x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Children's transformation is key

The reason kids like their holiday destination climates to be different than at home is so they can dress up in clothes that wouldn't normally find a place in their wardrobe.

I admit I was wrong - and you let me know it. I thought we liked extremes of temperatures while on holiday because of the feel of snow or sweat on our skin. But you have reminded me that kids are not really interested in such simple, sensual pleasures. The reason they like their holiday destination climates to be different than at home is so they can dress up in clothes that wouldn't normally find a place in their wardrobe.

Alison Stephany, who's taken her two kids all over the world, says it's their special swimsuits they enjoy; the heat is just the excuse to wear them. Hilary Sissal's children are obsessed with pulling on hats while they're away - whether with wings to cover their ears from the cold or peaks to cover their eyes from the sun. They never wear hats at home. The special opportunity and appeal of travel is about reverting to when they were really little, and were free to dress up in fairy wings and firemen outfits. It is about becoming someone else when you are on holiday, someone really special.

For my teenager at least, dressing up in clothes different from those she wears at home is a major attraction of going away. Her everyday uniform is serious grunge - jeans and hoodies, in shades of grey and black. But on holiday, out come sunflower-smothered dresses or pink puffy winter anoraks. The eight-year-old twins are no different. River's football shirt is ditched in favour of Lycra shorts or patterned salopettes.

Two mums - Emily Cohen and Sabrina Naggar - were fed up that no one recognised this basic need to not only go somewhere different but to be different. When they searched for UV-protective sunwear for their kids, they found out that safety first was the motto, meaning most were very practical but also very dull. So they established Sunuva (www.sunuva.com), a children's holiday clothing company with a range of beachwear that is just a little whimsical. My eight-year-old Savanna likes the flowery short kaftans best .

Foster Grant (www.fostergrant.co.uk) has even produced special sunglasses for youngsters - to enhance their desert chic look - in scarlet or pink with Velcro bands to secure them around the back of the head. For the cold, Frugi (www.welovefrugi.com) has produced tracker hats, with big flaps that secure under the chin. River always packs his in the hope that the temperature will fall low enough for him to pull it on so he can imagine creeping through the woods in search of an elk.

I confess I also quite like dressing entirely differently when we're abroad. This usually means wearing something suited to someone at least 10 years younger than me. Holidays are, after all, supposed to revive you. And there's nothing so reviving as pulling on a sparkly frock and prancing around in heels. But that, I'm afraid, is where my family's dressing up while abroad ends. We can't get the man of the house to wear anything but his khaki trousers and T-shirts.

Do you have family travel tips that you'd like to share? E-mail Dea at dbirkett@thenational.ae