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Top tips to a happy summer holiday

Posted on 04 July 2018

Pleasant, carefree family-time to recuperate from a busy academic year. Or a grouchy trip complete with niggles, grumbles and the odd full-blown row? Family summer holidays have their highs and lows, but here are 5 steps to help avoid the pitfalls and make the most of much-needed time together.

1. Book a holiday that suits your family

Balancing parental objectives with the needs of children can be tricky. Mums and Dads itching to share the cultural wonders of the world with their children should consider whether they’re old enough to appreciate city breaks. And those desperate to unwind by lolling on a sun-lounger should be mindful of young children’s need for constant entertainment.

Consider age appropriate holidays for early years, choose resorts with on-site childcare facilities – though perhaps offering less cultural stimulation, they will go a long way to keeping everyone happy and relaxed. For mixed age and gender groups, holiday parks or camp sites are great options. Older children might enjoy an adventure holiday, or a peaceful villa with access to some gentle nightlife around the corner.

Identify the particular needs of your children. For teenagers or only children, consider inviting their friend or another family along for company. Families with SEND (special educational needs and disability) children have increasing options to explore. And for larger families, separate trips within the schedule gives everyone space and helps ease any sibling rivalry. 

Remember, it’s not all about the kids, relaxed parents are better parents, so build in some guilt-free rest. Couples can take turns with childcare, and single parents can look out for tour operators who cater to their needs. Plan according to budget and don’t be afraid to push back at the expensive demands of savvy children. A week’s camping or a ‘staycation’ will make for a more financially stress-free option than a 5* safari. 

2. Get everyone organised ahead of the trip

It’s all too easy to be up late the night before departure, rummaging through cupboards for last year’s sun hats and sandals. Challenging as it is to carve out time in your schedule, blocking out time to plan and pack in the weeks leading up to your trip will save you time and last minute panics.

Three weeks before, think through individual needs. Who needs new clothes, snorkels, wet suits? Has the sun cream expired? Does everyone have enough reading material or games? Pack a craft box for toddlers, load up the kindle for older children, and have a few surprise games and activities up your sleeve. Buy supplies well in advance, avoid last minute online shopping and any ‘will my package arrive in time or won’t it?’ stress.

Only seven sleeps to go? Print boarding passes, buy insurance, locate passports and EHIC cards, plan your route, dig out the adapter plugs, pre-book any holiday activities, and start throwing sundry items into the suitcase.

Give yourself a break the night before you leave and wind down a little. While it’s nice to come home to a tidy house, does it really need to be scrubbed until it shines? And get the children to bed on time for a grump-free start to the holiday.

3. Foster anticipation and engage the family in plans

Pre-agree a balance of rest and activity. Buy a children’s guide book and encourage the kids to make suggestions for the trip, though be careful not to over-plan or, worse, let the kids take over!

4. Get back to basics

Factor in screen-free time. Reconnect with traditional family time like bike rides, walks and swims, board games and playing cards. Dispel the myth that children need devices to keep them occupied and have fun. Encourage them to explore outdoors, use their imagination, and record holiday highlights in a scrapbook or journal.

5. Manage expectations

It’s all too easy to have idealistic expectations that aren’t met. Toddlers will tantrum, uncompromising teenagers may sulk, and frazzled grown-ups will be prone to the odd meltdown. Modern families are not accustomed to spending intense time together, so accept that it won’t always be perfect. And at the end of it all, create a photo slideshow and rest assured that in years to come any grumbles will be long forgotten and it’ll be the happy moments that will be remembered.