As a child, I will never forget the feeling of dread when we arrived at a draughty, remote cottage in Scotland for a two week holiday. My brother and I would desperately search for the TV only to be told brightly by our parents that there wasn’t one and we would spend our evenings playing cards and reading. Much moaning ensued, but three days in and my head would be firmly stuck in a book and I would spend the rest of the time working through everything from War and Peace to Never Love a Stranger – thank you Harold Robbins, you were responsible for most of our generations sex education!
They may not have been the most exciting holidays in the world, but they were relaxing, we learnt to use our imaginations to make our own fun and developed a love of reading – well I did, my brother still only really reads the sports pages.
Occasional trips abroad helped broaden our horizons and as I grew older I wondered what it would be like to be one of those families who go on holiday with huge groups of friends and extended family. I used to look on in envy as cousins played and glamorous adults spent evenings drinking wine in hostess gowns, smoking extra long cigarettes – it was the 70’s after all!
As I grew up and had children of my own I found that while I like some down time on holiday to stick my head in a book, I also like having other people around. Children are less demanding if they have friends around and evenings are more fun if there are lots of people for dinner. But finding the perfect holiday companions can be a tricky one, especially when the children are small.
Over the years we have been lucky to never have a disastrous experience and have managed to chose our holiday companions wisely, but I have learnt to plan carefully and make sure there are a few things in place to ensure maximum enjoyment for all:
- Spend a few days at the beginning of the holiday on your own as a family. This way all the couple arguments will be out of the way by the time you meet up with the others and you will feel relaxed and in holiday mode. This usually takes around three to four days in our case.
- Ensure that there are enough chill out spaces in your villa. Some people want to read, other play music or watch tv and others be on their own. It’s better to have a big (ugly) villa than a fabulously decorated small one. Other peoples children no matter how well behaved, will start to annoy you if you can’t get away from them.
- Set a few casual rules at the beginning of the holiday about budgets, cooking, day trips etc. Not everyone has to do everything together and dinner for 15 can take a bit of organising, so while control freaky planning is irritating, some sort of rough plan, however loose, every day, is a good idea.
- Don’t go on holiday with anyone who’s dominant political views/overbearing personality/crude sense of humour etc etc even slightly irritates you at a dinner party. By day five you will be planning their slow and painful death on a moped and starting on the wine by 11am
- If there does turn out to be one irritating person/child in the group try not to focus on them and save your thoughts for furious whispering with your partner in bed at night. Get it out of your system and adopt a ‘mañana’ approach and comfort yourself with the thought that you will never go on holiday with them again. If all else fails, find small opportunities to tell the annoying small child off – well away from his/her parents earshot. One year M.A.D took great pleasure in pinning a small boy up against a wall and telling him very firmly (scarily!) to stop terrorising our 6 year old daughter – said boy was an angel for the rest of the holiday, clearly all he needed was some boundaries and Yorkshire dad was happy to provide them!
- Don’t go on holiday with a couple who have marriage ‘issues’ – yes I know we all do, but I’m talking on the brink of divorce ‘issues’. Holidays highlight how much you love/hate your partner and you and your children really don’t want to witness a relationship breakdown on holiday – trust me – don’t get me started on the ‘weekend in Suffolk’!!
This year we went on holiday for the first time with members of M.A.D’s family and had the best time. It was the perfect combination of cousins, friends and family and I can honestly say there wasn’t one moment I didn’t enjoy. But perhaps thats the secret – you can do all the planning in the world and choose the most perfect location – but at the end of the day, perhaps it’s all down to spending time with the people you love.