The little things we’re missing most about travel
What are you missing most about holidays? Let us know in the comments below
The breakfast buffet
Aah, breakfast: the most important meal of the day. And also the most enjoyable. Though perhaps not during lockdown, when one kid wants poached eggs, another wants scrambled and it turns out that their raging argument is academic, since your husband used up every egg in the house making some bogging frittata that even the dog eschewed.
It wasn’t like this at the Elivi in Skiathos. Or the Almyra in Cyprus. Or the JW Marriott in Venice – joyous purveyors of three of the best and biggest hotel breakfast buffets I’ve ever eaten. Two types of bacon, you say? Eggs any style, freshly cooked by the chef?
There are many ways to judge the excellence of a breakfast buffet, but surely one of the most reliable is when the good fruits – the berries, the melon, the mango – never run out. Nobody wants a fruit bowl comprising merely grapefruit segments.
By what strange alchemy the breakfast buffet holds such a special place in travellers’ hearts, I’m not quite sure. Maybe it’s the unlimited cappuccinos, buttery-hot pastries and 23 different jams. Maybe it’s the contentment of the kids, high on cakes and Nutella that they’d never normally be allowed at 9am. Maybe it’s just the promise of another sunny day, kicked off in splendour by a cheeky breakfast prosecco and a surfeit of carbs. To paraphrase the Queen: we will eat again.
It’s funny, when you think about it. Pass a Pret on your local high street, and you’re not that fussed. Their coffee is average, their soup’s a bit salty and you’ve eaten their avocado wrap 943 times. Spy a Pret in an airport, however, and it feels like all your Christmases have come at once.
A faraway glimpse of that distinctive maroon (or is it burgundy? Discuss. No really, let’s: we have all the time in the world), and your heart beats faster. “THERE’S A PRET!” you’ll exclaim to your partner, like it was Claridge’s. “Quick, before the croissants run out!” For the croissants do run out, especially the cheese and tomato ones. And while the coffee isn’t all that great (sorry, Pret, but your insistence on semi-skimmed rather than whole milk is a deal-breaker), it’s still immeasurably nicer than Starbucks’.
The best thing about airport Prets? Choice. They do simple sandwiches for kids, devoid of the sort of dressings and sauces that make them go “eeew”. They do decent options for vegetarians, a few for vegans, protein pots for carb-avoiders and gluten-free options for coeliacs. OK, so it’s impossible to leave having spent less than £25 for a family of four, but for an airport, that isn’t half bad. What do you get at a European airport for £25? Three packets of crisps and a panini. Case closed.
The first time my kids saw a minibar, they couldn’t believe it was real. “Look at this cute little fridge, mummy. Ooh! There’s stuff inside! Coke! Orange juice!” they shrieked, stroking the tins in wonder. “Wait, what? It gets refilled every day?”
Well, quite. Even at my advanced age, it still seems unbelievable that a kind person with a trolley will come around and replenish all the liquids you’ve drunk at the end of a long, hard day at the beach. Couldn’t be bothered walking to the nearest supermercado? Never mind: here’s an ice-cold Heineken. And how about some nuts to go with it? Crisps, you say? Be my guest. OK, so they’re probably ready-salted Pringles – the default choice of minibars from Miami to Melbourne – but never have ready-salted Pringles tasted so good.
If the minibar comes into its own on beach holidays, it’s equally useful on a business trip (remember them?), and never more so than in a different time zone. Who hasn’t woken up at 5am in New York or LA and groggily reached inside the minibar for a packet of Aged White Cheddar popcorn? Eating exotic junk food in the middle of the night is one of life’s most underrated pleasures.
Obviously, this nirvana has its drawbacks, as nirvanas do. Nobody ever perused their minibar bill at checkout and exclaimed “Blimey, what a bargain”. But what price convenience? Fifteen euros for a gin and tonic, since you ask.
Are there any two words in the English language more glorious than “maid service”? I’ll wait…
Let me be clear: I’m not a princess. Yesterday, I cleaned my whole house from top to bottom. Even the bathrooms. Even the shower glass. Even the lavatory bowl. Even the… OK, you get the picture.
But while some people go on holiday to get a tan, soak up the culture or chat up a waiter, I go on holiday to escape the drudgery of cooking, dusting and tidying up after my errant family for a week.
Enter, stage left – by dint of a soft, courteous knock – the maid. OK, so she is likely to arrive at the precise point when you have stepped, butt naked, out of the shower – but never mind. She’s the maid. She has seen it all before and she has arrived to save you. Or at least to replenish your towels. Clean towels! Every day! The glamour!
She will also fold your children’s clothes into neat piles, arrange their teddies and line up their shoes! She will even make your beds! She might even change your duvet, a task that takes you seven hours back home and leaves you needing a disco nap.
And if you’re really lucky, you may even come back from dinner and find a small chocolate on your pillow. Truly, life doesn’t get any better than this.