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Staycations: A dad’s survival guide

Planning a family trip? Dad AF’s head of content PJ Douglas shares his advice on holidaying at home

Author PJ Douglas
Categories   Holidays

The Edit

The at-home-holiday has become increasingly popular over the past year, with lots of families opting for a UK stay-cay over a trip abroad. Head of content, PJ Douglas of Dadnatal, the ultimate online destination for dads, shares his advice on planning – and surviving – a holiday with little ones.

“We could always go and stay at my mum’s caravan?” said my partner, clearly scrambling for a lifeline as I had angrily scribbled out yet another location on my list of potential holiday destinations after the Government changed the traffic light system with more speed than my three-year-old son shouting out the colours of his disco bath light.

“A caravan? In Wales?!” I replied, reeling at the idea that I, a travel agent used to 5* hotels like the Oberoi and Six Senses with my infinity pools and butler service would be comfortable in a small corner of Porthmadog taking out my own rubbish. What century is this? What crime had I committed? Do they even have halloumi?!

But I am nothing if not adventurous, so I convinced myself this would be a journey out of my comfort zone and much like walking the Amazon with my dad, surviving vespas in Vietnam or drinking in Australia some things have to be experienced. So, we loaded up the car and headed off for a week in Wales… On a Staycation.

The term ‘Staycation’ has become almost a taboo word recently, shunned by those who jet off to the warmer beaches of Europe or further afield. As a travel agent I understand this more than most, with travel and tourism contributing upwards of $8.9 trillion to the world’s GDP in 2019.

A lot of the marketing and Instagram perfect pictures are designed to make you feel like you’re missing out while dangling low low prices that convince you a week in an overwater villa is better value than doing up the kitchen.

But is a staycation bad? When we look at the most popular destinations the UK travels to, we see Spain, France, The USA and Thailand all high up the list, and while I’m aware a lot of people are travelling to see the sights, sounds, culture and buildings that make up these amazing places others will be going because they know they can get a decent fry up, familiar drinks and speak enough rudimentary English to get by. It’s the UK but with better weather and beaches!

But is that the case? The Blue Flag Beach Award, considered the Gold Standard for beaches and created by the Foundation for Environmental Education, has been handed out to over 204 beaches in the British Isles (UK & Ireland) in 2021 so far based on 33 criteria from Safety to Water Quality.

So, with this in mind as I stepped out on the dunes of Black Rock Sands for the first time and my son went sprinting towards the sea desperate to find a pirate ship to join or an octopus to wrestle, I took in all the benefits of not jetting off…


By and large a staycation will work out cheaper (Center Parcs in school holidays aside) than jetting off round the world, especially if your little ones are over two and you have to pay 75 percent of an adult ticket price.

You can also work out quickly what is and isn’t good value. As parents we’ll all have been both stung by a petting zoo which costs £30 to enter for a sheep that won’t come to the fence and two guinea pigs, as well as having found a restaurant that is so cheap for the quality and portions you can’t help but tell everyone the next time you see them.

Factor in an exchange rate on this and it’s utter chaos. Do you really want to be dividing the number in your head by ten then adding a 15% tip when you could just whack it on a card with no fees. Of course not!

The Journey

I’ve grown up travelling around the world. Many of my earliest school holidays started with my mum sending me off from Heathrow to bounce around airports in the care of a stewardess until my Dad picked me up at the other end of whatever country he was in at the time. I’m more adept at getting through an airport with an hour connection and stopping for a sandwich than I am making it three stops on the London Underground.

And yet, I did not know stress until my one-year-old son had a nappy explosion as we were leaving a flight in Paris. Unless you’re lucky enough to be travelling business class most long-haul flights are tiring for adults, so if you have a toddler prepare to keep them entertained until you land.

On the staycation side, when we were driving from the North of England down to the South to visit family recently if my son got agitated we could easily pull over for a run around a park, some food, or even a service station to watch some cars and give him a break.

Time Zones

If there’s a parent out there who says they want to mess with their child’s sleep routine willingly… You’re a liar!

You’re Supporting the Local Economy

The lockdown has been tough on everyone and that includes small businesses and hotels. By visiting local attractions and restaurants and promoting them to others you’re helping them build back up the business they lost as well as experiencing what they love to do.

In my experience these are the places that remember you as well on return visits and make you feel welcome. You’re also reducing your carbon footprint by not taking a flight - always a plus!

Finally, the one thing I feel I got the most out of from our staycation was a break for my mental health. You can imagine the job of a travel agent hasn’t been as much fun as usual over the last year, so having an agreement with my partner that we would take it in turns for a lie in meant I could spend quality time with my son with my phone switched off one morning, then wander down to the beach by myself the next refreshed after a lie in and let the local coffee give me enough strength to dive into the ice cold water of the Irish Sea.

Ah, that’s a plus for Thailand.

Author PJ Douglas

PJ Douglas is the head of content at Dadnatal – online platforms providing support, advice and help for dads and expectant dads. Having travelled and lived across the world himself, PJ considers becoming a dad his biggest adventure yet!

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