Wondering if holidays will ever be the same again now you have children? They won’t be, of course, but Joanne Brown thinks she has the secret to fantastic family holidays.
Joanne is a busy mum of two young children, and she has some strong views about family breaks. Luckily for us, her top tip is to stay with Forest Holidays, which she describes as a “home from home – but on holiday”. Here we catch up with her in between holidays to find out what it is about Forest Holidays that makes it a great choice for families, and what advice she has for getting the most out of your break.
Before children, Joanne and husband Arran would head abroad for their holidays, but for Joanne that’s no longer an option: “Apart from the cost, it makes my blood run cold just thinking about the logistics; hours in the car, tired children at the airport, the endless list of things to remember – half of which I would forget.”
Since children Gracie, 3 and Jack, 2 came along, Joanne has been staying closer to home with Forest Holidays. “I don’t have to think too much; everything is provided and we can just relax and enjoy family time.”
There’s also the issue of quality. When it was just the two of them, it didn’t matter if the accommodation was ropey, or the location was noisy: “Now I want the reassurance of quality accommodation and a safe environment, and that’s exactly what I get with Forest Holidays.”
Easy holidays with toddlers - is it possible?
So, why Forest Holidays? After all, there are plenty of other UK options. “It’s just so easy,” says Joanne. “We put the kids in the car and we’re at our destination within 3 hours. I pre-book extras, such as cots and high chairs, and as soon as we arrive, it’s home from home. Also, we don’t have to buy new holiday clothes, the sites are friendly, and -something that means I can relax - there’s no traffic.”
What about the actual holiday, what’s it like once you’re there?
“It’s a real holiday. It’s not like being on a holiday park, where the world outside is irrelevant and you’re sucked into expensive on-site activities every day. We explore the local area, visit parks, go to the beach, and have even been known to have the odd pub lunch successfully. Back in the forest, the whole set up is about keeping things natural and letting you do your own thing. My son loves animals and his happiness at seeing squirrels and deer up close is enough to make a holiday special for us.”
When’s the best time for a family holiday?
Joanne has stayed at a number of Forest Holidays locations including Cropton, Argyll, Sherwood and the Forest of Dean and she has been in every season. We asked her which time of year is best.
“Everything is always better in the summer, isn’t it? Because the children are not yet at school we can come outside of the main holidays. To be honest though, there isn’t a season I don’t like, which has as much to do with the cabins as anything else.”
What do you mean about the cabins? “They’re fantastic. We always stay in a Golden Oak and they’re modern and big. I bring a pile of toys and with all the floor space the children are happy playing together for ages. When the arguments start, I put the kids’ channels on TV and peace breaks out.”
“Another thing about the cabins,” she’s in full swing now, “we looked at holiday cottages in the early days but they were all a bit twee. I like the mod cons and up to date design of the Forest Holidays cabins. The few holiday cottages that were described as modern were astronomical.”
A holiday for all the family
Joanne has talked many members of her family into coming with her: “It works brilliantly, I get a chance for a bit more adult time and we’ve enjoyed the in-cabin spa treatments and other little luxuries. We even came for our honeymoon last year; had the full works – champagne, chocolates, rose petals, flowers. And the children were with us!”
As the children get older Joanne has every intention of sticking with Forest Holidays. “The opportunities change. For instance, we haven’t been out with the Forest Ranger yet, but next year we will. In a way it makes me feel nostalgic for my own childhood when we all played out for hours on end, climbing trees and building dens.”
Perhaps, deep down, that’s at the heart of things for Joanne, the echo of her own happy childhood, and who can resist that?
Our time is almost up. Chance for one final, dangerous question – is there anything you don’t like about the holidays? The reply is swift “Yes. I hate having to leave at the end.” Phew.
So there you have it. If you thought going on holiday with toddlers was hard work, you perhaps haven’t tried a Forest Holiday yet.
Enjoy your Forest Holidays family break
Joanne’s Top 5 Tips
- Pre-book the family-friendly extras. We don’t fill the car with baby paraphernalia, everything we need is waiting for us in our cabin.
- Build anticipation – talk to the children about the forest and read some (nice) forest stories. Try www.woodlandtrust.org.uk for resources.
- Bring a selection of activities - you will spend some time in your cabin, so make sure the kids have colouring books, toys and plenty of bedtime books.
- Wellies are essential. Whatever the weather, you will be out of doors a lot. Also pack layers and bring old clothes for the children to get happily muddy in.
- Bedtime. Don’t, whatever you do, relax bedtimes. This is your holiday too, and once the kids are fast asleep, it’s bliss to sink into the hot tub, glass of wine in hand.
Did you know?
Every Forest Holidays has a Forest retreat where you’ll find a play park, a shop for essentials, toys and games and sensibly priced café for cakes, pizzas and snacks.
Did you know?
Forest Ranger activities are open to children of all ages and allow you children to have fun while learning all about the forest.