Jack Whitehall's tips on how to survive a family holiday with hilarious new book
As the cold nights draw in, who wouldn’t love to plan a fabulous getaway with all the family?
In day two of our extracts from their hilarious new book, How to Survive Family Holidays, comedian Jack Whitehall along with his parents Michael and Hilary offer a brutal dose of reality with their unique memories and tips for travel on everything from eating out in fancy restaurants to what to wear on your feet.
Because few families have indulged more in trips away together than the Whitehalls.
Indeed 33-year-old Jack and dad Michael, 81, have shared their overseas adventures with Netflix show ‘Travels with my Father’ for the past five years.
Their laugh-out-loud insights are well worth a read before committing to too much time away with your loved ones...
Fine Dining - Egg
I went with my family to a Michelin-starred restaurant, I won’t reveal in which country, but I picked up the menu and the first starter listed was Oeuf. OK, it was France.
‘Egg.’ That’s what the dish was called: ‘Egg’. I’m going to need a bit more than that before forking out 30 quid on it.
We looked closer. Beneath, in italics, it read: “Two eggs, one farm, three textures.” Who wrote this menu? Dr Seuss? My father called over the snooty waitress and asked for some more details.
“The descriptions are ambiguous so the diner can go on a journey,” she explained.
“I’m fine with a journey, darling,” he replied, perhaps a little too forcibly, “I just want to know the destination.”
I guess he had a point. If you were going on a train you wouldn’t go to the ticket booth, hand over 300 quid and just say, “Surprise me.”
And I’m not one of those people that likes to ask endless questions about the food. All I need to know is what I’m ordering. But in the case of ‘Egg’, I decided to take a punt. If for no other reason than it might wind up my dad.
‘Egg’ arrived and it was, as with all things gastronomical, utterly preposterous. Two eggs, some stuff smeared underneath one of them, and both of them covered in foam.
I could see instantly why they were so coy in the first place. It looked like two poached eggs with a case of rabies. Which would have been a much clearer description for the menu; I wouldn’t order it but at least I’d know what my ‘destination’ was.
While ‘Egg’ got my father bristling, it wasn’t until dessert that we encountered the straw that broke the camel’s back. My father has simple tastes when it comes to pudding.
As a result, he ordered the deceptively straightforward ‘Strawberry’ and, no exaggeration, waited patiently for 30 minutes. My mother, as she always does in these situations, was trying to calm him down. Really the best way of dealing with Daddy is to treat him like a crisis that simply has to be calmly managed.
“It’s fine, Michael, just relax, we’re on holiday, don’t make a scene. It’s not like we have a plane to catch.”
“We have tomorrow morning and the speed with which they are making this ‘Strawberry’, we’ll be missing it!”
He couldn’t and wouldn’t let it go. He beckoned over the waitress and, to give him credit, in what was by his standards a very calm tone asked, “Do you have any idea why my dessert is taking so long to make?”
The waitress rolled her eyes and said, “Because the chef is not making a dessert, he is making art.”
“Oh, why didn’t you say? Well, maybe you could pop back there and get him off his potter’s wheel and ask him to start making my creme brulee or mille-feuille or whatever the f*** Strawberry is!”
I was worried he might start foaming at the mouth, and we’d already had more than enough of that with ‘Egg’.
Eventually father calmed down and I pointed out to him that the real baller move would be to wait until they gave him the astronomical bill and when they asked him to sign his name just put ‘Man’.
“Sir, we are going to need more detail.”
Tell them you like to keep your identity ambiguous so that their accounts department can go on a journey.
Let me say right now, for the record, there is absolutely no – and I repeat no – practical reason to wear a fanny pack.
Trousers have pockets, and when they are found wanting, the backpack has stepped up to the plate. Why now, while abroad, are we suddenly desperate to put our valuables in a garish, zip-up pouch and have them dangle from our midriff, like a nylon udder?
