‘While I have lots of experience in taking one child abroad, I have zero experience in dealing with three at once. While in Gdansk with my nephews, I learned a few things about taking kids on holiday…’

I have three beautiful nephews. Keir is 15, Ethan is 12 and Calvin is eight. They come to Wales to visit me and Les, and we go to Scotland to visit them. They’re well behaved and extremely cute. Therefore, I assumed taking kids on holiday for a few days would be relatively simple. This was after my sister warned me it was anything but. Nonsense! I declared, confidently. How hard can it possibly be?? Ahem…

You must be near juice receptacles at all times

I discovered almost instantly that my nephews like juice. In fact, they seem to be dangerously close to dehydration on a permanent basis. When we arrived in Gdansk, I stocked up on juice and water for the apartment, and all was good. It wasn’t so good when we were outside.

One of the stresses of the trip was being asked for juice in a strange city I’d never been in before. This makes it a challenge to answer questions about where juice might be purchased with any kind of authority. Even when we did find a store, it didn’t necessarily sell something they all liked. Eight-year-olds don’t want iced green tea, it appears. And 12-year-olds don’t like fizzy juice. On the odd occasion we found something suitable for everyone, I’d turn my back for three seconds and it was gone.

Children are thirsty. All of the time. And for the five minutes they’re not thirsty, they need the toilet. It’s a battle you can’t win.

Calvin and Keir at Hard Rock Cafe. HRC sells a range of lovely juices to suit everyone…

Finding a restaurant that serves something they all like is impossible

I had zero clue that feeding three children three times a day would be so hard. In my head, I’d take them out, they’d eat, we’d leave. How naive I was. My eldest nephew eats anything. The other two, however, were far harder to please.

One day, I ended up paying for lunch in three separate restaurants. We were making our way to the tram station one morning when my middle nephew, Ethan, pointed out a McDonald’s. I immediately bundled them all in the door and started taking orders. After a few minutes, Ethan informed me he won’t actually eat McDonald’s. Why he pointed it out to me is a matter currently being investigated by the FBI. Anyway, by the time I found out, it was too late. My other two nephews had already decided what they wanted. So I placed an order.

After McDonald’s and a trip to JumpCity, we went to KFC. This is my Ethan’s favourite fast-food place so clearly, I was on to a winner. As I rose to place his order, Keir and Cavin decided they were also a tad peckish and would very much like burgers and fries. I placed an order in English with a Polish-speaking server and hoped for the best.  When I collected the food, Ethan quickly informed me (mostly by the look on his face) that he didn’t like his meal. As it turns out, Polish KFC is *very* different from the stuff you get in Scotland.

We’d now been to two restaurants, bought different five lunches (plus two large coffees for me because OMG the stress), and Ethan hadn’t eaten a thing. I eventually bought him a chocolate croissant from the grocery store next to the apartment because he was looking pale and gaunt from hunger. His brothers were delighted, though. I believe they’ll always treasure the memory of the magical day they had lunch in McDonald’s and KFC.

You will be asked ‘are we nearly there yet?’ every three seconds until you reach your destination

I bundled my little explorers on many a tram in Gdansk. It’s a cheap and efficient way to travel to the Northern ends of the city, so it was perfect for us (and by ‘us’ I mean ‘my bank account’). What I didn’t take into account, though, was how often I’d be asked about how long the journey would take.

On the day we travelled to Amber Stadium, we made 16 stops. The question, ‘how much longer?’ was posed at EVERY SINGLE ONE.  Sometimes they asked me in between stops, too, just to keep me on my toes. By stop 8, I started to feign deafness in the hope they’d leave me be. It didn’t work. They simply asked me in louder voices.

The question ‘what time is it now?’ was also asked by my youngest nephew every afternoon from around 3:30pm until 6pm. 6pm was when the apartment complex pool opened for the evening. My nephews had no concept of time until I told them to get out of the pool. At this point, they turned into Archimedes and could tell me the exact second they got in and how long they’d been there. This mathematical calculation was mostly based on whether or not they felt sufficiently wrinkly enough to consider getting back out.

Calvin in Old Town Gdansk, wondering how much longer he has to wait until he can go swimming.

You will say ‘don’t wipe your hands on your trousers!’ a million times a day.

I hadn’t really considered how useful trousers were for wiping meaty pizza hands on until I spent meal times in the company of small people. Even when you present children with a napkin for the sole purpose of hand wiping, you can’t reasonably expect them to use it. Their trousers will always win. I can only imagine how much stain remover my sister must get through.

You will be forced to dispose of souvenirs that won’t make it through airport security

When travelling through security at Edinburgh airport, Ethan (middle nephew) had his bag removed from the belt for additional checks. I assumed he’d forgotten to take his phone or Nintendo out. On a security inspection of his bag, it turned out he’d brought a magic 8 ball. He had no concept that it wouldn’t be allowed through security. To him, it was a cool ball. To security, it was almost definitely a bomb. Ethan is no longer the proud owner of a magic 8 ball.

The following day, he bought a flashlight shaped like a bullet. I figured this would be fine as it was made of plastic and clearly not an actual bullet. When we got back to the apartment and shone it in the eyes of his rather startled little brother, we realised it was a laser pointer. This was not fine. The day after this, he inquired about purchasing a gun-shaped catapult that fired rubber bands. I politely declined, having finally learned my lesson. I’m not certain, but I suspect he was trying to get me arrested or, at the very least, given a stern talking to by Polish border security.

Ethan, the nephew I secretly think wanted me arrested, is on the left. Calvin, who only wanted me arrested when I asked him to leave the pool, is on the right.

You will tell children to hurry up numerous times. They will pay zero attention.

On the first morning after we arrived at our apartment, I naively left one hour for everyone to get ready. Pre-Gdansk Auntie Suzi was so ill-informed! As it happens, it takes double that for three children to shower and dress. And this is only with a constant stream of encouragement. Looking back, I’m not even certain whether this time included brushing teeth. But if my sister should read this, it definitely did. Anyway…

If you, say, suggest someone showers ‘NOW, PLEASE!!’, you must understand this is only what *you* hear. What children hear is ‘by all means, finish the last 40 minutes of that movie before you go’. They will also argue about the order they will shower in. By this stage, you all lose the will to live and start hurling threats about how all pancake restaurants in Poland close at 11am and how they’ll have to eat boring old toast if they don’t move it along. No one will believe you.

You will spend much time answering questions related to where things are

One thing I hadn’t considered when taking kids on holiday is that they never know where anything is. The phrase: ‘Auntie Suzi, where’s my phone/trousers/shoes/toothbrush/brother??’ is a question I answered numerous times on a daily basis. My stock response: ‘I don’t know, I haven’t touched it/them/him’ was not enough to discourage the asking. In these situations, I found it much easier to simply look for the items and pass them on to the child who’d made the inquiry. I could then, of course, provide a smart response about how easy the said item was to find.

This has no impact whatsoever. Children don’t care about your smart answers, they only care that you found what they wanted. And now you’ve established you’ll help them look for stuff once, they know you’ll do it again. And again. Well played, children. Well played.

I’d like to point out at this juncture that no children were harmed during the process of taking kids on holiday to Gdansk.

Auntie Suzi x