Award-winning journalist and author Catlin Moran, 43, tells Amanda Statham about caravanning in Wales, penis-shaped shells in Antigua and why you can’t beat Premier Inn for a budget break
What was your first memorable holiday as a child?
My Uncle Mike lent my family his caravan in Wales when I was about six and I think it’s still probably the best holiday I’ve ever had. Virtually every aspect of it was magical: the air was filled with sweet meadow flowers, the smell of wet slate, the sound of bird song, I can even remember the crockery which had pictures of fruit on. He’d left two bikes for us to use which my sister and I couldn’t really ride but loved – having our own transport blew our minds.
Where do you travel with your kids?
My kids made it very clear from an early age that they would only holiday in three places, so for the last ten years we’ve gone to Watergate Bay in Cornwall for a week surfing and eating. Then we hire a villa in Corfu with friends and try to get free baklava’s from the local restaurant by forcing my (Greek-born) husband Pete to act really Greek despite the fact everyone speaks English, it’s cultural appropriation for dessert. And finally we go to the Green Man Festival in Wales every August. I’ve tried to interest them in other places but they won’t have any of it, though we did once go to New York (which they loved) and Japan. I’d go to Japan every year if I could. At this age they want to go to destinations that are famous, such as a specific place on the US west coast where the Kardashian’s live, however I’ve read that there’s going to be a major earthquake there at some point, so no.
What items do you never travel without on a family holiday?
From a young age I’ve let them pack their own stuff, the first time this resulted in the youngest taking 37 tops, no leggings and a big brass medieval-like key which we’d never seen before. Now they tend to draw up lists and its good to see my nerdery has taken over. As a family we always pack Sussed, which is a card game where you ask questions, such as ‘what would dad do in a sinking ship?’ and everyone has to guess his response. Because everyone has an iPhone we plug one into the stereo and choose a theme, such as crying, and everyone has to come up with a related-track, then we play them all and vote which was the best. It can result in some real bangers on the way down to Cornwall.
What’s the most unusual souvenir you have from a trip?
I like to collect a pebble on holiday but my best souvenir ever was a shell that washed up on the beach in Antigua which looked like a penis.
Do you have a favourite family destination?
Definitely Watergate Bay in Cornwall. That’s the one which would be hardest to give up. The fact that we can take our dog is a big bonus, maybe if we could take it to Corfu it would be in with a chance.
Any tips for family holiday success?
Don’t challenge your kids. Don’t drag them to a place that they aren’t really interested in, as they’ll moan and you’ll end up having to sell it to them every day, which is exhausting. It’s meant to be a holiday, look up the definition – extended period of leisure – it should be relaxing for all of you. Kids basically want a pool they can jump in and out of and nice food, you don’t need to drag them around places that are educational – they’ll leave home soon and do all that themselves. And remember it’s not a competition. Who cares where everyone else is going? Go where you all love and you’ll have a great time.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Corfu with all the family. I’d be in a bikini on a lounger with the new Craig Brown novel Ma’am Darling about Princess Margaret. Then we’d go snorkelling looking for the giant clam that we spotted last year – it’s become a family joke. We hope it’s still there.
Can you tell us your best place to stay that won’t break the bank?
Premier Inn. I really like them and have never been to a bad one. The family rooms are comfy and sleep four for under £100, the breakfasts are great (whether you want an organic yogurt of a fry up), the WiFi is strong and they’re in really good, useful locations around the UK. Oh and they also serve endless coffee. What’s not to like?
Where’s your favourite place to stay in the UK?
Aberystwyth in Wales. It’s my happy place. There are hippy cafes where I can spend the day drinking coffee and doing the Guardian crossword in the rain. There’s a beach, fields, it’s quaint yet cosmopolitan too. Eventually I’d like to divide my time between there and London: writing for six months in Aberystwyth and then going back to London when it’s cold.
Where are you off to next?
Next week I’m off on a tour of the UK to promote my new book (Sheffield, Birmingham, Brighton, London), then I’m off to America’s east coast for more promotion, then I’m on location as filming starts for the movie of How To Build A Girl (starring Ladybird’s Beanie Feldstein) and then it’s Corfu with the family.