It makes you immediately identifiable as a tourist. All the locals know how to spot the holidaymakers: they’re the ones who look as though their valuables have prolapsed out of them.
The only thing worse than the item itself is, of course, its name. It’s like it’s been designed specifically to deliver the maximum amount of embarrassment possible to the child of the parent wearing it; double-barrelled shame.
Given my father’s love of innuendo coupled with my mother’s fondness for vaginal banter, the fanny pack is like a red rag to a pair of old perverts.
No boy should ever have to hear his own father utter the sentence, “I’m just going to have a rootle in Mummy’s fanny pack.”
In the interest of balance and so that we don’t get too many complaints from the International Society of Fanny Packers, my mother wanted to add this. It is a strange hill she has chosen to die on. . .
Hilary: In defence of fanny packs:
I feel it’s incumbent upon me, as a result of Jack’s vociferous trashing of the fanny pack, to mount a robust defence of not just one of my holiday essentials but to my mind one of the world’s most valuable inventions.
I think that Jack’s protestations are a bit disingenuous, as I reckon secretly he wishes he had the confidence and panache, not to say the hips, to carry one off.
Many’s the time he has been saved by an essential emergency item from the cavernous nether regions of my fanny pack (I can imagine him squirming as he reads those words, because he knows it’s true!).
I have been known on occasions to wear more than one at a time – double bagging, as it were – so as to get more fanny for my buck, creating what I think of as a very fetching double-decker or mezzanine effect.
I also have to factor in that Michael is likely to say to me once we are far from home that he ‘doesn’t want to ruin the line of his jacket by carrying his stuff in his pockets’ and could he slip something of his into my ‘fanny’.
Does it have enough room for his valuables? Well, Michael Whitehall packs quite a lot in the valuables department I can tell you; we are talking glasses, fountain pens, leather diaries, on dressier occasions even his Prince Albert, a fob watch he inherited from his father, an item Jack for some reason finds even more disturbing than my fanny pack.
Suffice to say, Michael’s odds and sods would fill a whole fanny pack with ease, hence my requirement to carry more than one.
Michael: Thongs Down Under
Don’t even start me on the slider or its even uglier and unfathomable cousin the flip-flop! I have never understood how anyone can get their foot into a flip-flop, let alone keep it on their foot while walking. In Australia, when filming Travels with my Father, I discovered that they refer to them as ‘thongs’, although no one thought to pass this information on to me before we got there.
You can imagine my concern when an eager young production runner called Steve bounded over to me at breakfast one morning and asked if I’d packed my thongs for the beach scene.
“I most certainly have not!” I replied, affronted at such a thought. When he suggested I might borrow a pair of his, as we looked about the same size, I nearly spat out my tea! I wasn’t sure whether this was impertinence or an attempt at flirtation.
Either way, I was about to report it to our producer when Jack came down and set me straight on this unfortunate case of ‘lost in translation’.
I wonder what on earth they call the other thong? Still, you won’t see me dead in either type!
Holiday games - Not My Parents
In this hilarious game, you tell strangers that the adults dragging you through the supermarket or telling you off in an airport are not actually your mum and dad. The more intense the situation, the more points you can award yourself. For example, high scores for a border crossing or while being pulled over by a traffic cop.
The only way parents can fight back is by playing the ‘fake adoption revelation’ card – ‘look, this seems as good a time to tell you as any ...’ – in which case they score points relative to the amount of lasting psychological damage they cause.
The game is best played with anyone in a uniform, although pounding on the back window of the car and mouthing to the driver next to you that you’re being held against your will can bring a little levity to even the most tedious traffic jam. The ultimate winner of the game is the child that manages to get their parents put on Interpol’s most wanted list.
Jack Whitehall, Michael Whitehall and Hilary Whitehall, 2021, extracted from HOW TO SURVIVE FAMILY HOLIDAYS to be published by Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group on October 14 at £18.99