The British Seaside Holiday 90s vs. Present Day

This year I was lucky enough to have two holidays, the second being a holiday with my own parents, something I hadn’t experienced since the mid 90s.

As a child we would make the lengthy road trip down to Cornwall each year and enjoy the pure simplicity of the standard British holiday, coupled with the outstanding natural beauty of the Cornish coast. This year, almost 20 years on since our last visit together and now accompanied by my own children it was hard not to draw comparisons from my childhood version of the British Seaside Holiday and what my children would be experiencing as theirs. The main observation being the multitude of extra equipment and expenditure seemingly needed for a simple day at the beach. From the very beginning of our trip there were clear differences from the 90s, the first being this holiday was booked online, not on the iconic teletext screen!

In this post I will be identifying, exposing and evaluating (basically having a moan) the need for some of the present day necessities and additions to the once basic British Seaside Holiday.

The Road Trip

A trip to Cornwall from London would take us any where between 6 to 8 hours as children. My mum and dad would wake my brother and I at 4 in the morning and we would set off, armed with the biggest bag of Woolworths pick n mix known to man. Eventually I would probably nod off for a couple of hours but not before I’d seen central London in all it’s peaceful, early morning stillness, one of my favourite times to be awake in London. The city sites would soon blur into motorway and surrounding fields and we would be well on the road to holiday!

As a child I would say around 4 hours in it became agonisingly long. I have always been inpatient therefore know I would have been particularly whiney with the “Are we there yets?” In attempts to appease mine and my brother’s boredom back in the day, we did have some entertainment sources, simple word games such as counting sheep, counting red or yellow cars, classic I spy or the travel sized board games. If you remember these games, they were sometimes magnetic and were miniature versions of snakes and ladders or ludo etc. Inevitably you would lose your piece immediately and have to desperately scrabble around the foot well to retrieve it. Which is why of course the arrival of the I-pads and tablets have been a God send. This year my children aged 6 and 7 slept the first couple of hours, ate some breakfast – picnic and then settled down for some screen time in between belting out some of their favourite Bowie and ELO albums along the way . Of course there was the occasional whinge and fight in the back seat with the older two, not to mention a hearty dose of vomit from eldest’s travel sickness but ultimately 1 – 0 to 2019!

Main differences also evident from the 90s of course for the adults would be the navigation systems. I remember the large A to Z maps my mum would blanket herself with, highlighted routes prepared the evening before. Tense conversations between my parents as the trickier parts of the route presented themselves and a silent, prickly atmosphere ensuing. Of course now we have sat navs at the touch of a finger on our mobiles and yet the tense atmospheres of the 1990s still prevail each time I accidentally check my social media, shutting down Google Maps as I go.

The Beach

On arrival to the beach on our first day I was slightly over whelmed by the amount of activity going on. Cornwall is known for its surfing and body boarding so understandably there were always one or two hire places by the beach to get your wet suits and your boards back in the 90s. However this holiday we witnessed the voluminous different hire facilities; surfing, kayaking, paddle boards, body boards, fishing trips, water sport excursions, snorkelling hire, sun bed hire the list was endless. Also those who opted not to be pulled in by the sellers drawing you in, trying to convince you to hire their products had bought their own equipment. Across the beach each morning my parents and I watched as families unravelled their deflated paddleboards and foot pumps and began pumping each board or kayak up. Admittedly the activities looked great fun especially for those with older children aged 10 upwards but the sheer volume of equipment needed for the beach had increased dramatically. Fold out trolleys were brought by family members to transport the equipment from the car to the beach, along with some purpose made beach buggies to transport children also. In comparison my dad arrived with his rolled up 1990’s windbreaker, balancing our retro cool bag, beach bags with towels and buckets on either end. Buying a couple of crab lines and a bucket my dad and the Irishman set off for the rock pools with the kids for hours of fun catching crabs and other sea creatures before letting them go again at the end!

After being sucked in to buying my fancy UV beach tent the previous holiday which subsequently amassed in a huge temper tantrum from my husband after the “easy to assemble” was in fact impossible to assemble and ended up half taking flight in the winds, this time we were pleased with the simplicity of the 90s wind breaker in all it’s red, blue and yellow glory. Glancing around at the young families struggling with their tents as my husband and I did previously, my parents and those similarly aged nodded a silent, content nod at one another as they sat in their comfortable 90s beach camps amidst the chaos of the beach tent assembly!

