Are you the guy or gal in your family or group of friends who’s known as the responsible, organised one? You know the types; those who you can rely on to arrange much needed catch-up drinks amongst old pals or ensure the cat’s flea treatment is applied every three months? Well, I’ve become that guy.

But what about holidays (or vacations for my two American readers)? And more precisely, what about vacations you’re obliged to take; real travel trips where you have no choice over date or location, an ‘obli-cation’ if you will (eg. weddings, big birthday weekends, maybe an away football match etc – apparently us Brits feel obliged to travel to at least 14 of these every year)? Again, I’ve somehow fallen into that role. It must be because I successfully organised a memorable lads’ trip to Tenerife circa 1997, but for such faith to still be instilled in me, especially when kids are involved, takes the pressure of obli-cation planning to another level.

Recently, my wife hit me with the news I needed to plan another trip which included travelling solo with the kids! Er, I’m a pretty organised guy and well-travelled, but, say waaaat?!

My brother-in-law was getting married in Puglia, Italy, but my wife was heading out earlier than the rest of us to help set up the venue. So, it fell to me to ensure I got the kids and myself there on time, plus pack the wedding outfits, beach gear, the kitchen sink and much, much more.

Any other obli-cation organisers will know, significant planning was going to be required. One of the things that always causes the most stress when travelling for an obli-cation is the rush the day and night before.

So, when Hampton by Hilton offered me the opportunity to stay in their London Stansted Airport hotel the night before our flight to Brindisi, I jumped at the chance. How many times have you travelled in the past and the mounting pressure in the days leading up to the trip have you questioned if it’s worth it? Well, knowing that there would be no 2am wake up for me and the kids, plus no hammering it around the M25 in the middle of the night went a long way to ease such fears.

Hampton by Hilton also sent me a package of goodies to help with my planning which included:

·         A packing check list – so much help rather than thinking of something you’ve forgotten just before you’re about to leave!

·         A travel wallet – great to keep all our passports in one place rather than rummaging through bags at passport control

·         An Italian phrase book – when gesturing with our hands and speaking with a dodgy faux-foreign accent but merely saying the words in English won’t cut the mustard, it’s wise to learn some basics such as ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘where is’, ‘can I have a beer’ etc.

·         A Puglian guidebook – we’ve been many times before, but it was good to discover new places to visit

·         A memory box – a place for all the stuff the kids collect that would usually be bound for the recycling bin! Hashtag, making memories 😉

·         A colouring book and pens – god bless anything that distracts my children at 30,000 feet!

Aside from the goodies, it was good to know Hampton by Hilton also have a helpline to guide us obli-cation planners. The helpline is hosted by television presenter Andrea McLean, to offer advice, words of wisdom and calming meditation techniques to make organising obli-cations as straightforward as possible. You can call it on 0800 689 1914!

Arriving at the hotel, I parked the car where it would remain for our obli-cation (this was so handy, especially on the way home when desperate to get on the road and there’s no need to catch a bus to a car park miles away). Entering the lobby, I was immediately pleased to see a light, airy, clean environment, with plenty of space, and we were welcomed with a smile at the front desk. Upon taking our bags upstairs, the kids were overjoyed to see the view from our room was of some of the aeroplane gates – there must have been ten planes parked only a couple of hundred yards from us. We then enjoyed dinner before settling down for the night.

The real benefit of the stay became apparent in the morning. As mentioned, there was now panicked car journey, no bleary eyes as any of us contemplated if we’d actually been to sleep. We woke, showered, got dressed and headed down for our complimentary breakfast. It was nice knowing we could fill our tummies in the relaxed setting of the hotel rather than the usual mad dash en route through the terminal (that said, if you are in a rush, there are bags to take breakfast with you). Then, with plenty of time to spare, we took the five-minute walk from the hotel to the terminal. In my near-40-years, I’ve never experienced such a stress-free and enjoyable build up to a flight. This set us up perfectly for the rest of our trip – we had an incredible weekend in Italy. People travel for many reasons, but if an obli-cation is the next trip you need to make, with no choice on dates or location, Hampton by Hilton is the perfect setting to ease the planning whilst also ensuring a good time too.

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning an amazing two-night stay at any Hampton by Hilton hotel in the UK, head over to my Instagram