I'm not saying they are better or worse. But they are definitely different. Some parts are much better. And some parts are worse.
Now before you get the idea that I was used to round-the-world cruises and 5-star hotels prior to having kids, I can assure that, no, I was not.
I am embarrassingly poorly traveled.
My OH has done the whole 'traveling' lark and been there done that, got the Euro-Rail tickets and the stories to go with them.
I, on the other hand, thought Switzerland was in the Arctic Circle until I was in my twenties...(and I've got a bloody degree in Geography. Although, as any good Geographer will tell you, it is not about where places are in the world. Ask me about how Glaciation shaped our landscape and I'll bore you for hours. Ask me the way to Timbuktu and I haven't got a flippin' clue).
I had a brilliant honeymoon on the other side of the world but other than that all childhood travel was curtailed because we had too many chickens.
Having a lot of animals/a small holding, makes going away rather complex and anyway, we were lucky enough to live in the middle of a rural idyll so who needs a holiday? (Perhaps it's best I don't answer that question).
However I did have enough long weekends in Torquay with 'the girls' (staying at a glorious hotel named 'The Cimon' - yes - that is pronounced 'Semen'. Oh how we laughed.....A young suitor asked you if you were local and you could reply, with a totally deadpan face 'yeah, I'm staying up the top of the hill, in the Semen with 4 other girls....'. It usually got you a chip kebab) to know what it's like to holiday without kids.
Anyway the key differences strike me as such:
Before kids: crash diet attempted, 2 coats of meticulous fake tan applied, hair hi-lights done at the salon, body expertly defuzzed, nails painted, many sit ups done, many outfits tried on.
With kids: crash diet attempted (some things really do never change), slapping of fake tan on visible parts upon rising on 1st day of holiday (which you promptly forget about and go out in the rain thus leaving you looking like are "just a bit dirty" for the next 3 days), hi-lights? Do they still sell 'Sun-In?', legs shaved in 10 spare seconds when you look down in the shower and panic upon realising you look like a Yeti (of course on shaving your legs, you are in such a hurry that you cut them and miss bits - so you just end up looking like an injured Yeti with mange....).
Nails painted? You are having a laugh? Right?
Before Kids: a good couple of hours browsing the shops and trying on various combos. Settle on three bikinis in an array of hot colours.....
With Kids: realise, as you are about to leave, you need to find your bloody swimming costume. The same bloody swimming costume you have wore through 41 weeks of your last pregnancy. And it's not a maternity one. There is only so much of a battering Lycra can take. The cossie has some pretty impressive stretchmarks. And the strechmarks are see-through. But there is no other option so it's that or naked. And naked doesn't even make the shortlist. So it will be 'mostly covered but with see-through tiger stripe effect'. Don't expect to see it on the pages of Heat! any time soon.... Unless of course they are talking about Britney's next breakdown.
Before kids: you agonise over every outfit. You take every beauty enhancing aid known to mankind. YOUR belongings fill an entire car boot.
With kids: you spend hours packing and yet none of it is for you. You shoe-horn it into the car and swear that you will never holiday ever, ever again. It's just not worth the pain. You then remember you have to pack something for yourself but on the grounds that you wet yourself and vomit down your clothes considerably less than your children, your clothing quota is much MUCH lower. Oh and you can fall asleep without the aid of a selection of soft toys and other comforts, you don't need a bedtime story, you can travel without needing a snack every 20 seconds (well actually I would like a snack every 20 seconds but I think about that swimming cossie... and I think about just how frail that Lycra is....). And I can travel away for a week without taking a large basket of wooden railway track with me (it would appear some people can't). So you pack all of about 5 items and then an hour into the journey realise you've forgotten to pack any pants. Or any pyjamas. Or, in fact, anything that might make you look less Yeti like. So, for tonight at least, you will be striding round the holiday cottage rather too naked and pantless (and, of course, looking like an injured mange-ridden Yeti).
Before Kids: You throw your clothes/make up/all the other bloody luxuries you had time/room to pack around the room and kick back with a large Pina Colada, before hitting the town.
With kids: You drag 3 tonnes of equipment into your holiday home, deal with wee-soaked fretful children and fall upon the kettle, praying for a cup of tea. Before realising that you don't have any milk.... The positive advantage of wine is that you don't need to mix it with milk.
Highlight of the holiday
Before Kids: Dancing on a podium in a state of transcendental ecstasy.
With Kids: Completing a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle of an Edwardian Butcher's shop (I'd like to say I was joking. I'm not).
Most Embarrassing Moment of the Holiday
Before Kids: Being caught trying to do a wee in the lift.
With Kids: Trying to get the raincover on the pram in the middle of a mini-tornado only to watch it take off across Lake Windermere like an Exorcet missile and thus having to enlist the help of several elderly gentleman in order to retrieve it.
Moment of the Holiday that Really Got the Adrenalin Pumping
Before kids: I'm not saying but it was awfully exciting.
With Kids: Laying the baby down on the beautifully upholstered WHITE bed in the guest house, only to realise he had done a giant teething-poo all the way up his back...... Let just say it was like screen printing but with baby-sh1t instead of paint and considerably less beautiful. The adrenalin that pumped through my body as I thought about the 'good housekeeping deposit' we had paid, was second to none. As I read the words 'you must leave the cottage exactly as you would hope to find it' in the small print, sweat beaded on my forehead and my pulse rate rose. There are many things I would hope to find in my on my arrival at a holiday home. Sh1t stained sheets would not be one of them.
On Returning Home
Before kids: A hot soak in the bath and an early bed.
With kids: 6 tonnes of dirty laundry to do and 6 cans of Strongbow required in order to try and restore normal order.