The pandemic has made me soppy, so I am on holiday with my parents. Mum is a semi-retired ophthalmologist and Dad is a semi-retired vicar (most retirement is semi these days, it seems) and they live in my home town of Belfast; in recent months, the Irish Sea has proven a peskier topographical flourish than ever before. I’d always loved the Irish Sea, a charming decorative feature in my existence, full of romance and history and mackerel. But after March, it became The Wet Thing That Keeps Me Away From My Mum.
And so this week I took a train and they took a ferry, and we all met in Cardigan Bay. At first I felt guilty that I don’t come with adorable, entertaining grandchildren (as my brother and sister do) but Mum and Dad are delighted to be on a family holiday where they’re not treated as a pair of supremely affordable 60-something au pairs. “I feel so valued in myself,” muses Mum. “You invited us on holiday just because you like us! You really like us!”
Viewing my holiday as a chance to see family is yet another way the pandemic has ripped up my travel rule book in 2020. Multi-generational family holidays were already a growing trend, but it’s been years since I’ve holidayed with my parents – not counting gatherings at my brother’s in Leeds or visiting my sister in California. And, for my fellow millennials, it turns out that holidaying with your parents is a brilliant idea, for the following reasons:
Your parents don’t mind picking you up from the station even if it is out of their way. My parents have been picking me up from inconvenient places for more than three decades! They do it briskly and without complaint.
You can go to bed at 9pm without worrying about appearing boring. What a true holiday it is to be with travellers who want to be asleep by 10pm.
You can pack light and essentially show up with your laptop and some spare knickers, because parents will bring everything else: biscuits, a first aid kit, an array of condiments, an archive of body lotion sachets foraged from airports and glossy magazines since 2014, at least five raincoats and last weekend’s newspapers.
You don’t need to apologise for any strange phobias or weird habits or dietary intolerances. Your parents gave you them. It’s all their fault.
You can make in-jokes and gently bicker about shared memories, without boring or boasting or alienating your companions. If there is a parallel to “lightweight” holiday reading material in holiday conversational subject matter, family chatter is undemanding stream-of-consciousness material of the highest (lowest?) order.
And, funnily enough, my parents have found some perks to travelling with me. I have crowdsourced half of this column from Ian and Pat Hart, who would like their fellow baby boomers to know that holidaying with a grown-up child brings the following benefits:
They will have diligently researched places to eat and know all about the uber-hip “pizza tepee” – whatever that may be – in the next village that unfathomably has 12,000 Instagram followers.
Millennials are ready-made tech support workers, so you don’t need to fiddle with the satnav or stress about online check-ins or ordering food online or anything else involving a brightly lit screen.
Your adult child will hopefully share quite a few interests and hobbies with you, because, after all, you programmed them. If you didn’t programme them to be compatible holiday companions, what were you doing?
You don’t find yourself talked into doing things out of politeness, as with friends. With your children, politeness has long since gone out the window.
You don’t need to worry about how frightening you look in the morning. You all grew up in the same cave, and your children are acclimatised to your grunts and neolithic hairstyle pre-9am.
But of course, the biggest reason isn’t on these lists. Dad put it best, delivering the following death blow to friendships: “The best thing about this week is being on holiday with someone we love, rather than friends, who we only like.”
I can’t say I ever thought soppiness would enter my definition of slow travel. But as I tentatively make travel plans for the future, I realise they’re now about people, as much as places.
To read more articles by Anna Hart, see telegraph.co.uk/travel/team/anna-hart