Ray Massey
15 min readFeb 20, 2023



Help: We are being forcibly channelled into the same summer holiday arrangements every year.

It never used to be like this — how did that get to happen?

We have two fine Kids in our family. Well they have grown into Teenagers now, so we can be a bit more realistic in terms of our summer holiday intentions. Although disappointingly this does not mean that, as Parents, we can actually choose what style of family holiday we shall have, or even what holiday destination we can travel to.

Now that they are older we have been able to move on from the strict location limitation of “anywhere we can get to by car inside 2 and a bit hours” which constrained our holiday choices for some years.

Consequently, we can now dip our toes into the excitingly different experience of having sunny summer holidays in Europe. However, this splendid situation has come about just as most of our older generation spitefully voted to make us leave the Continent altogether — now that’s really bad timing innit !

From the outset our two have never really appreciated travelling. As very small children they did not easily take to their individual car seats and very rarely slept in them unlike everyone else’s kids seemed to do. So that hopefully pursued path of taking them for a car ride to get them off to sleep — never worked for us, it just ran up petrol bills.

Moreover, I am sure they could both clearly communicate a frustrated ‘Are We There Yet?’ before they had even bothered with the notion of acquiring language. Later on it became a family joke to see who would come out with this phrase before we had even driven out of our road in the village. And to this day, I still don’t think they were joking.

For the past 11 years or so they have been schoolchildren so we have not been able to go away on our holidays until after the Summer Term has finished. As every other parent out there will know; this means our family holidays have always fallen into a Rip Off Premium Costs/High Season Price Hike Trap. But hold on because this year there’s a change in the offing. Maybe this summer we can dodge that bullet and take them both off on holiday as soon as the GCSE exams finish on the 29th of June.

Of course their School obviously expects us to wait until the summer term has ended properly, like all dutifully subjugated Parents should. But balls to that, we have every intention of getting away on a summer holiday without paying any more premium prices, as soon as is possible. So we are going to book a 10 day break on a Sunny Greek Island for us all in the first week of July. That’s well before the school summer term ends this year, and that’s a promise!

The way I look at it is this. Our academically adventurous Daughter is still choosing either to go off to a local College or to go back to the 6th form for her A levels, before deciding about Uni. Whilst my fine Son is likely to be leaving the school to go for his first job. So what is the School going to do if we take them away before the term ends? Are they going to Holiday Shame us as unreliable parents? Are they going to try to embarrass us in the School Magazine? Are they going to attempt to impose a fine or what ?

Well, Good Luck with those ideas. Because in these straightened economic times I will welcome the opportunity to publicly pursue our case. Firstly; to argue that we have have been forcibly made to endure more than 11 years of economic bullying through having unwanted controls restricting our Family Holiday dates. And, secondly by being coerced into paying out for purposefully hiked Holiday prices resulting from this imposed hegemony.

Yes, I have heard all those surrender monkey lines about ‘its just the way it is’ and ‘it applies the same to everyone with children at school’ and then the forlorn lament of ‘How else could we arrange it ?’ But honestly, that’s just acquiescing to ignorantly wielded power from an unhelpful and unelected quasi authoritative body.

So I am way up for a Gloriously Grumpy; embarrassingly protracted and curmudgeonly contrived correspondence struggle with any or all of those school oriented bodies who think they can interfere with our sacred right to Family holidays at reasonable costs. In doing this I will look to purposefully procure the involvement of: other Parents; The PTA; Local Councillors; our MP; the Education Authority; anybody else’s Local Newspaper; The Mothers Union; The Unitarians; The Flat Earth Society; Extinction Rebellion; the Boy Scouts; Brownies and Cubs as well as any other Interest or Non Interested Group I can uncover.

Handily, I am retired so I do have the time to invest — and I know with certainty that that I will really enjoy entering The Lists for this latter-day jousting tournament — much more so I think, than whoever foolishly seeks to engage with me over this quite minor but surprisingly pertinent matter for families.

Like many other Parents, the first family holiday we ever had with our kids was when they were only just toddling. We went down to the seaside and they ran and ran and ran on the wet sands. We enjoyed a break in the sun; sand and wind, with kites; digging holes; paddling; wet towels; changing nappies on the beach and having lotsafun. So ever since they could engage in colloquially competent conversation, our own teenagers have convinced themselves that family holidays can only be Beach Holidays, because apparently that’s obvious.

Consequently, every other inviting holiday option we can think of like: a Swedish designer led pine forest lodge with a hot tub & pool; a Italian Mountainside chalet with a pool; an Ancient French farmhouse with a pool close to amazing restaurants; an old Spanish Finca nestled in ancient Olive groves, with its own pool; or even a poolside pool complex with a private pool — are all simply dismissed as ‘Its Not Beach’ and ‘There’s no Splash Park’ and ‘Is there 24 Hour Wi-Fi ?’.

How come everyone else seems to have created adventurous holiday minded children when ours just want to do ‘the same again’ with ‘Beach’ every year? How come we have friends and relatives whose own teenagers happily go off with them to enjoy Glamping in grassy meadows; relaxing in cosy log cabin complexes in the middle of nowhere, or chilling out in extremely well appointed rural estate holiday cottages?

Why do our friends have a brace or two of kids who will willingly visit relentlessly uninteresting places like: hysterical monuments; Rastafari safari parks; temptingly tatty tourist attractions; Gingham embalmed Olde Worlde Gift Shops; cooperatively owned crumbling cowshed restoration projects; upcycled unstately homes inhabited by fashionably impoverished less-than-noveau-riche failed Minor Gentry and tiny village cafes with tortuously teensy weensy tables and unsupportive chairs, where they artfully display miniscule examples of pointless local specialities that you can purchase at optimistically inflated Duchy Original prices? Whereas our two fine offspring are obviously determined not to experience any of these Hopelessly Happy Holiday Happenings. Where did we go wrong ?

Currently, for our annual summer holidays we are forced to go to a ‘Two Teen’ approved European beach destination. We are allowed to travel there on an Aircraft as its sort of a Cool thing to do. As long as you don’t mention any ‘Eco Consequences To The Planet’ — duh! However, in using this mode of transport we have to have direct flights because the notion of going somewhere else first is clearly an anathema to both of them. I don’t think they have yet come across the excitement of themselves having to make even a local journey that ‘takes 2 buses to get there’ in their short teenage lives. Let alone the idea of travelling to somewhere else before you get to where you are going because its likely to have been a destination in itself.

I think they are demonstrably a product of the Sat Nav Generation. Consequently: for all journeys and even, god help us, for most life events too; they only know vaguely where they guess their starting point is and where they think they might be going to — with effortless inaccuracy. They don’t seem to be able to recognise various road travel routes in our own country, which I very helpfully outline for them. And when I try use our Big Atlas and our World Globe to identify our International summer holiday travel, I am met with astounding complacency. I can see the phrase “Whatever” hovering in the Ether above their heads as I doggedly pursue my notion that they surely do want to know just where we are going. Don’t they ? Why don’t they??

As a concerned Dad, and ex Teacher, I have tried to engage them in relaxed non pressured conversations about how we build journeys, both physical and metaphorical. I have used my own occasionally awkward zig zag pathways through life as examples and, more practically, have also shown them real time maps of our holiday routes on their own iPhones. But they still remain resolutely uninterested in acknowledging the practical process of travel.

Maybe I finally do understand though? — its that they travel serenely by car; plane; bus and train as provided, but can’t be bothered to look out of the window at where they are not going to go to. And, that’s also definitely a general metaphor for their Teenage lives as well.

Somewhat gleefully I look forward to the time when they first encounter that purposefully contrived phenomena of aimless international wandering as a journey style in itself — aka, the ‘Gap’ year. So lets see how you can handle that as an indirect travel concept eh? But, I expect they will receive it as if they do most things — with Passive/Aggressive/Defensive surprise. As if they had never ever come across such a notion previously.

This disappointing lack of inquisitiveness seems to be the default mode — it underpins the general level of teenage acknowledgement when they encounter something perhaps unexpected. They react by assuming no one else has ever come across it either; so therefore everyone must share their righteous personal “Indignation with surprise” stance. Consequently anyone who suggests that maybe some forward thought could have been bought into play here — is just being awkward.

That all speaks volumes for my Fatherly; well meant and clearly unwanted non useful explanatory inputs.

However as The Parents in our Family we do get to make one very important holiday choice and that is; wherever it is we go, we insist on booking the All Inclusive Hotel option. This is because we are clearly much more in need of a Holiday than are our two Teenagers. Additionally, when we make the hotel booking, for the four of us, we do not accept the existence of the fearsome Shared Family Room with its Divans and pull out beds.

This is because its our bloody Holiday as well so it means we are not prepared to put up with treading our way around the unacceptable mess that any Teenager can produce if they occupy any sort of space for any length of time. And because we are not going to put up with having discarded swimwear; clothes; shoes; hair arranging equipment; iPhones and wet towels thrown on our bed. Additionally, we are not prepared to politely smile our way through the all pervading and faintly ‘off’ smell that they can produce at will — no matter how much Lynx is sprayed at the problem.

Even though we are now able to travel to the Sunny Mediterranean our holiday still has to accommodate Two Teen Approval for the following: Shortish flight times because ‘they don’t do Long Haul’; the destination has to be warm and sunny but not ‘Hot’ because that’s too much to deal with; it has to offer Buffet food as they can’t be doing with walking to a restaurant or using a menu. So its easier just to graze and pile stuff up then leave it because you took too much. Oh, and It has to have World Class Wi-Fi because they are still buried in their phones constantly sending pictures of food & activities to possibly uninterested classmates and friends.

In the end, all of their unsophisticated awkwardly self centred demands coupled with an ambivalent ‘whatever’ attitude is sort of OK because they are Our Teens. Because they are still young and are still developing a sense of worldliness, and because we don’t really have a choice do we? So it all sort of becomes assimilated into a tacit acceptance that this is the current nature of our Family existence. Ah, but Holidays used to be so different before we welcomed them into our lives.

Back in the 1980’s we enjoyed properly lazy annual holidays as a couple in and around Europe. We readily understood that accommodation and travel prices were much better outside school term time. So we usually went for a week in rural France in May/June — carefully avoiding any Half Term dates. And then another week or so a little further afield in mid to late September. Although both of us were employed in quite pressured work environments, we were still able to be flexible with booking holiday dates and flights. Consequently we could readily pick up reasonably priced deals for French Gites in early summer as well as arranging low cost trips to still sunny Mediterranean islands later in the year.

With those mid/late September holidays, we usually plumped for heavily discounted last minute packages where our flight times were likely to be pre dawn and our holiday apartment would be Allocated on Arrival, or maybe it would then be “Abandoned on Arrival” if it was really bad when we saw it? So it was always an interestingly tense time for us as we stared hopefully out of the wheezing airport transfer coach on our way to whatever holiday apartment complex, in whatever Greek or Spanish holiday resort we were going to be staying at, on our sunny island adventure.

Of course, we already knew which island our package holiday was booked on before we took off from England. Even so, if you happen to have imbibed ‘Way Tee Many Martooni’s’ on the charter flight, then you quickly discover that all Mediterranean Holiday Island airports have a very large sign displaying their name. So you really can’t miss seeing it as the plane taxis towards your Tourist Arrivals Hell. I presume that’s because they have already learned from exhausting previous experiences of having to explain to very drunk holiday makers just where they are, now that they have successfully made it off of the aircraft — hence the big sign by the runway.

Anyone who has had even passing knowledge of trying to communicate with people who are just ‘Pleasantly Drunk’ knows what a tortuous verbal minefield this can be. So the positioning of reassuringly huge name boards at Holiday Island airports in full view of possibly pissed passengers is probably purposeful. On reflection, I am not aware that there are any large or easily visible signs confirming your arrival on the runway at Stansted or at Gatwick or even Heathrow. Apart, of course, from the one about Luton Airport instead of somewhere else that that guy did as a joke on Television.

So I suppose as good travellers, we just accept our own UK airport arrival as correct simply because the plane has landed. It must be that we have some sort of faith that the Pilot definitely knows where they should be landing. Or at least where they think they should go to from where they think they remember where it was they started from. Hopefully that’s where they actually were at that time. Because Commercial Airline Pilots have quite stressful jobs and work in very profit led organisations. So in these straightened times they may not have much of a break between driving different aircraft to different destinations. Sometimes this must seem both confusingly familiar and new-ish at the same time. It all usually works out well though doesn’t it? Except of course for those disappointing occasions you can watch on the Discovery Disaster Channel.

As eager tourists who are agreeably able to get off the plane and ready to start enjoying our last minute hugely discounted holiday package. No one had so far seen fit to tell us what sort of spartan like accommodation this bargain would bring forth. Nor did we yet know just where we were going to be located on the island. So from the very moment of our NoisyJet’s arrival we were at the mercy of the quick turnaround travel trade and their fine collection of Summer Reps.

Who, it turns out, had already decided to view us as Front Line; Battle Ready; Tourist Fodder available for herding on to large noisy coaches that all seemed to have sandy seats; hot dusty curtains and air con that only worked for the driver. Thus we were readily available for slotting in to any one of their currently vacant holiday apartments at will. To these fine Reps we were simply a retro click bait consequence; yet another fine example of the power of late night TV advertising that had enthralled us some 4 or 5 weeks previously.

