Time to hit the road, mother!

Having just marked 60 years of family breaks, first with his father, then his sons, now with a grandson, David Randall offers his tips for a successful trip



Packing


Contrary to what some people think, the purpose of holiday packing is not to cram as much of one's wardrobe into every available case and holdall.

Priority, instead, must be given to play equipment and toys. Spades, buckets, cricket bats, balls of all shapes and sizes, inflatable boats, oars, rubber-band aeroplanes, badminton rackets, nets, golf clubs and geological hammers should always take precedence over clothing. Especially sweaters – the attempt to pack which was always regarded by my father as evidence of unholiday-like pessimism.

Car Journeys

The non-driving parent acts as in-car entertainments officer, organising sing-songs, choosing which CDs are played, and acting as compere for on-board games. These can include pub cricket (the batsman scores a run for every leg in the title of pubs passed, and each name lacking legs takes a wicket), and on-board treasure hunts. There's nothing quite like a car full of children tasked with singing out through open windows when they see a man with a silly hat, or woman wearing a colour clash, etc.

Sandcastles

No child is ever likely to be excited by the kind of castle built by those flimsy plastic spades sold at beach shops. My motto: come prepared and bring a garden spade. Some swift work with a trusty Spear & Jackson, and your children will have an earthwork to entertain them for hours. And don't forget those little flags to stick on top of the turrets.

Beachcombing

Shell collecting can have its moments, but, for bringing a day at the beach to a suitably rousing finish, there's "Find the rudest shaped stone" contests.

Picnics

The essence of a good picnic is not, despite the exhortations of the colour supps' food faddists, the grub, but the location. A waterside venue is best, preferably by a stream small enough to be dammed as part of the après-fodder entertainment. And don't bother lugging around a huge cooler – just place your cans and bottles in the water for near-instant cold drinks.

Fishing for tiddlers

Always have a shrimping net in the car. And a beach bucket, or receptacle large enough to hold the catch for a few moments while it is examined. A lifetime's interest in wildlife may be created at such moments, or, failing that, a few happy hours splashing around.

Theme parks

At the exit of every ride and attraction, these grasping places have shops selling breakable toys at hideous prices. Tell each child at the start of the day that they have £5 to spend on toys, and it cannot be spent before midday. When they see something they want, they must summon a parent, and discuss the purchase. This avoids them buying the first thing they see and spending the rest of the day pleading tearfully for further funds.

Graveyards

Invariably more entertaining (unless you're being put in one) than the above, these are, for certain age groups, a much neglected hunting ground for wildlife and venue for instant history lessons. Besides, there's nothing so reliably good at making the little buggers realise how lucky they are than a tramp round some old boneyard, reading about how their Victorian counterparts regularly pegged out at an early age. Sounds gloomy, but it never fails.

Friends

Not yours, theirs. When children reach the age of 10 or 11, they suddenly cease to regard their parents as the most exciting people in the world, and tend towards teenage sullenness on holidays. The solution? Let them bring along a friend. Instant banishment of the sulks.

Money

While prudence may be a virtue in March or November, it is a vice in August. When it comes to family holidays, save, beg, borrow and, if necessary, steal adequate funds. Look upon it not as spending, but – as my father called it – investing in memories. And the dividend comes not just at the time, but, repeatedly, as your children in years to come recall the happy days.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
Arts and Entertainment
books The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
musicManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?