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When the holidays aren't what you hoped for

expat life expat mums expat parenting expat parenting abroad Jul 12, 2021

So, you were hoping to take that trip back home or vacation in your favourite spot… but everything has changed. 

There are no doubt many of you like me. I had hoped to take the girls to South Australia to see my parents, but with recent outbreaks in Australia we have decided it’s not a good idea. So what now? How do you plan for the upcoming school break?

If you are in the Northern hemisphere, then you are thinking about the long summer break ahead. If you are down south with me, these holidays are the ones where people like to head to the islands and get some warmth. But this year, a lot of our ‘normal’ holiday experiences will have to change. In addition, for many of us, with the financial impact of recent times, we are faced with spending the holiday at home with limited spare cash.

I think it’s important to recognise that this is probably a unique situation, so it’s important to focus on how you can make it special. If you are lucky enough to be planning to travel within your country, or even just locally, what will you do to make it memorable for you and your family? If you are staying home, what will you do to ensure this is a wonderful memory for your kids?

One aspect you have probably overlooked is that there is no pressure, you know the packing, the planning, dealing with kids on planes, trying to find food when you land, sorting the home for when you return and the sheer exhaustion that overseas travel brings with it. 

My top tips for the upcoming holidays:


At the start of the school break. Have a family meeting. While you may be feeling disappointed about not being able to do your ‘normal’ thing, most likely so are your kids. Help them to put words to how they are feeling and give them the opportunity to ask any questions they have. 

This is also your opportunity to be clear about expectations, “we’re in this together, we will need to work as a team”. Here’s another great opportunity to develop their sense of personal responsibility.

Connect with others.

Find out who else is staying or traveling where you are. Plan to meet up once or twice a week, or more if it suits you. Share the experience. Some of our favourite memories are traveling locally with friends during the holidays!

Create a wish list. 

No matter if you are travelling locally or not, what do you want to do? What do you want to see? What projects can you create? What walks do you want to share with your kids? What experiences do you want to share with your family?

This wish list will be really important, it will ensure you are not at a loss each day, wondering what you will do. 

Scope out a broad routine. 

For many of you, this is the hottest time of year. So plan to be up and out the door early, get on that mountain hike before the heat of the day. Then plan to be somewhere cool in the afternoons. 

The girls and I spent many summers in location, not travelling. We would head out early and do something - a walk, visit a library, visit a market etc. We would come home and have a light lunch before working on a craft, cooking or baking activity in the afternoon. Then head out for a walk or a swim in the evening when it was cooler again. 

Essentially our time was broken into three blocks - morning, afternoon, evening. Keeping it simple meant that we weren’t clock watching, time bound, or rushing to places. 

Create a “bored jar”

Nothing is more frustrating as a parent than kids whining, “I’m Bored!”. While we know this is often a good thing, it’s when creativity has the opportunity to shine, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared with a resource that the kids can use themselves to seek inspiration.  

I have a jar next to the fridge with ideas for things to do, e.g. build a fort, bake something, draw a picture, write to a friend and so on. I’ve had it for years, and the girls still use it!

Make it memorable

Perhaps it's a blank sketch book that the kids can draw or write or paste in every day; maybe it's a journal or diary for them to record their thoughts, ideas or even just the weather each day; or is this the opportunity to teach your kids to use a camera and they take a photo each day which you can make into a photo book for them later. Find a way to make memories during these holidays. 

No matter what your plans are, I wish you a wonderful holiday ahead. We’ve heard a lot, these are unique times, and it is true. So let’s make memories with our families!

NB This was originally posted in 2020, it has been revised and updated for 2021.

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