This spring, we embarked on a short break that the kids had not only designed themselves, but would also be documenting for themselves in pictures and video.
They definitely knew what they would be getting, settling on a forest holiday in February, after an adorable and fascinating afternoon of helping them research different possibilities. But what they didn’t was that we had a weekend off in January, so we set about to surprise them with a holiday of their own design!
A surprise start
One of my favourite holiday memories as a child was finding out that a holiday was really happening. I remember my mum bundling us into the car one morning to “collect some clothes from a friend”, only to arrive a little while later at a camping ground in the North of England for a sneaky weekend break.
Remembering how delighted with this development I was as a child, Mark and I decided to pass it on to our kids. We collected them after school on Friday and told them we were driving to a country pub for dinner. It wasn’t until we were through the gates of the holiday village that JD recognised where we were and immediately woke a napping Jay shouting, “We’re at the camp site. We’re on holiday!”.
It was gorgeous watching their delighted faces as they realised they were on their dream break and they were over the moon. We were off to a great start and they were soon taking charge.
The first night
Mark and I had already encouraged the children to get familiar with the GoPro and VTech KidiZoom in the days before we set off.
We spent some time that first morning showing them how to create a ‘tripod stance’ to stabilise their photography, and after that they took to photographing and videoing the trip like ducks to water, borrowing my phone on several occasions too as they had so much to document. They were shooting footage before we even made it to the lodge, and continued to do so throughout dinner.
As it was already getting late, we thought we might be limited for subject matter on the first night, but as we headed into the village to grab dinner, like any good artists they managed to make use of what they had available, capturing the twinkling fairy lights on the trees, and eagerly collecting shots of their meal.
If you’re a regular reader here on A Mummy Too, you’ll agree it’s a good choice of subject matter. Food has always been a big part of travel for me, and it’s moving to see that this passion has passed on to the kids and they think it’s an important enough part of the travel experience to document too. Sometimes it’s the little things.
We had two full days of fun ahead of us before we had to be back in the car early Monday morning in time for school, and those 48 hours went by in a blur.
On Saturday morning, we were fed, washed and dressed by 8am at the kids’ behest because we had plenty of activities planned for the day ahead – if only school mornings could be that easy!
JD popped on the GoPro in a chest harness, and both kids captured photography on and off the beaten path as we headed into the main village.
To start, the kids went on a climbing wall, which of course made our panicky-parent instincts kick in whenever they were more than 2ft of the ground, even though they were perfectly safe.
Despite our inner worries, Mark and I are big believers in biting our tongues and letting them experience new risks and challenges (within reason!) so that they can push themselves to new heights – in this case quite literally! Sadly, they weren’t allowed to take their cameras or GoPro into the climbing arena, but Miss J popped out to the viewing area and captured some great shots of JD in action.
After lunch and a good rest, we nipped back to the cabin, popped on our swimming costumes under our clothes and took a stroll back towards the large, heated swimming oasis in the centre of the village. On our way there we let the kids lead the way as we had been doing all weekend, and even
putting them in charge of these seemingly inconsequential little choices (through the park or through the woods, for example) really opened my eyes as to how different, and brilliant, a holiday for the kids can be when they’re allowed to be almost totally in charge. True to their adventurous natures, the kids decided to quite literally go off the beaten track and explore the surrounding area, which turned into a good hour of exploring the forest and a beautiful lake.
When we emerged through the changing rooms into the swimming centre, we were met with a huge pool and the kids’ eyes danced with excitement. They took it in turns to wear the GoPro, flicking it on and off to capture little snippets of action. We started with a gentle swim, before the alert for the wave machine started and the surface of the pool began to undulate. JD was so excited to capture first-person footage of the waves crashing towards him and he did a great job!
Next, it was time to try out the waterslides and again – it was all about the GoPro! JD went down at a speedy but respectable pace, Mark (with Jay on his lap) popped daintily out at the bottom, even keeping Miss J’s face dry. I however, for whatever reason, shot out of the slide like a rocket, being flung into the air, legs everywhere like a spider before crashing into the water and bumping gently into the floor of the pool in the most hilarious fashion – who knew I was that aerodynamic?! JD managed to capture that moment, so you might be able to spot it in the final video.
