Road trip rules

Louise Emma Clarke wants to know if we're nearly there yet


“I booked a hotel for the weekend,” my husband announced. I experienced a fleeting moment of excitement, before one of the children shrieked and I remembered I was a mother. My mind flashed through everything we would need to do in the next 24 hours and I felt a bit sick. Seeing the concern on my face, he chirped: “There’s a kids’ club!,” and the vision of sitting by the pool for a few uninterrupted hours was just enough to swing it.

‘OK’, I conceded. ‘But we’re making a list.’

In times of stress – and I count travelling with two children under the age of three as times of stress - I always make lists. My husband doesn’t understand my reliance on notebooks and pens, but he isn’t generally the one trying to squeeze the entire contents of the boy’s bedrooms into one suitcase for two nights away.

After half an hour of scrawling, I had run onto four pages. We needed sleepwear, night-lights, swimwear, toiletries, favourite books, favourite toys, and (most importantly, if we stood any chance of sleep over the weekend), the boy’s favourite cuddly toys. Catching sight of my list, it was the husband’s turn to look concerned.

But despite his reservations, I did manage to squeeze everything in – and we were soon on the road. This had its own challenges.

The baby, who has always hated facing backwards in his car seat, started to wail as we pulled out of our car park and I spent the next hour contorting my body to pass him toys, sets of keys, and my mobile phone in an attempt to silence his outrage. During all of this, his brother repeatedly asked the question: “are we on holiday yet?”, which was endearing the first few times but like being stuck in a car with an annoying fly after that.

We decided to try a game, hoping that the nearly-three-year-old would be old enough to grasp the concept. I start: “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with C!” The toddler perks up and starts looking around. ‘He’s got it!’ I think, clever boy!

“Carrot!” he shrieked from the back of the car.

So we gave up – and not long afterwards, I turned to the husband and say ‘are you nearly on holiday yet?’ as I was starting to regret agreeing to this weekend away already, before we got anywhere.

Not long afterwards, we pulled up at a swanky hotel reception and staff members pulled open the doors. The baby stopped wailing and the toddler stopped firing questions and I breathed a sigh of relief. We had finally arrived.

Fast-forward 20 minutes, however, and we were still stood in the lobby of the hotel. The toddler had taken his shoes off and was skidding around in his socks, whilst the baby was leaning precariously over a water feature trying to pluck roses out of the water. As the husband tried desperately to find details of our booking, I caught sight of a saturated rose flying across the lobby. It landed in the path of the toddler and he slipped spectacularly and landed in a heap. People around us started staring, so I swooped in to rescue the now-soggy-bottomed child, whilst the husband held the baby prisoner under his arm.

They finally found our booking and we were soon on our way to our way to the fifth floor in the lift. The boys were under control and I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. The husband was right! We could manage this - it was going to be a lovely weekend!

And that’s when it dawned on me that I’d left the cuddly toys at home. I decided not to break the news to the husband just yet…

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