‘If holidays with kids are so hard, why do we do it?’

The whole trip was exhausting. But I’m taking a page out of my kids’ book: I’m remembering the good stuff

Is there any parent alive who hasn’t said, returning home after a trip away with kids: “We’re gonna need a holiday after that holiday!”.

We say it like it’s a joke, but there is a desperate, stone-cold truth to it. Holidays with kids are hard. The packing (so much packing), the long drives, the struggles to put on sun-cream, the untouched food in restaurants, the ice-cream dripping down arms on to shoes, the scraped knees, the pleading to buy more plastic tat, the begging to stay up later. Oh God. Even typing this is giving me PTSD.

So why do we do it?

Last year, we went to France and nearly died. We timed it perfectly to coincide with a brutally oppressive heatwave. Almost every day reached 40 degrees. Upon arrival in Nîmes, our Airbnb host explained the severity of the weather situation. She said there had been news alerts warning people to stay indoors for most of the day until the heatwave passed. The apartment was old and beautiful, made from stones that were once part of the original city walls. But those big old stones could not protect us from the heat. The air-conditioning was weak. By the second day we resorted to climbing into a cold bath like a family of confused primates. And then, to top it off, we all got Covid. On the way home I was too weak to even say: “We’re gonna need a holiday after that holiday.”


We were mentally scarred. We wondered if we’d ever go on holiday again. But then we realised something. The kids actually had a great time. They absolutely loved our shit-show trip to France. They didn’t remember (or even notice in the first place) all the bad stuff. They remembered the ice-creams, and dancing on the roof terrace to music coming from a nearby open-air concert. They remembered swimming in the river beneath Pont du Gard – one of the most incredible Roman aqueducts you’ll ever see. And honestly? I’ve come around to their way of thinking. It was a good holiday.

But still. This year we wanted to play it safe, so we packed the car and headed for the distant realm of Wexford – the land of Vikings and 99s.

I couldn’t tell you why, but for some reason being a tourist in your own country is more fulfilling than being a tourist abroad. First up on our itinerary was Johnstown Castle. Things got off to a great start. As we walked in, a very nice American family gave the kids their leftover bag of birdseed to feed the many wandering peacocks. It was as easy as that – the kids were on board.

The grounds of the castle were beautiful – 120 acres of woodland and formal gardens – but we spent the majority of our time there in the Irish Agricultural Museum. Keeping kids engaged in a big museum is an art form, and this was one of the few places to pull it off. Even if you don’t have kids, this museum is absolutely worth a visit.

I feel like at this point I should say I have absolutely no affiliation with Johnstown Castle or the frankly superb Irish Agricultural Museum.

The next day we visited the Irish National Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig. Right off the bat I could tell we were on to another winner. The kids raced through 9,000 years of Irish history, from ringforts and crannogs to the castles of the Norman invasion. They poked their heads out of monastery huts and climbed aboard a life-size Viking longboat. There was even a falconry, for God’s sake.

What else? There was a day at the beach. One of the great things about getting older is you finally realise how essential two folding chairs are to properly enjoying such a day. The waves were huge and the kids couldn’t get enough. Afterwards, we stopped for Guinness, mussels and ice-cream. We spent a rainy day at Kilmore Quay (somehow the rain makes it better).

Does it sound like I’m painting an unlikely picture?

Of course, there were tantrums; some sleepless nights. The whole thing was exhausting. I hilariously brought two books. I actually thought I’d have time to read.

But I’m taking a page out of my kids’ book: I’m remembering the good stuff. The memory of a sleepless night won’t last long, but watching our son and daughter sit by the shore, laughing as the waves splash up against them is an image I’ll always come back to any time I think of Wexford.