Ice Creams

If there is one thing in life I find hard it’s making decisions. Therefore I was somewhat mortified by the arrival of an additional 75 new flavours of ice cream available in the various “ice cream parlours” now frequenting the sea fronts around Britain. The classic Strawberry, Vanilla and Chocolate was simple enough with the only added choice of a flake and some sauce. Chocolate for me will always be the winner although now with 12 different chocolate variations my mind was blown. As an adult this choice is complex enough but to then have three children under 7 standing in front of the multitude rows of colourful ice creams and asking them to choose is every parents nightmare. Not only is the decision time gruelling, ultimately as soon as its handed to them they want whatever their sibling has chosen.


Each to their own but I have always found it hard to comprehend standing in arcades whilst the sun is shining outside, however on the odd occasion we have ventured inside on a rainy evening I noted the clear change in arcade facilities available. Cashing in an extortionate £2 a player for a game my daughter wanted to play I was shocked to be drenched in water, realising quickly the game was a 4D experience, before having gale force air burst into my face. Looking like I had stepped off a roller coaster I found the classic penny slots which entertained my daughter for a lengthy amount of time with £2 worth of 2 pence pieces.

On our journey home the Irishman and I discussed the differences between the two holidays we have had this year. Both holidays were to the same place but so very different. It was refreshing to take a trip back to the 90s with my parents and to re-enact simple games and ideas we did as a young family. It became clear to us both that basic was better and how easy it is to be influenced by the mounting consumerism affecting our lives. Of course I realise that the younger ages of my children need to be took into account with our holiday and as they get older we may find it harder to entertain them with a crab line and a bucket and spade but for now I will happily revert back to the 90s beach holiday vibe.

Also I know that whatever era we are living in that my holiday was so perfect due to the fact I was spending quality time with those I love the most in my life. Making memories with my own children and parents in a place that holds so many childhood memories of my own was simply wonderful and I cant wait to do it all again next year!

Those things left in the 90s

Sun – InBecome a beach blonde bombshell by spraying lemony bleach onto your hair and scalp and within days your hair was alight with uneven blonde streaks and years of brittle, broken damage!

Jelly Sandals – I still bare the scars of years of jelly sandal damage. Sweaty feet, jelly shoes. OUCH.

Film Roll and Disposable CamerasOh how I miss the lack of pressure from photographs. An era when a photograph couldn’t be retaken and you just had to take it as it was in all its natural, unfiltered glory after waiting a week for it be developed at Boots.

Making Mix Tapes for you Walkmanlaboriously recording your favourite tracks from the Top 40 countdown and creating the perfect summer mix tapes to accompany your holiday, nothing screams 90s more than a mix tape!

Holiday Camp Dances If you couldn’t do the Macerena, Saturday Night by Wigfield and 5,6,7,8 by Steps in the holiday camp club house were you even a 90s kid?
Postcardswriting and receiving postcards in the 90s to and from your friends because it was an era when we didn’t need hourly updates on our holiday statuses to get by.

What are your favourite memories of 90s or childhood holidays? Would love to know your experiences of holidays now and then. Wishing you all a fantastic summer!

With Love

The Cockney in the Countryside



  1. As a child I went to Cleethorpes every year. We’d go on the train (dad would arrive in the car at the weekend) and stay with an aunt. the year we went to Eastbourne wasn’t the same. The smell of hot tarmac as we crossed the coach park to get to the sandy beach always brought back our holiday, in the way that the smell of cigars brought back an aura of Christmas. When my own kids were small it was camping, which developed into caravanning and then Landmark Trust holidays. The kids (34 – 40 years old) remember those now better than I do.
    Congratulations, by the way on your recent interview on the subject on BBC Cambridge radio last Saturday. I heard the trailer on my way to visit friends, but sadly didn’t get to hear your spot, as we’d arrived before it aired. Hope it went well.
    I’ll have to try and find it on a podcast somewhere on their website (not something I’ve tried before, but I know they exist).

    Liked by 1 person

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