We all have tales of less-than-perfect family holidays, but it IS possible to have a holiday that the entire family enjoys and wants to do all over again. Here’s how...
1. Build anticipation
Half the fun of going on holiday is looking forward to it, so while you’re counting down the days make sure your children are just as excited. Show them pictures of where you’re going to be staying and talk about the journey, when you’ll be leaving and arriving and, once you’re there, what everyone would most like to do and read up on what activities are on offer nearby.
You may want nothing more than to stretch out on a beach, but you can bet young children will want to be active, so it’s a good idea to talk beforehand about what everyone wants from their holiday and steer a happy compromise to avoid shattered parents and whiny kids.
2. Be on holiday the moment you lock your front door
When you leave your home, make a real effort to mentally ‘be on holiday’ and leave all that pre-holiday organisational stress behind. Instead of willing the journey away, with a bit of mental effort you can train yourself to relax and enjoy the trip. Of course, that becomes easier the older and more adaptable your children grow, but plan ahead with entertainment, non-messy snacks and pit stops. At the risk of sounding insufferably smug, changing your mindset means you can relax and enjoy the minor calamities and mishaps that inevitably happen when you go on holiday as a family.
3. Children thrive on the familiar
You may be dreaming of exotic beaches, but children will have just as wonderful a holiday in the UK, without the frazzle of long-haul flights and time differences. Children also love looking forward to the expected but slightly different every year, whether that’s pulling into view of their grandparents’ house or grabbing bedrooms in the self-catering cottage you’ve stayed at since they were toddlers.
4. But spend time together giving your kids new experiences
And that doesn’t mean spending a fortune. Take camping for example. Even if the thought of a night on a blow-up mattress with communal showers doesn’t fill you with just-can’t-wait fervour, one or two nights still counts and kids love the whole experience of camping, from banging in tent pegs to toasting marshmallows on sticks over the fire and cuddling up together telling (not too scary) ghost stories. (Or you can ‘glamp’ and stay in an already assembled yurt with BEDS).
Another fabulous solution is staying on a working farm, particularly if you’re an urban family, and give your children and yourselves a chance to relax and get back in touch with nature. As well as the obvious attraction of being up close to the animals and seeing cows being milked, feeding lambs and hunting for eggs for breakfast, many farm stays boast swimming pools, games rooms and adventure playgrounds. Check out Farm Stay and Away With The Kids for child-friendly self catering, B&Bs and glamping options.
Studies have shown that new and fun experiences improve children’s concentration, attention, physical and mental health. See, we all need a holiday!
It’s also worth taking lots of pictures to refresh memories of happy holiday times before winter creeps up.
5. Think about holidaying with other families
If you have long-term friends with kids who get on with yours, or or new mum-mates with, importantly, similar attitudes to bringing up kids, then it’s well worth thinking of joining forces for a holiday.
The benefits are huge - more playmates for your kids, more late night entertainment for you, dull self-catering becomes less onerous and more companionable if you take turns cooking and clearing up and it’s often a lot cheaper to share food and accommodation costs. You don’t have to be one big mass the whole time and can go on family-only adventures too from your base.
6. Unplug. That means all of you
The point of a family holiday is to have fun together, build a bank of happy memories and nurture your relationships with laughter, chats and shared experiences so you all arrive home recharged and relaxed. That’s a lot trickier to do if one or all of you are welded to your phones, constantly checking updates.
Try and ditch the phones during the days and really spend time with each other. Simple holiday pleasures like playing cards, Perudo, Bananagram and Pass The Pigs after a day outdoors are the glue that strengthens you as a family.