As we dried off, the kids decided they were hungry, so we reviewed the day’s dinner options. The choices were to visit a restaurant, to pick up groceries at the store and cook a meal at home, or to order a delivery to our cabin. JD and Jay immediately agreed that a takeaway was the best option, so we walked back, still snapping pics, even in the dark, and soon there was a knock at the door. Both children opted to snap pics of their dinner once again; it’s almost as if they’ve seen their mum do it a thousand times – hehe.
Cuddles, a little TV and stories, then it was time to get some sleep before another busy day.
On Sunday morning, the kids were excited but still pretty wiped from all the activity of the day before, so they opted for a more relaxed approach to the morning, eating breakfast in their PJs before enjoying some cartoons under duvets on the cabin sofas before setting out mid-morning to begin the day’s adventure. As we hit the village, Mark and JD went one way, Jay and I went the other.
Generally, we all stick together on a break, but the forest holiday the kids chose is packed with activity options from which the children had selected three each, so while we spent lots of time walking, playing and experiencing the break together, we also split off on occasion so that the children could embark on their own adventures. I probably wouldn’t have designed a break that way myself, but it ended up working really well – both kids got exactly the experience they wanted and we didn’t have to worry about anything not being suitable for both age groups (there’s a four year gap between them). Another win for the kids.
We girls hadn’t actually booked an activity for the morning, but as we passed the pottery shop, Jay tugged my arm and since she was in charge, we headed in and were delighted to hear they could make room for us right away.
Settling at a table with our own set of brushes and a huge choice of paint colours, our next task was to select some pottery to decorate. Jay chose a model of a princess for herself, and a piggy bank for me. It was gorgeous to spend one-on-one time together chatting and painting. Jay had soon decorated her princess to look like a super hero, and so she moved on to help me paint flowers all over the piggy bank. At the end of the session, we handed them over to be fired and glazed, leaving us with lovely treasures to take home.
While Jay and I were pottering around (get it?), JD and Mark were off having a great time playing laser tag in the depths of the forest – think paintball but without the mess! JD had played laser tag before indoors, but he said doing it outside in the woods made a huge difference and made it extra fun. JD had decided that Mark wasn’t going to be on the sidelines for this one, and JD is still raving about what an awesome team they made – another win for letting the kids take charge of holiday plans!
With that, we headed to a cafe? to sip drinks and wolf down a sandwich before Jay’s next activity: grooming and riding ponies, which she absolutely adored.
I attached the GoPro to her riding helmet and she captured really
immersive footage as she carefully brushed the dried mud from the pony’s coat and picked the mud from her hooves. She loved riding, and I find the first person view of her riding her pony really moving – it really is like seeing the holiday through her eyes. I can’t recommend giving your child the camera highly enough.
When we all met back up at the cabin the kids were delighted to be able to show each other what they had been up to on their cameras. I think it really helped them to understand how wonderful it can be to record those memories whether it’s for later that afternoon or 20 years time.
A quick change, and we were plunging back into the swimming pool, riding the slide and catching waves until dinner. This time, they opted for a French restaurant over the obvious options of pizza or burgers, and even opted for things on the menu they wouldn’t normally eat. Amazing.
A round of bowling finished the evening off nicely, and it was time to sleep before the early morning journey ahead.
I think the strongest lasting memory for me on this trip, aside from all the smiles, hugs and laughter, will be the lesson that you can actually get more out of a family trip by just stepping back and going with the kids’ flow. Mark and I felt relaxed, revived, happy – the pressure was off us to ‘keep the kids entertained’ – they entertained us! And there was no whining at all for the entire weekend (from the kids or grown ups!)
We’ll definitely be taking a children-led approach more in the future, and I can’t recommend enough trying it with your own children, whatever age they are. We didn’t just pass our passion for travel on to them, they also passed their passions on to us.
Let me know if you decide to let your kids get more involved with planning and documenting your next holiday. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.