Tuesday, 30 July 2013


I remember sun-kissed holidays from my youth.

Running in and out of the sea wedged in a blow-up dolphin rubber ring, going wrinkly from spending hours in the camp swimming pool, catching crabs at Wells. And that was just on one Club 18-30 holiday.*  (*joking Mum, for God’s sake, I’m joking).

Our holidays were special; it’s not just the rose-tinted specs of hindsight filtering them pink. I just remember having mountains of fun, with Mum making amazing cars and boats out of sand for us to play in, and Dad being the biggest kid of all, horsing around on the beach, always, always playing games with us.

We returned last week from a special holiday of our own. It was our turn to be the responsible grown-ups. We took our two kids to the Isle of Wight for a week, to a cheapo Haven Holiday-alike family resort, and thanks to the magical ingredient of constant sunshine, and the marvellous horsing-around skills of my husband, I’m hoping we’ve managed to brew up some potent solar-powered memories for our children.

When you go on holiday with a child with Prader-Willi Syndrome, there’s an extra level of planning. As well as the sun-cream and beach towels, you make room in your bags for healthy snacks and a low-fat picnic for the journey, because you can’t rely on motorway service stations to have low-calorie menu options. You stick a couple of extra items of healthy food in your glovebox just in case you get stuck in a traffic jam. You pack that emergency tuna pasta meal that doesn’t need to be kept refrigerated just in case the traffic jam turns out to be a monster of a marmalade. (By the way, terrorists, you’ve really put a spanner in the works when it comes to foreign flight travel, because in the eyes of airport security a low-fat jelly pot might as well be a low-fat gelignite pot, you utter bastards).

When you travel with someone with PWS, you have to check venues and menus in advance of mealtimes to be sure you’ll be able to order something suitable at the right time of day. And if you’re the parent of my particular PWS child, then you also have to check whether a restaurant or pub sells tomato juice, and even more importantly, will add the required large dash of tabasco or Worcestershire sauce to make it spicy.

But I’m making this all sound like a a right pain, when it isn’t. Because after 14 years of this, it becomes second nature: we know which lollipops are under 80 calories; we’re used to strolling along the esplanade, peering at the restaurant menus and opening times a little more closely and a little earlier in the day than most; and we’re canny about splitting that afternoon snack so that our daughter can have some ‘extra’ nibbles on an evening out in the holiday clubhouse, as she watches redcoat wannabes sweat their little socks off. (And boy, with the weather we had, they really were extremely sweaty. I’m convinced that whoever was hidden under the furry, thermal layers of the Mr Bear costume must have been on a drip after each performance). 

We visited theme parks, we rode in cable cars down to The Needles, we got stuck in giant deckchairs, and we played and lazed on the beach where my my husband and little boy built sandcastles and dams whilst my daughter and I read on sun loungers under a parasol, having an English siesta, otherwise known as ‘a little nap’.

We had a blast. A sunny, blazing blast. I’ll remember it. I hope they do, too.

Video is Sex Pistols - Holidays In The Sun. Again, sorry Mum.


  1. Sounds like a fabulous family holiday-I am reading this whilst on a hot car journey back from Dorset camping with my hubby and 3 girls-camping with a 3 month old with pws turned out to be quite easy......quiet and sleepy being a good combo for camping! Did require new levels of planning though as had to find local hospital and let them know we where in the area-take a mound of syringes, 2 spare ng tubes and all other baby paraphanelia......and thank goodness she did us proud and kept her tube in the whole holiday! (Minor miracle as she averages pulling it out once a week-terror!) Her first taste of camping and the sea and lovely memories for us all :)

  2. You'll be amazed at how quickly the planning becomes second nature. Try not to ever give in to that voice in your head that says "it would be easier if we didn't do this." Easy is never as much fun.