Quality family time turns into a nightmare holiday when Eveline Harvey's family is hit by the tantrum-gastro-injury trifecta.

The plan was sound. A week's winter break in majestic Central Otago. A chance to relax a bit, introduce the toddler to the snow and enjoy "quality family time".

Seven days later, having finally lugged ourselves and our bags through airport security, endured three tantrums from the toddler concerning the whereabouts of his carseat and herded him down the aisle for our return flight to Auckland, my husband and I collapsed into our seats and glanced exhaustedly at one another over the head of our son — who was sporting a black eye.

The look said: "I need a holiday."

There was a time when I couldn't fathom the phrase "worst holiday". What sort of ingrate complained about being on vacation? Ah, but that was before the leisure gods decided to bestow upon our family the tantrum-gastro-injury trifecta.


Having travelled out of town with our son previously, we foolishly believed ourselves prepared for any eventuality.

We'd decided to spring for two bedrooms following a room-sharing experiment in Taupo last year that resulted in little to no sleep for any of us, but had neglected to consider the implications of a non toddler-proof apartment. He was walking during last year's holiday — just — but he hadn't yet the height (or cunning) to open fridges, move chairs or clamber into sideboards.

Self-catering for at least part of the trip had seemed wise right up until the point I realised the only way to prevent the child from perpetually emptying the fridge of all its contents for inclusion in his "cooking" experiments, would be to station myself permanently against said fridge door.

But never mind. At least we were on holiday.

Day three did not begin promisingly. A pre-dawn wail from the other room roused my husband, who returned with our squirming son and announced "He's vomited".

One of the many things I did not know before having a child, but of which I am now painfully aware, is that a toddler vomiting is seldom an isolated incident. It is, in our experience, far more likely to be the harbinger of Yet Another Round of Gastroenteritis (YARG) — a fun game for the entire family. Unlike Tiggy or Stuck in the Mud however, you probably won't be aware you've been invited to play until some ungodly hour.

Hubby mentioned he was feeling queasy at some point a bit later in the day, but it was close to midnight before we were both shoulder tapped and began alternating our runs to the bathroom. Total hours of sleep achieved? 0.5.

Oh how especially joyous was the following morning's 6am wake-up call from our cherub (who, unlike his sickly parents, had bounced back almost immediately).


Hubby was feeling better the following day. I was feeling worse. The day after that, I bounced back a bit while he looked green around the gills. We juggled the toddler-wrangling and did our best to persist with the act of holidaying. It was largely miserable.

Not that you'd know if you were friends with me on Facebook. Oh no, the photos displayed there are the fleeting highlights of a family holiday in paradise. Gorgeous South Island scenery. Snowfights. Selfies against alpine backdrops. There's no such thing as a bad holiday, after all. Nothing to see here folks.

We stumbled through the penultimate day of our adventure like zombies, our bloodshot eyes fixed on the prize known to parents the world over as bedtime.

I dared to mentally congratulate myself as I turned to put our son's toothbrush away.

There was a loud thud, followed by a silence that went on longer than usual. A bad injury.

I scooped up my tearful boy as he held his hand to his left eye, refusing to let mummy take a look. Eventually the crying gave way to sniffles and he pulled his hand away to reveal blood flowing from a wound alongside his eyelid, where the skin had split in two.

"Donk head," he offered by way of explanation, gesturing towards the bedside table.

He eventually slept. We did not. Though we managed a moment of dark levity around 4am as we considered how prudent that choice of a two-room apartment — each with en suite — was turning out to be.

Packing our bags the following morning was almost the end of us.

We briefly considered postponing our flight but the assorted pharmacy supplies we'd stocked up on appeared finally to be having some effect and the prospect of our own home was suddenly more appealing than all the South Island's grand vistas combined.

Next time, we told each other as the plane took off, we'll be reverting to our previously fail-safe holiday plan: always bring the grandparents along ... just in case.