Family Friendly Action Holidays

Whilst some of my contemporaries (busy guys with kids that used to do exciting adventure sports) lament the time when they could jet off unencumbered to go “play”, I’m working hard to find inventive ways to continue to have it all. That means going on family holidays where there’s also some action and adventure in it for me. Besides, I actually like being with my family, small as it is (one wife – who’d want more than one? – and a daughter, Sophie, two in September). In May en famile we visited the Dune de Pyla near Bordeaux, the highest sand dune in Europe and a brilliant, beautiful place to coastal soar on a paraglider, my main summer sport (skiing is my winter passion – you can substitute skiing, biking, walking , climbing etc. for paragliding in this article).
Admittedly, it was a gamble talking my wife into going and required my honed negotiating skills; when I announced we’d stay in the local campsite near to the beach in a generously sized static chalet, my wife heard “trailer park”. When I said there was a nice, affordable restaurant/bar on site, she heard, “I’ll try to not wake you up when I’ve had a few après-flying pressions with my paragliding chums”. I actually had clearance to go alone but in fairness that would have been a one-off so my goal was to establish a successful template for future combined family-action holidays.
Coastal paragliding is sea breeze-dependent and this offshore wind usually kicks in late morning/early afternoon. So, my aim was to get the family up and moving promptly so we could do something meaningful together during the first half of the day. Time can easily get gobbled up between getting up and getting in the car (especially if you have more than one child!). A morning family adventure also fits in well with a toddler’s afternoon nap routine. Timing and synchronisation of the family’s body clocks is all important so know your enemy!
We filled the mornings with trips to nearby theme parks (no more than 30 km away), a spacious zoo (lots of walking to tire Sophie out) and I hate to confess, Sophie’s first trip to that famous Scottish restaurant (mainly for the indoor soft play area to escape the drizzly rain).
The trip was a great success. Dad got to fly a dozen hours, Sophie had a ball (staying up late in the restaurant was a highlight) and Mum caught up on her sleep. Here’s how other active mums and dads can also find time for themselves to enjoy their favourite active pursuit on a family holiday whilst keeping the peace.

  • Don’t be greedy. I could have flown for double the time I did but a few hours a day was enough of a fix.
  • Be home when you say you’ll be! Do your thing, then pack up and spend time with the family.
  • Do your homework. Don’t wait until you get to your destination to figure out what to do with the kids (or to find that the pool is closed).
  • Make life easy for everyone. Avoid the cheapest early stupid-o’clock flights. Everyone just starts the holiday grumpy. Only take direct flights. Eat out lots too which cuts down on shopping, cooking and washing up.
  • Have lots of short holidays, not one big committing one centred on your private ambitions. Our Dune trip was only five days long so if it didn’t work out we hadn’t blown our annual holiday budget.
  • Choose activities and outings that are in sync with naps and feeding times.
  • Work harder to help with the domestics; packing beforehand, child care in the night, shopping, cleaning, cooking etc. Pay into the “emotional bank account” of your partner before you make any withdrawals!
  • Relieve stress of packing by making lists of what to take, keep them for reference and update them after every trip.

Grudgingly (and only ‘cause she hates to admit when I get it right) my wife actually enjoyed herself, mainly because she had a long nap with the baby most afternoons; whatever makes her happy! She’d even consider going back to the Dune next spring. Result. But don’t rub it in. Baz is a sponsored athlete with The North Face (UK)