shoe every ten seconds. Wander around antique shops without the fear of “I’m bored” and “I’m hungry” and “My feet hurt”.
One last thing…. ENJOY!