The summer holidays may be well and truly over now that the kids are back at school, but the days are still long and wonderfully warm. The air is thick with the sound of cicadas, chirruping away all day. The evenings are balmy, and the crickets take over where the cicadas leave off, ensuring the nightfall resonates with their summer song. I don’t mind either. Their sound is neither jarring nor unpleasant – it just somehow blurs into the background.
With the weather so lovely and warm we considered getting a little splash pool to put up in the garden to enjoy as a family over the holidays. Nothing big or fancy, just big enough for the kids to play in and for us to wallow a little and cool off. This, however, was not to be. It was a great idea, we just didn’t have the desire to put up a fence around the pool or empty said pool. Every. Single. Day. So, no pool in the backyard then. NZ is strict about water safety. We opted to use the pools at the local recreation centre and, of course, the sea instead. What a treat to have these options just about on our doorstep!
Besides swimming, there are plenty of things to do, as a family, that are free or almost free during the summer holidays (or over weekends) and one doesn’t necessarily have to spend much money to have a great day out with the family (or Whanau, as the Maori’s call it) and this can go a long way to stretching that December paycheck through January.
Things can get trickier and more expensive though if, as a family with kids, both parents need to work full time over the school holiday period and you don’t have luxury of grandparents or aunties and uncles to call on, or even hired help like you may have had in SA (although au pairs are an option). Fortunately, there are a variety of holiday programmes for school kids. They vary greatly and you would need to find the right one that fits your children’s needs or family ideals. When needed we used one called Kids After School (also a before and after school care option). Auckland for kids lists some options too (we haven’t used these and can’t vouch for them). There are also holiday camp options available, but our kids are young and we have yet to explore this idea.
Don’t forget the local public primary school playgrounds are usually available for use over weekends and holidays. Auckland also has some “very cool” playgrounds worth a visit.
Otherwise, there are road trips to be had. This is, after all, an adventure, is it not! A South African friend and I were chatting about some of the differences between NZ and SA when it comes to road trips and she said that one thing they, as a family, had to get used when taking a road trip in NZ is packing your own padkos (food for the road) as there are not a lot of places that one can pull in to and grab a good bite to eat (and neither are there a dozen petroports between you and your destination). At first, they thought of this as a negative but have since changed their minds as they have discovered that they enjoy being in control of what food they take with and can eat better (for less) by packing their own. NZ is home to some pretty amazing pies, but other than that they lack imagination and variety when it comes to meals on the go (sorry Kiwi land, you have still to prove yourself better than SA in this regard – I am happy to be proved wrong on this though). There are, of course, big yellow arches, in many towns, but not much in the way of padstalletjies (in SA, roadside stops where you can buy biltong, droëwors, dried mango and fresh fruit, cheeses, yogurts and preserves or a gourmet sandwich. If that’s what road trip food is means to you, then you’ll need to pack your own.) We too are getting better at packing in old fashioned picnics to enjoy en-route to wherever we happen to be headed, and we are probably the healthier for it. Of course, there is always the coffee exception. Seems like one can usually buy a cuppa jo just about anywhere. There are even mobile coffee carts that set up shop near the beach, or on some of the main thoroughfares of smaller towns. Of course, it is easy enough to take your own too. Is it just me or does one’s hot beverage, be it tea or coffee, always taste different when drunk out of a flask?