'I need a timetable just to keep track' - days out this summer

girl in a tree

A day out at Bewilderwood has to be booked well in advance - Credit: Natalie Sadler

It has been a tough summer. That sounds ungrateful even as I type it, but I have to be honest - the constant planning is taking its toll.

It is like we have to predict the weather, when our kids will be hungry and when they will suddenly have a huge burst of energy that we need to burn off before bedtime. Sometimes as much as a week in advance.

girl in a tree

A day out at Bewilderwood has to be booked well in advance - Credit: Natalie Sadler

Normally I have a rough idea how we will spend our days off together in the summer but I also love to mix it up - and that is just not an option in these post-lockdown times.

Holidays are supposed to be a chance to step off the treadmill, turn off the alarm clock and throw out the schedule.

mum and daughter at Bewilderwood

Natalie Sadler feels like school holidays are hard work this summer because of Covid restrictions still in place - Credit: Natalie Sadler

Ahead of our annual camping trip I will research days out ideas nearby and have a list of options up my sleeve, but will also respond to the kids' requests - they may spot a sign or see a flyer for somewhere they want to go and we slot it in.

But this year our family getaway to North Norfolk was planned with military precision before we even left home. We had an action-packed day at Roarr! on Monday, were booked on to the Poppy Line from Holt to Sheringham at 11am Tuesday morning and Wednesday we were off swimming - at a specified time. Thursday we headed to Bewilderwood and Friday we were swimming again - but indoors this time rather than braving the icy waters of the outdoor pool.

Bewilderwood sign

The Sadler family booked their day out at Bewilderwood six weeks before their trip - Credit: Natalie Sadler

On top of that we had fishing and fencing booked in at the camp site but we eschewed meals out because the thought of scheduling any more in was just too much. Instead we had laid back barbecues and a bag of chips on the beach.

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We had a great holiday, spent quality time with the children and made lots of memories, but it was the scheduling that threw me. There was no spontaneity to our holiday, no freedom to adapt if the weather didn't suit our plans.

It just wasn't as much fun as usual.

Days off are the same. Everything has to be booked in advance, there is no turn up and pay on the door anymore. While the sun shines we can choose the beach or the playground, a picnic or the splash park but when the weather does not play ball we are stuck indoors because we didn't book an soft play slot a week in advance.

A friend booked a day out at Legoland but her daughter was ill the morning they were due to leave - so instead of just picking another day they missed out because they had already splashed out on expensive tickets.

child with skye from paw patrol

Violet Sadler at Nickelodeon Adventure - one of her many pre-booked days out this summer - Credit: Natalie Sadler

Back in the dark days of February half term when we were still living under strict lockdown we just made the most of the time with the children, we got takeaway Costa coffee or took a flask of hot chocolate to the park, enjoyed a trip to the garden centre and a virtual get together with cousins.

But as restrictions eased I felt I needed to make up for the weeks of enforced confinement and ensure the girls saw friends, and experienced new things.

Now I am ready to find a happy medium - and for venues to relax their pre-booking policy so we can enjoy life at our own pace once more.