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‘How Covid has changed our views on trips back to UK from France’

A couple of grand seems a lot to pay for the privilege, writes mother-of-five Gillian Harvey

Gillian Harvey with her family Pic: Pink Cat photographie

Between budget management and various constraints due to Covid, holidays are not what they used to be.

If you’d told me back in 2019 that I wouldn’t be setting foot in the UK for at least three years, I’d have been horrified. The thought of not visiting my parents, siblings, close friends and ex-colleagues at least once a year would have been unimaginable.

But once the feeling of horror had worn off, I might have started to look on the bright side. 

After all, our yearly trips to England had become expensive. With five children and no relative able (willing?) to put us up, we’d spend around £850 a week on accommodation, plus travelling costs of at least £500, on our trips to the motherland. Not making the trip would mean a couple of grand more in the bank per year – and perhaps even the opportunity to (gasp!) save a little.

Fast forward three years and not only has the pandemic failed to disappear in the way I’d have hoped by now, but for some reason my bank balance is no more buoyant than it was back in 2019. The ‘savings’ failed to appear and instead the £2,000 we used to somehow scrape together to make what seemed an essential trip, has been swallowed up into the day-to-day costs of feeding and clothing our increasingly hungry, growing brood.

We’d used to joke that we could get a holiday somewhere luxurious and sunny – and fully catered – for a similar cost to our yearly sojourn to Bedfordshire. But now – in a world where we’re much more used to staying put – it’s hard to justify spending over £2,000 on a trip at all. Anywhere. Ever.

Don’t get me wrong. I miss my relatives like crazy. My parents don’t travel well, and I know it will be a while before they feel able to make their way over here. I want to see everyone. I want to catch up. I want to visit a supermarket and buy a ridiculous amount of Cadbury’s chocolate and salad cream and Marmite.

But a couple of grand seems a lot to pay for the privilege.

Plus, let’s face it. It’s not going to be a holiday in any real sense: dragging five tired children from relative to relative (and probably taking lateral flow tests in the process), staying in a holiday cottage with unfamiliar beds and few of their toys and games; not knowing for sure whether we’ll be able (or willing) to visit tourist attractions or do anything ostensibly ‘fun’.

Some days may be borderline enjoyable but the trip will hardly be the equivalent of an all-inclusive sunshine break.

It also won’t be a deposit on the second car we’re starting to desperately need (who knew children could have so many disparate interests and schedules?).

In all honesty if someone handed me £2,000 in cash right now (and do, please, feel free to do so) my priority list would probably read something like:

·         Pay off overdraft

·         Finally find out why light keeps coming on in the car

·         Actually finish tiling bathroom

·         Buy new toaster that isn’t a fire hazard

·         Haircut

It wouldn’t be:

·         Splurge all on a 10-hour car ride to stay in a lacklustre, draughty house then reunite then bicker with relatives before wrestling children into bed and repeating for 14 days.

Despite this, we are (somehow) going to make the trip. I am determined that in 2022, and following all relevant guidelines, I’m going to give my mum and dad a cuddle. I’m going to fill the boot with Cadbury’s, share a glass of wine with friends, and may even feel brave enough to meet the cousins at a soft play centre.

It’s just going to feel a whole lot more painful this time.

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