How To Make A Three Generation Holiday Work

29/07/2014 16:21 | Updated 22 May 2015


Is this your idea of a perfect family holiday? Free babysitting from people you trust, another pair of hands to share the cooking, an enthusiastic playmate ready to amuse your children when all you want to do is chill out, and some lovely holiday snaps of three generations having fun together.

This is what you can look forward to if you invite the grandparents along on holiday. Or is it?

Taking one, or both grandparents on holiday is an increasingly popular option: if you are self catering, which is perfect for many families with children, it's a chance to share the cost of a holiday home that is out of reach financially for one family.

It's also an opportunity for any grandparents who are single to enjoy a family holiday without you feeling guilty that Mum or Dad are left behind missing all the fun.

But is the reality as much fun and how do you make it work?

Ellie described how she took her mother-in-law along on holiday, thinking she was being considerate rather than booking her as an unpaid babysitter. "We went to France. It's the culinary capital of Europe, if not the world. We enjoy trying new food and encourage our daughter to do the same.

"But it turned out that my mother in law was conservative in the extreme: not only would she not try anything new to eat, but she wouldn't go into any restaurants. Imagine my surprise when I realised that she had packed enough food to last the holiday and had no intention of joining us for any meals in restaurants. It took a huge amount of enjoyment out of the holiday."

Susie and her husband have yet to have children, but having experienced a holiday with her in-laws, Susie is adamant that a family holiday with grandparents included would simply not work.

"My in-laws have narrow interests and are somewhat inflexible. I knew from the first holiday we took together that it was never going to work- and it would be worse if we had children. My in-laws have to have their coffee breaks, morning and afternoon, very promptly, no matter what is happening. So when we were out walking or boating, everything had to stop at 11 and 4 o' clock for a detour to a cafe. Conversely, they frown on snacking, so when we were in France and my husband and I dived into an ice-cream parlour for some holiday indulgence, they stood stiffly outside, looking miserable."

Katie and her family have managed to have enjoyable holidays with her parents but not without establishing some ground rules and a disastrous first experience.

"The first time we did it, it was hideous. We shared a small French cottage in a stifling heatwave with a toddler. By day two my father and I were at each other's throats over waking the baby and my mother had to mediate us.


By day four I could have beaten him to death with a baguette for hogging the shower and by day six I started sobbing uncontrollably at the kitchen table because the stress was killing me.


"Thankfully day seven was the end of the holiday and even then I had a raging paddy in the back of the car on the way home from the airport."

It's worth recognising that whatever foibles your parents have, they are going to be all the more obvious when cooped up in a house that's not your own, possibly with dodgy plumbing, a cooker that doesn't work properly, and your children awake late in the evening because the bedroom curtains are paper thin and don't keep out the light.

Katie still holidays with her parents but she has found that a successful holiday necessitated an honest discussion beforehand and some agreed ground rules.

"We prefer separate accommodation. This means we try to book cottages that are next to each other, or as close as possible. This arrangement means our daughter can sleep at her grandparent's for a night or two and we get some peace.

"We also travel separately; being cooped up in the same car is too stressful. Most importantly we have an honest talk about we each want from the holiday. The reality of this is that sometimes we don't want my parents tagging along every day with us, and likewise for them. If one of us wants some time alone, and not as part of the group, nobody takes offence.

"Our first holiday was a disaster but we've now found the best ways to make it work for everyone."

The rules for making a three-generation holiday work

Choose accommodation that is as spacious as your budget allows. Queuing for the loo is no fun, so you need at least two bathrooms and preferably more. An extra lounge or conservatory can be useful – not everyone wants to be together all of the time.

Travel separately if you are going by car. Two cars are always better than one otherwise everyone has to go everywhere together all of the time.

Discuss the chores. Will you eat out or self cater? Are you going to take turns to cook? If you are in the UK, planning your menus, doing a big online shop and having it delivered on day one can save a lot of hassle.

Discuss finances. Resentments can build up if it's always you – or them - who pay for the lunches out, or the ice creams, or the tickets for events.

Children's bedtimes and behaviour - what is the grandparent's attitude to these? If they have a strict routine, are they happy for your children to be up later during holidays?

What do you each want out of the holiday? If you want to relax but they are the type who like to be exploring all day long, how will this work?

Agree to discuss grievances before they blow up out of all proportion. There is nothing worse than suffering in silence for a week about how gran didn't do her share of the cooking, or grandad hogged the TV.

A shared holiday can work, but some forethought and honest talking will help to make it be enjoyable for everyone.

What have your experiences been of going on holiday with children and parents?

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