6 mistakes of mini-breaks with kids

I’ve just come back from a mini-break(down) with the kids. On my own. Basically, it was a series of mistakes. From which I will probably never learn.

Mistake no. 1 – The Premise

‘Let’s go on a mini-break! It will be fun!’ I hear myself saying to the kids.

Anyone who’s ever done a mini-break with small kids knows that fun is one of the words you could use. Excruciating and exhausting are two others.

‘Well. That was your first mistake,’ says my friend when we arrived. ‘Calling it a break.’ 

Yup. Will I ever learn?

Mistake no. 2 – The Journey

We’d arranged to meet my friend and her three kids. Somewhere halfway between London and Bristol so neither of us had too far to drive.

But when you live in London, to get anywhere, you pretty much have to sit on the M25 for five hours. So that didn’t work out too well for us.

Still, at least, it wasn’t made any longer by the kids asking, ‘Are we there yet?’ every three minutes.

Mistake no. 3 – The Destination

We decided on Marwell Zoo and Marwell Hotel for our trip.

But first we met in Winchester. Because I had this (deluded) idea that it would be nice to go to the cathedral. One, three and six year olds are particularly into their architecture, didn’t you know?

We drove into the city centre so we could park as close to the cathedral without actually storming it. But you only get an hour’s parking. And as it took us 30 minutes to get out of the car, we only made it about 10 metres before we had to turn back and spend another 30 minutes getting back in the car. Before our parking ran out.

So we went to Pizza Express instead. Only three and a half hours driving to go to sodding Pizza Express.

When we have one just a five minute walk from home.

Mistake no. 4 – The Accommodation

Hotels are fun, aren’t they?

I love how accommodating they are when you book and they don’t mind putting several hundred beds in your room to sleep all the small people you’re taking.

‘Hello, I’d like to book a room for me and three kids.’

‘Perfect, Madam. We don’t have any family rooms left. But we do have the Bridal Suite. We would be happy to put a couple of Z beds in there for you and a cot.’

‘Excellent, that sounds great. Thank you.’

What I should have said was, ‘Why don’t you save yourself the trouble of moving loads of beds around and then I won’t have to pretend my kids are actually going to sleep in them.’

Because, obviously, the girls star-fished in the gloriously huge double bed. The boy decided he didn’t really fancy sleeping at all. And I spent most of the night pacing the room before finally passing out in a chair.

No one slept in the Z beds or the cot.

But I had a lot of fun moving them around so I could get to other stuff in the room.

Mistake no. 5 – The Weather

Checking the weather before you go is always a good thing.

Otherwise you run the risk of spending the sunny day driving around Winchester’s parking attractions and going to Pizza Express. And the rainy day traipsing around the zoo. Where even the penguins are looking a bit peed off.

After 24 hours with the kids and a bad night’s sleep, it was going to take all my willpower not to throw myself to the lions. Until I discovered there weren’t any lions.

Talk about not being able to catch a break.

Mistake no. 6 – Getting Home

Leaving at 5.30 PM. In the dark. In the rain. It’s not ideal.

However, by this point you are so desperate to go home or, at the very least, have your kids strapped into a confined space that you’ll do anything. ANYTHING.

Unfortunately for us, someone had decided to breakdown in the middle lane on the M3. Somewhere near the M25 exit.

Which meant we spent about two and a half hours admiring the pretty sights of the M3 whilst the sat nav kept me positive and motivated by continually adding minutes to our journey.

Thanks also to The Boy With No Name for serenading me for half of it.

Sorry. Did I say serenading? I meant wailing.

In Summary

Mini-breaks with kids are stupid.

(Of course, I will promptly forget all this by the next school holidays. And undertake another one.)

On a positive note, I can highly recommend the Marwell Hotel. It’s not plush, but it’s in the middle of the forest next to the zoo and it’s really well set up for families with family rooms (with bunks), a pool, games room and a bar mezzanine level, which includes a snug area for the kids (with TV, free squash and popcorn). So you can sit nearby and drown your sorrows in gin. The food is excellent. The welcome is warm. We will definitely go back. When the kids are about 12.

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