Self-catering or hotel? That is the question. A holiday spent cooking – or watching waiters clear away all your euros on your children’s untouched plates? Both sides have their ups and downs – which will you choose this summer?
“Does it have a dishwasher?” I asked my husband suspiciously, as he presented ‘The One’: the perfect apartment, located after zillions of man-hours of research. (Which looked a lot like the BBC Sports website to me.)
“Erm, not sure. But we can walk to the beach! And look at that view!”
“I don’t care how blue the sky or sparkling the sea – if there’s no dishwasher, I’m not interested.”
How things have changed. Three kids kind of does that. Our most burning holiday issue now is not Marseilles or Majorca, beach or beautiful scenery, but how we shall eat.
We’ve clocked up a number of family holidays during our nearly eight years as parents, and I’m very grateful for that. But I confess I do struggle with the catering question.
Pros: You can control your budget. You can eat in the comfort of your own accommodation, when and where you like.
Cons: You will tell yourself “You’ll eat out all the time”. But you won’t. The local restaurant hates you after the spaghetti incident. An unscheduled nap (a child’s or your partner’s) keeps you at home over lunch. You have that chorizo that “needs eating up.”
So…You buy food. Put it away. Prepare it, cook it and serve it. Wash it up, sweep under the table and everywhere else your little angels have wandered with a snaffled baguette. They’ll eat everything within a couple of days and you’re in and out of Carrefour more often than the pool.
And those European supermarkets really know how to trap the unwary parent, with their aisles of beach balls and radioactive sweets. Everything that’s bad about Haribo they seem to stock in individual bags – no innocent Tangfastics here, but the E-number red sugary shoelaces of nightmares. We relax the “no kids in the supermarket” rule of home – “we’re on holiday!” – imagining we’ll browse the produce with them and trick them into trying new things: look at these beautiful purple (whisper: asparagus) spears!
We regret it.
Hotel / restaurant
Pros: You sits down, you pays your money, and you eat.
Cons: Your children have to behave. Without IPads “because we should be able to eat a family meal together on holiday.” You have to translate the menu and order. Without your IPhone: “if we’re not allowed IPads…!”
“That cost two euros!” you’ll splutter inwardly, as your 5 year-old spits out his sea bass. “It does NOT taste like fishfingers!” he’ll retort.
You watch in slow motion as your toddler’s EUR5 Orangina hits the dust.
So does the rest of the restaurant.
No amount of Sangria will absorb the stress.
Then you get “la cuenta”.
“Well, we’re not going to be going on that day trip tomorrow now.”
Maybe I’m making too much of a meal of this. Maybe they’ll all scoff down their squid without a murmur.
Maybe there’ll be a McDonalds. (Course there will!)
What’s your solution?
Whatever you’re doing, whether home or abroad: