There are more than a few things to consider when planning our family's annual summer vacation. Not only the things you know you have to work out like time, money and where to go. The desires of all family members come into the equation. Do extended family members want to join us? The Man of the Place and George want "stuff to do" and I just want to relax.
We live in Scotland and Scottish school systems run a little bit different to English school systems. Our kids get out of school a couple of weeks before the English kids get out. If we go on holiday immediately, we avoid the crushing crowds. The other part of this is that tour operators haven't hiked their prices up just yet, matching time when English schools break up for the summer. This means we have a two week window at the very start of the summer holidays when the prices for travel may still be affordable. Some tour operators will raise their prices up a little bit to coincide with Scottish schools letting out, but really they wait a couple weeks. So, going on our family vacation the day that school lets out is what we usually do.
When the children were smaller and there were more of them at home, missing a bit of school wasn't such an awful thing. It is my firm belief that a couple of weeks in a foreign country, with a different culture and we have to try to use a new language is just as valuable as time spent in a classroom. We used to take them out of school in September for a trip to France.
Please don't think that the kids escaped school altogether. We had homework time too. Each evening while we adults sat in the sun, sipping some wonderful Burgundy, the kids did their homework and filled in their holiday diaries. Ticket stubs and leaflets from our daily activites were pasted in to illustrate the journal entry du jour. I still have George's first holiday diaries. They were great souvenirs of the holiday.
The weather in France is still lovely in September AND the prices of travel and accommodation have plummeted. We love the French countryside and their local market days in the small towns. We went to France, mostly in Brittany, for years. Aside from the old diaries in the loft, I find that we don't have many souvenirs of those vacations in the house. It seems that we used all our spending money on food and wine.
Its been almost three years since we've been back to France. I miss it. I used to fantasize about buying some little rural place and spending the rest of my life growing rows of purple lavender and big fat tomatoes outside (Tomatoes, cucumbers and melons have to be grown in a greenhouse here in Scotland - not enough sun). There have been enough books on the subject of chucking ones life in Britain for the pleasures of living in rural France or Italy. I content myself with those. It's less disruptive.
A couple of years ago, we found that a self-catering holiday on the Greek islands was going to be less expensive than driving all the way to France. It also meant almost no driving and over all less work for me and The Man of the Place.
This is our beautiful boy. It was taken while returning from a dive trip, July 2005.
Last year our vacation on the Greek island of Skiathos was very affordable. With the money we saved booking this vacation, we spent the extra money on diving lessons. We three became completely hooked on diving. Now inexpensive holidays where we can dive are what we focus on.
Now, here is my latest dilemma. My Dad will be in Europe this summer. He has expressed a desire to join us for a bit while we're on vacation. This will be fantastic! I love my dad, he's great fun. However, I have found that it will only be an extra £150 for us to be in Egypt, specifically Sharm el Sheikh on the Red Sea. There is some of the best diving in the world there. I've investigated this change of venue. In comparable price ranges, we'd have nicer accommodation in Egypt compared to Greece and breakfast is thrown in. Hmmm, better diving, nicer rooms (with AIR CONDITIONING!) and breakfast cooked for me each morning . . . . .
I'm just going to have to phone Dad and talk this over with him. He might be unwilling to go to Egypt because there was a bomb exploded in a tourist hotel just up the road.
This is us on a holiday in the Greek island of Skiathos. July 2005 Left to right - Man of the Place, Me, Jay - my sister's husband and my beautiful sister Sarah.