And Granny comes too. How to handle a three generation holiday!

dsc02513In these difficult economic times, there is a growing trend for families to take their holidays all together: grandparents, parents and grandchildren.

It makes perfect sense. Share the costs with people you know and trust, bring your family closer together and create happy long lasting memories – especially for young children.   Ideal some would say, but be aware there can be pitfalls…

The biggest potential pitfall to three generation holidays is that different family members often have very different holiday expectations indeed. Below are our family tips on how to ‘survive’, oops sorry, ‘enjoy’ a three generational or multi-family  holiday.

1. Negotiate Ground Rules

Some families dine out every night to avoid cooking and cleaning duties on holiday, others prefer to eat in every night . Some prefer to spend all day on the beach, others require a stack of guidebooks and maps to the nearest castles, cathedrals, mountains and waterfalls.

The key to enjoying an extended family holiday is to minimise stress and conflict by discussing every aspect of your holiday before you go. You may already know that a certain member of the family is always first out the taxi and last to the bar but will you be able to bite your tongue if he or she behaves like this for two long weeks? So discuss everything first.    Accommodation, meals, child care and days out.

Remember you don’t have to spend every minute of every day together. It’s perfectly reasonable to spend the day apart and meet up in the evening or spend a lovely day together on the beach but go your separate ways in the evening.

2. Find Spacious Accommodation

Plenty of space is a priority. Children are noisy and messy, you know that already but the odd afternoon of noise and mess is a very different prospect to a fortnight of relentless yelling, fighting, spills and strewn about toys. So make sure you have your own sitting area or can find your own sitting area such as a quiet lounge or at least ring fence some quiet time in your own room beforehand. Nobody will mind if granny makes it clear she’s not to be disturbed between three and five in the afternoon.

3. Split Chores

It’s everyone’s holiday. But everyone has different standards of tidiness, particularly on holiday. Some people wash up after supper, others prefer to wash up in the morning. Parents of young children especially can’t bear to waste a moment of post-bedtime quiet.  So the washing up can wait till the morning when the kids are awake and the noise levels are high. They may have left it ‘in a state’ but they haven’t necessarily left it for you ‘to deal with’. However, if anyone feels like someone is taking advantage, feel free to withhold your labour for a day or two, make your own plans for the day and leave them to it.

4. Discuss childcare arrangements ahead of time 

For busy, hard working parents , a grandparent may well be the first choice, trusted care giver but do you think granny or grandpa are really prepared to be on hand for two weeks of unlimited babysitting – even if they have paid for the accommodation? Yes, they may want to spend more than the customary three hours on a Sunday afternoon with the grand kids but they definitely don’t want to be left with them all day and all evening, while their parents chill out on the beach. It’s everyone’s holiday too!

5. Wining and Dining

Who is paying for what? There is nothing more likely to ruin a holiday than pressurising family (or friends for that matter) to dine somewhere they normally wouldn’t on holiday and then asking them to split the bill. Many people find it stressful dining in a restaurant that is beyond their usual price bracket, but there’s no pleasure at all eating below your usual standards on holiday either. Your sister in law may prefer their holiday budget spent on tickets or excursions rather than meals. Again, decide your policy before you leave.

6. Separate Daily Timetables

Daily meal timetables can also be a source of disproportional strife. Many people love to go with the flow on holiday, happy to eat whenever, at whatever local delight is on hand when the mood takes them. Others need their coffee break at 11 in the dot, or that their kids eat lunch on the chime of 1 and woe betide anyone who prevents their regular afternoon tea break – even if it’s 100 degrees in the shade.  So discuss it before hand.

7. Ensure Peace, Love and Harmony

Family holidays can be a fantastic occasion for everyone and live long in the memory. But so can arguments. Too much alcohol and too much time cooped up together can breed disaster.  Holiday dinners are not the time to discuss personal matters or try to sort out someone’s career, give financial advice or talk about marital decisions. Nor are they a time to question parenting techniques, ancient or modern.  Keep schtum and save your frustrations for your partner, in your own time, and your own space. Hopefully the rest of the family will offer you the same courtesy in return!

Successful holidays require everyone to relax and enjoy themselves. Nobody likes nasty surprises so the key is to discuss all potential flashpoints beforehand and scout out any potential mine fields well in advance.

8. Above all, ensure you have all have enough space and time to enjoy the things you all like doing on holiday.

JW Patrick has holidayed with parents, children, plenty of in laws and lived to tell the tale.


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