Surviving Self Catering With Young Children

Over Easter we visited the beautiful town of Moraira in Spain with our family, which included my two younglings, aged three and five. If you have read any of my old posts you will know by now that Jack, aged three, can be a handful. He has systematically trashed our home, run across roads on his own and generally has no sense of danger. So staying in self-catering accommodation with no kids club to lob him in when we needed a moment to catch our breaths, having to clean up and cook for ourselves, not to mention the pool being RIGHT THERE for him to dive head-first into at a moment's notice, was going to be a challenge. But, here we are, six weeks later and not only did we survive but so did he. So how did we do it? Here are my tips.


Go with as many adults as possible. Outnumbering the amount of children to adults is crucial for maintaining your sanity. It also means you can have a break, cook food or go the toilet without risk of your children drowning themselves whilst you are away. The cons of self-catering is that there is no kids club with endless hours of entertainment, meaning no break for you. Having extra pairs of hands might enable you to get a few minutes to yourself to read a book or just relax in the sunshine.

Get a pool with a fence. If at all possible. If your child is under the age of four or prone to completely ignoring you, then a fence around a pool is a life-saver, quite literally. On our recent holiday we didn't have this and so had to make sure any doors were locked when we didn't want the children outside or that we were extra-vigilant when we were outside and the children weren't properly armband-ed. We also had an infinity pool and whilst this seemed lovely on arrival, an hour later when our child nearly plummeted to their death whilst floating on a lilo, it didn't seem quite so idyllic.

Not so picture-perfect

Take things to keep them entertained. Toys from home, sticker, colouring books and crayons and anything else that will keep them quiet for half an hour is a must-have. Just for those late afternoon moments when you need some quiet time, or when you're getting ready for the evening and need time to take a shower without them trying to climb in with you, fully dressed.

iPads are a God-send. I know, I know, bad parents, but honestly we couldn't have survived without the iPads. Not only did these keep them quiet on the plane, but on the two occasions we didn't take them with us on an evening we regretted it. Kids do not like sitting still at a table surrounded by boring adult conversation waiting for their food. Yes we could play I-Spy or colour in with them but it's also nice for them to be entertained whilst you, heaven-forbid, indulge in grown-up chatter. It also saves you from those embarrassing moments when you have to retrieve your child from pulling the cutlery off another person's table when you turn your back for five minutes.

Eat out when you can, when you can't eat easy. By this I mean things that don't take a lot of cooking and create lots of mess. You don't want to spend your whole holiday cooking and cleaning, especially when you have children who take up lots of your time as it is. Salads and fresh food that doesn't need any cooking but is still tasty are a good way to go. Oh and be prepared for your kids to live off pizza and chips for the entire holiday, if they're anything like mine they won't be that adaptable to foreign menus.

Routines will go out the window. Our kids generally fell asleep between nine and midnight, depending on where we were and how active they felt. On a couple of nights Jack did fall asleep earlier than that, when he was particularly exhausted, but generally they are so excited by what is going on around they won't want to go to bed. It's their holiday too, so we were pretty flexible with this. Plus I didn't fancy sitting in their bedroom for an hour trying to settle them each night.

Hire a car. This was crucial to us as where we stayed wasn't within walking distance to much for the children. It also meant we could visit further afield on those days we wanted to get out and see more than just the four walls of our villa, and make some special memories with the children. We scoured the Internet before we left and found an affordable car hire company (such as Auto Europe) which saved us money, leaving us more for ice cream.


Take a buggy. Jack doesn't really use a buggy at home, but we still took one with us and I'm glad we did. My thinking behind this was mainly because of his tendency to not listen when we were out and about and I didn't want him running off. We did also use it on an evening when we were wandering about and he didn't want to walk, and he did fall asleep in it a couple of times.

Buy a paddling pool. For those moments when you just want to sit down and not be constantly on your guard, a paddling pool can really come in handy. Put it away from the pool and surround it by spare sunbeds and you have a safe place your children can splash to their hearts' content and you can sit down.

Take plenty of extra clothes. Your children will have accidents, come home from the beach soaking wet and covered in sand and generally spill every ice cream you buy them down their fronts. They will wear two to three outfits a day and if you don't fancy doing any washing whilst you're out there, you will run out of clothes fast if you don't take spares.

Relax! My best piece of advice is to go with the flow. When you have children it is difficult for you to plan in advance and when things don't go to plan you can end up feeling more stressed than when you left for your trip. The only thing to do is to smile, put on your sunglasses and enjoy the moment.



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