So, bar the physical exhaustion I'm feeling now (why do my shoulders feel so achey?), this was the best holiday I've been on for a while. And I was on my own with my boys. Mrs Responsibility.
I was a bit scared before going, to be honest. I know it was only to Wales and not to Timbuktu, but still... there's the organising and the packing and the map-reading and the car breakdown stuff and the money and the what do we do when we're there and the first aid kit (and so on). It's a strange thing. When I was with my husband I still did all this stuff, but because there were two of you the responsibility didn't hang on your shoulders quite so much like a bucket of bricks.
Anyhoo. I got uppity packing the car up because I always do. Can't stop myself. But once en route... it felt good. And when we were there, it felt brilliant.
1. I organised it, so I chose the transport
Unless you're a complete dunce, you'll have arranged transport that suits you. Me, I'm a UK girl. I don't like the heat so much, and I particularly don't like hanging about at airports playing cards. I don't like being surrounded by people I don't know, either at an airport or in a plane. I'm odd like that. So a car journey it is. You can stop when you like, there's just you and your dear ones in the car and, bar arguments about music and the occasional call of 'I feel sick', what's not to like?
2. I was going somewhere I knew I'd love
See above. You've organised it. So you'll be going to somewhere where you know you'll be happy. Love the sun? Spain maybe. Culture? Italy. Tavernas and tinkling boards? Greece. Exotic? Maldives. etc.
Me - I like hills, beaches and sheep. Wales.
3. When we got there, I was in charge
There's none of this wiffly waffly compromise stuff ("Well, if we must go to the car museum then I want a day looking at that stone circle"). You factor in what the kids want to do, then make a decision. End of. Having said that...
4. I kept the kids happy
What I found out is, if the kids are happy, then you are happy too. My kids love body-boarding, so off to the beach we went, kit in tow. I went the sea a couple of times (no wetsuit - good for the heart - maybe) then retreated to my towel where I took up residence, one eye on them, the other on my book. A break for sandy sandwiches, and they were back again, battering the waves.
Happy and knackered, they slept well.
5. We found other families
This was sheer luck. I have to admit that I hadn't given this an ounce of thought, and even when we arrived at the campsite, I still had my stand-offish front on which says "hello, I'm smiling, but really I don't think I want to talk to you very much." However, they broke me down, these families, and the boys were delighted. Although they were the eldest of the bunch, they made friends (with girls! Ugh!), played beach cricket, Kick the Can (don't ask), badminton and footie. They took us in, were kind to us, helped me out occasionally and gave me wine. I could ask for nothing more.
6. We made fire and used knives
Ask the boys and they would tell you that the campfire and learning about bushcraft was the best thing about the holiday. Yes, they needed supervising and yes, my eldest thought he knew everything there was to know about axes and fires (annoying AND dangerous) but the course they went on taught them so much that I didn't want to curb their enthusiasm. Also, once the fire was lit, we got to toast marshmallows. And nothing beats that.
7. We took it easy, and booked just one costly activity
Ok, we were lucky. The weather, on the whole, was good. And when the weather is good in Wales, you don't need to spend loads of money. You just go to the beach, or go for a walk. But I wanted the holiday to end on a high, so I booked a jet boat ride for the three of us on the last day.
I can't tell you how fabulous it was. 'Awesome fun' is not a phrase that I have ever used before, but I think it sums up this experience. We sat on the outer tubes of the boat, gripped the handles with white knuckles, and clung on for dear life whilst the boat span 360 degrees, aimed straight for the cliffs and stopped in an instant, bounced through the bluest waters I've ever seen (yes, even in much hotter climes) and got us all soaking wet. And added to all of that, we saw baby seals. And added to that - we saw a pod of porpoises. We followed them for 10 minutes, watched them arcing in and out of the sea. Oh. My. Porpoisy. God.
So, in summary: be open to other families. Let them help. Be kind to the kids. Don't spend too much. But do one exhilarating thing towards the end of the holiday.
And then come home and prepare yourself for the three tons of washing, sand in your camera and melted boiled sweets down the side of your car seat. And start preparing for next year's holiday.