S Club 7 finished their reunion tour earlier this year and Rachel Stevens has put her mid-riff tops to the back of the wardrobe and replaced them with swimsuits for a holiday in Portugal with her hubbie Alex and her two little girls, Minnie Blossom and Amelie.
We wanted to know if she knew the secret ingredient to a good family holiday and if she ever got to relax on holiday…
Are you an organised holidaymaker or do you leave everything to the last minute?
I love a list! I’m always writing them and ticking things off as I go along, so when we go on holiday I’m just the same. You have to be so organised when you’re going away with children so you don’t get caught out. Before we had the girls it would always be a mad rush to get everything sorted in time but now I like to plan everything way in advance so there is no last minute panic.
Has your packing changed since your first holiday as a mum?
When we first took the girls on holiday I packed far too many clothes for them, as they end up spending most of the day in swimming costumes and little sun dresses. So I travel lighter now, but I think it’s just a case of learning as you go along.
As the girls both get older, the things we need to take with us change too, so there’s always a bit of trial and error but I don’t worry too much – you can almost always buy the necessities when you’re there. We’re much more relaxed about packing now having done it a couple of times.
But we did once forget to pack Alex’s suit for an overseas wedding, which definitely wasn’t our finest hour. Luckily he managed to cobble a wedding appropriate outfit together in time and I don’t think anyone could tell. I think we just about got away with it… pheuff!
Where did you go on holiday and how did you feel they catered for families?
We went to a beautiful villa in Portugal for 10 days with baby-friendly holiday company Tots To Travel. It was great to go on holiday with a company completely geared towards families with young children as from the moment we arrived, every little thing we could ever need was ready and waiting for us.
They had literally thought of everything: from providing travel cots, plastic cutlery, plates and a huge number of toys and books for the girls to recommending babysitters and things for Alex and I to enjoy on our own if we wanted to.
What do you find the most difficult part of holidaying with two children?
We love going away with the girls – they’re our best holidays! I think a hard part is not packing the kitchen sink and also travelling at sensible times so you don’t get cranky, hungry children (or parents!). Going with Tots To Travel this time around was brilliant and meant that we didn’t need to think about packing half the items that we’d usually take with us like cups, tupperware and pool toys.
The hardest days are the travelling days because there’s a lot of sitting and waiting around. So we like to bring lots of things to keep them entertained on the plane and in the car, such as colouring books and the iPad, so everything runs as smoothly as it possibly can.
What was the most enjoyable part of the holiday?
Undoubtedly the best part of the holiday was being able to spend real quality time together as a family, which is something you don’t always have at home as irregular working hours often means we’re constantly on the go. Having that time, just the four of us to switch off, is so special and I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.
The girls are getting older now and it’s amazing to watch them play together. They’ve formed a gorgeous friendship and it’s so lovely for Alex and I to see. The girls aren’t old enough to play without supervision from us but they definitely keep each other entertained (and us).
Did you take a travel cot and travel buggy, if so, which ones did you use and would you recommend them?
We have a great buggy called the City Mini Baby Jogger, which we always take with us when we go away. It’s so light and you can fold it away with one hand, which is always a bonus. We didn’t need to bring a cot with us this time, as there was already one at the property; it was really sturdy and great quality so we knew that Minnie was safe.
What do you feel is the secret ingredient to a family holiday?
Really switching off and having a good, fun time. Holidays are very different now we have children and aren’t as restful but they’re just as brilliant in other ways. Going on holiday with a family-friendly company definitely removed some of the pre-holiday worries you experience as a parent, particularly regarding safety. We were able to relax together much more than we have done before because they had thought of everything for us, which makes such a huge difference to your overall holiday experience.