x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Holidays are meant to be relaxing

We're having an argument. Not another one, I hear you mutter. And you'd be right.

We're having an argument. Not another one, I hear you mutter. And you'd be right. We're travelling over very familiar territory in this particular tiff. My man and I are disagreeing - loudly - about whether we should stop off on the way during our forthcoming trip or, in his words, "just press on". He loves to press on. He'll travel all through the night just to get there, exhausted. Whereas I prefer to dawdle along the route, and arrive in a fitter state.

I didn't always used to be like this. I used to be a sprinter straight from the starting block of our front door. But since having kids I find taking our time stretches out the holiday effect. We were recently flying from Luton, once considered a joke and now one of Britain's most efficient small airports. The flight left at some horribly early hour, so I suggested we spend the night before at a hotel nearby. That way, we'd just need to tumble out of bed the next morning and check in.

My man suggested we stay at an airport hotel. I disagreed. That wouldn't be pleasant at all. If we were going to add another night to our holiday, then it might as well be a good one. So I booked into the Luton Hoo hotel (www.lutonhoo.com), a recently opened 17th-century grand house, far enough away from the airport to feel like a destination in itself, but close enough to see the planes take off on the boundaries estate which is stocked with pheasants and peacocks.

Luton Hoo is the kind of hotel Britain does very well. The lounge - sorry, Italianate Drawing Room ? was larger than the whole of our house, stuffed with hovering staff and huge sofas. We weren't asked if we'd like a drink but a "beverage", so already the kids were learning a foreign language. If the weather had been better, we could have indulged in a game of tennis on the grass court. Instead, we tired out the seven-year-old twins and teenager in the pool, so they tucked up early while we switched on babylistening and went down to the bar.

The trick, I found, is to get the kids to sleep in their flight clothes (usually tracksuits). The twins consider it wicked to get up without getting changed, almost as naughty as not cleaning their teeth. Then I lead them to the car in a somnambulant state, compliant and cuddly rather than complaining. The dirty clothes from the day before are dumped in the boot, ready for our return. By the time we check in at the airport, the twins are fully awake and in a surprisingly good mood.

Next we're taking the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin, before driving up the West Coast of Ireland. I want to stop off in Dublin on the way. The man says, 'just press on.' I'll let you know if the dawdler or dasher wins. Do you have family travel tips that you'd like to share? E-mail Dea at dbirkett@ thenational.ae