Family Holidays

How to have a sane holiday with your entire family

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Because, let's admit it, it's not always the smoothest of trips

    In Partnership with Robinson

    Group holidays are ideal. Think about it, you get to tick off spending time with your loved ones while exploring somewhere new.

    Except, after a few hours of straight sunshine and a couple of jugs of sangria later, you can somehow find you and your family arguing about who knows what… right!?

    It’s not always easy to navigate a family holiday. First, you’ve got the multi-generational aspect which means a whole hog of different energy levels and then there’s the minefield of family squabbles amid the hot weather and over-indulgence.

    But, where there’s a will, there’s a holiday hack – and these tips will help you survive that family holiday this year and actually enjoy it, too.

    We looked to family psychologists, holiday booking agent and club resort company Robinson for advice…

    Have a rough (but flexible plan)

    Clinical psychologst Jessamy Hibberd tells us it’s good to have an idea of what you want to do during the holiday and what memories you hope to gain from it.

    Identify any issues in a prep meeting beforehand

    It sounds over-the-top but it’ll help you streamline any contingencies beforehand and avoid any issues (like your mother-in-law stressing out if you’re not at the airport at least four hours before departure etc.)

    Be sensitive to other people’s schedules

    So, basically, if you’re an early bird, try not to get annoyed by night owls – everyone works on their own times, and on holiday, just let it slide. If you are planning an excursion with an early start the following day, brief the late-risers and give everyone an hour to get themselves ready before setting out.

    Give everyone a responsibility

    Nominate someone to be house chef, create a washing up team, appoint a laundry person – and so on. This also works well in travel. By appointing someone to be in charge of passports, tickets and paperwork, someone else to map read, another one to keep everyone together – you have a team working together which should (in theory) reduce the potential for bickering.

    If you do argue, diffuse the tension

    Consultant Clinical Psychologist Rachel Andrew says ‘after an argument, it often takes one person to make the first move and apologise for some aspect of what has happened. Even if you don’t take responsibility for all of an argument, apologising for some part – whether that be the words you used, a misunderstanding or your tone – should open the door for the other party to apologise too. If they don’t, let yourself know you’ve done all you could and leave it for them to then approach you.

    Lower your expectations

    It is unlikely that everyone will be happy all the time on holiday. Remember also that it isn’t your responsibility to keep everyone happy. Each person on the holiday is an individual and has their own responsibility for having a good time. Do what you can, look out for everyone where possible, but remember it’s your holiday, too, so look after your own needs and enjoy it!

    Invite an outsider

    The appearance of someone outside of the family unit often changes the dynamic – forcing people to curb their behaviour a little bit. Anyone, from a family friend to someone’s new partner, may be the perfect antidote to a multi-generational holiday, and will provide someone new and different to talk to.

    Branch off – but keep it open

    There will be natural splits across the generations, genders and around individual interests. Just make sure that others know they are welcome if they want to come along, and be aware if anyone is always on their own. Tensions usually arise around how arrangements are made rather than the actual arrangements.

    Value alone time (for yourself and others)

    Often on holidays, the idea of wanting to be alone can jar, but having time to yourself is hugely important in the often stifling atmosphere of big personalities, hierarchical relationships and sibling rivalry.

    Know your audience

    Club holidays are a great option for multi generational groups because there’s a vast array of activities on offer along with on-site facilities and excursion options meaning something will suit everyone’s varied holiday preferences.

    Think about your destination

    Stefanie Brandes, Director of Marketing & Sales at ROBINSON says ‘Location is key.’ ‘And, somewhere with a beach and great facilities will mean activities that appeal to all ages. Think about what will offer the right variety for your family. Whilst the older generation might want to experiment with local and excursions, trying the local fare and admiring the countryside, fussy kids will want simple food and a number of activities to keep boredom at bay. Italy and Fuerteventura are always a good shout for families because there’s stuff to do whether you’re a child, teenager, adult or senior. Or, in the winter, ski holidays are good and alpine clubs like Robinson Club Schlanitzen Alm mean there’s skiing, snowboarding and snow walking on offer.’

    Expect to get annoyed at times

    Psychologist Rachel says it’s normal to feel irritated by family members. ‘Consider how you want to manage this while you are away. Some people want to avoid conflict, and choose to manage their irritation by having some of their own time and space, taking deep breaths, getting distracted by a book, going for a swim etc. It can be helpful for families to think through possible sources of conflict together and create joint solutions. For example, if you’re sharing a villa – who will have which room, who will cook, how much time are you expecting to spend together? All of these discussions are good to have before you go.’

    Consider only regrouping at meal times

    Regrouping at meal times is a great way to ensure you still get that quality family time together while making sure everyone can take part in the activities that they prefer.

    See, now you can just get that WhatsApp group going and look forward to sunshine, siestas and sangrias (or shirley temples for the kids…)

    Reading now

    Popular Life stories