Taking the grandparents on holiday can be a blast for everyone involved. We take a look at how to make three-generational holidays a dream, not a disaster.
According a survey, family travel is on the increase. However, the types of holiday we are booking as families are changing. The poll revealed families were booking ‘multigenerational’ holidays, involving grandparents, while our very own babyworld poll revealed that nearly two-thirds of you would take your parents or the in-laws away.
Additionally, more than 66 per cent of agents surveyed have seen grandparents travelling exclusively with their grandchildren. From this information it would seem that the next generation in family vacations is taking the grandparents along for the ride.
Why it’s a good idea
First things first: just why is taking your parents or in-laws away with you a good idea? Surely all the bad-taste mother-in-law jokes are testimony that mixing these two generations is bordering on dangerous? Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, granny and author of The Good Granny Guide explains what grandparents can bring to a family holiday.
“At the very basic level, all the benefits of two extra pairs of hands, lightening the burden of chores, help preparing meals, picnics etc, and taking their turn doing the shopping. Additionally, grandparents can give individual attention to each child, thereby reducing sibling conflict. Having the grandparents there means the group can split up so that, for example, older children can go rock-climbing with their parents while the little ones play in the sand with granny and grandpa.”
Gordon Lishman, director-general of Age Concern, added, “There is often a special bond between a grandchild and their grandparent and family holidays can be a great opportunity for grandparents to spend quality time with their grandchildren, particularly if they do not get to see each other very often. But parents must be careful not to take grandparents for granted or expect them to provide constant child care. Grandparents need a holiday too.”
It’s all in the preparation
The key to harmony is to discover everyone’s idea of what constitutes a good holiday. For instance, you may dream of parking yourself by the pool with a good book and relaxing while your husband might prefer to get out the guide book and visit all the local attractions. However, the chances are your toddler would be very happy playing on the beach and
making endless sandcastles!
The same applies if you take the grandparents with you too, although obviously you will be taking even more people’s preferences into consideration. It can be tempting to think that the grandparents can look after junior while you go out for lavish meals every night but don’t forget that they, too, will want to have some time to themselves, as Jane emphasises. “It’s important to plan the holiday together beforehand so everyone can put down a marker for how they want to spend time. Perhaps Grandpa wants to go fishing and Granny wants to visit one or two gardens.”
Jane also advises discussing distribution of labour before you go away, particularly if you’re staying in self-catering accommodation. “Agree beforehand what contributions of food and drink everyone will make. They should certainly bring some wine or beer for general consumption, and whatever their own favourite tipple is. It’s also important that anyone who has a dietary requirement makes it their responsibility to look after it. It may be difficult to buy All Bran in a remote mountain village in Spain!”
A built-in babysitter?
The obvious attraction of taking your parents or in-laws away on holidays is the fact that you can leave your children with someone you can trust, who won’t charge you a bean for their time, so you can have time as a couple. Undoubtedly, grandparents will be expecting to do some of the childcare duties and will enjoy the opportunity to be so involved. However, you need to strike a balance between letting them have fun with their grandchildren and taking advantage of them.
“Of course parents will be able to go out on their own but it should work both ways; the grandparents should be allowed to go off for a night out too,” stresses Jane. “If granny wants to put her feet up for an hour after lunch every day, she should make it clear in advance.”
Take a break from each other
Contrary to the American Express findings, family holiday website takethefamily.com recently revealed that over a quarter of parents on their site felt that taking the grandparents on holiday was second only to going away with their ex for creating mega-high stress levels. Why is this so?
Even if you’re on holiday in a tropical paradise, living in close confines with other family members can be quite difficult, especially if you are a messy mummy and everyone else is a neat freak. In order for family time to remain fun, you need to take short breaks from each other to give some vital breathing space. “Life with the extended family should be stimulating and pleasurable for everyone, but it can also be exhausting. A rest from each other is very important,” Jane advises.
Even if it’s leaving the grandparents behind to have a quiet morning by the pool while you do some sightseeing or encouraging them to have a romantic meal out together can help provide some peace in what would otherwise be a very intense environment. Big happy families are all great and good but they only stay that way if they are allowed time out for good behaviour.
by Sam Pope