x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Travelling with Kids: Is there a magic formula to family holidays?

Babies are easily pleased even on a low-cost family holiday, but what's in it for the parents?

Collapsed on a less than comfortable sofa, toddler asleep next door, squinting at each other in the gloom (the overhead light has two settings, either dim or X-ray), my husband declares: "This is better. We both need to relax."

It's week two of our family holiday in northern Cyprus. Last week's accommodation, a collection of lovingly restored rooms in Dipkarpaz, a small and rather badly supplied village stuck out on a limb to the north-east, had tested my husband's reserves of worry and patience. Unlike most of the locals, we did not have access to a vegetable patch, and trying to put nourishing meals together for a 14-month-old, who didn't have enough teeth to chew a kebab, had proved almost impossible.

She'd thrived, of course, thanks to omelettes, cheese and fruit from the breakfast table, and dishes such as vegetarian pasta squirrelled from restaurants and reheated at dinner. Not ideal for a gourmet palate, but as long as my daughter had milk to drink and sand to eat on the beach, she didn't seem remotely concerned.

Days later and more safely installed in a privately rented villa near the resort of Kyrenia, and we have a fridge full of food, soft furnishings, a DVD player, and copy of Nanny McPhee for entertainment. There is even a bookshelf stocked with romantic novels and crime fiction, one of which I have time to read - the first time I've opened a book in over a year. Yet, somehow, even as I watch my daughter enjoy the playground at the local supermarket, not to mention the coin-fed, shuddering car that, much to her to delight, plays a bizarre collection of tunes, I feel rather underwhelmed.

Out in the sticks, with only one form of not very relaxing entertainment on offer - watching bats - the day-to-day had at least been memorable. I conclude that I'm not yet ready to submit to the tyranny of two-week breaks in a rented family box.

At least, not in northern Cyprus. A more adventurous location might have taken the sting out of villa-living but what about sanitation, cooking and other amenities that very young children require? "There must be something better than this?" I wail at my husband who, quite rightly, rolls his eyes. By better, I think I mean more.

If there's a magic formula for a successful family holiday that's rewarding for all concerned, I'm yet to work it out. Next time, though, I think I might try a luxury villa on an endless, white, sandy beach dotted with palms. At present, however, there's nothing for it: I sit back down on the ugly overstuffed sofa and finish reading my book.