So, even though we had successfully arrived on the correct island we were still; Duas Personas Sine Domo; Dos Touristas Non Cabida; Dyo atoma choris katalyma. I.e. Two Tourist Scions Representing the ‘Great Unallocated’. We were greeted at the airport as travel weary but nonetheless biddable mobile units. Carefully marshalled off of the plane then corralled into a long sinuous queue in the only non air conditioned area at Unwelcome Airport Arrivals corner. Once lined up we were tantalisingly close to Exit signs but with nowhere to escape to. So, we all stood quietly waiting with our luggage and occasionally shuffling hopefully forward towards the appropriate holiday company trestle table.

For it was on us reaching the correct table that the ever smiling but somewhat sinister looking reps, would check our names against their many lists. And then, smiling with just their teeth, they would announce our Bargain Holiday Tourist Apartment Accommodation Location Fate.

I hope that by now you will have recognised that neither of us were actually Ecstasy Fuelled Rampaging Holiday Ravers. In reality we were a couple who appreciated: Sunshine, people, beaches, cultures, sand, alcohol, sea, different foods, more alcohol, books, Al Fresco lunches; sun beds; swimming; restaurants and late night dinners, but not necessarily in that order.

In all, I think we went on at least 8 or 10 years worth of these annual holiday jaunts that had this built in mystery accommodation tour at the start. And, whilst we did appreciate a bargain, we were always slightly concerned that as last minute unallocated gap filler tourist fodder, we would end up at an apartment complex in the ‘24 Hour Party Town Barrio’ that seemed to exist on every Mediterranean holiday island.

Thankfully that never happened, but we had made a plan for if it ever did. It was a simple plan — during the evenings we would change our routines to work around peak noisy/drunk times for local bars; clubs and restaurants. We would choose to have our drinks and then dinner, either earlier or later, whenever everyone else had moved on into Boisterously Brazen Bars or Pre Night Club Drinking Clubs. Daytime we would take advantage of morning sunbathing on empty local beaches whilst the exhausted clubbers were still snoring. Then in the afternoons when the noisy folk started up, we would escape using local buses to enjoy still quiet beaches that had handy beach bars with fine sea food or Tapas and Tavernas.

To enable this strategic response we felt fairly confident that we could also imbibe industrial amounts of Fizzy Wine with our al fresco evening meal of a carefully curated concatenation of Calamari. Probably we would be drinking either Freixenet on Greek Islands or Cava Brut on Spanish ones — obviously this was the Pre Pre Prosecco age. So we reckoned that if we could manage to get to sleep just after midnight-ish when the noisy party people in the Street Bars moved into the even Noisier Clubs. Then we would probably be able to slumber through the ensuing tumult when they emerged again in the early morning hours. I always thought it was a well conceived plan, but we both remain quite pleased that it went untested.

In reality though we need to salute the long suffering and far too young looking Holiday Company Airport Reps, for being very skilled at spotting us for what we were — a 30’s ish couple just looking for a beach; some sunshine; some alcohol and interesting food in relative peace. So only now do I properly understand that, in the Airport, they constantly re worked their lists and re-allocated available accommodation units whilst our sleepy tourist queue wormed its semi comatose way towards them on their rickety pop up tables. After all, everyone wants to show they can do their job well don’t they ? And happy holiday makers can be people who might leave positive feedback. And that’s way before Trip Advisor was even thought of.

As time went on we established a recognisable summer holidays routine. It was somewhat obvious that prices plummet in Europe during school term times. So we only needed to dodge the Premium Prices of half term in June, to be able to enjoy a week En Gite — that’s a posh way of saying we booked an early vacation in an old/abandoned/part demolished/part refurbished/electrically unstable rural holiday farmhouse. Then, a couple of months later we could avoid the equally obscene holiday price hike in July/August by travelling in September and still be able to enjoy a sun blessed island based holiday on the Med.

I have to admit to being a little embarrassed at some of these personal recollections. Mostly because I am very proud of my working class origins coming, as I do, from Walthamstow in the East End of London. Consequently I am uncomfortably aware that all this stuff about having fine holidays in France; Spain & Greece sounds pretentiously middle class.

But hey, we did/do enjoy interesting food served up in good restaurants so that’s nothing to feel awkward about. And we still like visiting sunny places abroad even though they have to be pre - judged as acceptable by our two fine Teens.

Moreover, it felt right when we were properly part of Europe for all those years, mainly because we could travel around several different countries with ease. Or at least we could until all those spiteful Little Englanders squirmed out of the Social Woodwork a couple of years ago and voted to make us leave — just because they were still ignorantly fighting WW2 in their heads and couldn’t stand the idea of being friendly with foreign people they didn’t know.

Still, maybe in a few years time Europe will let us back in — but I won’t hold my breath.

Be Well.



Ray Massey

Intelligent, sensitive, humorous writer — new to this stuff. Offering life comments and observations from a Grumpy Old Man.