Holidays with friends and extended family
The prospect of sharing your holidays with friends or family is appealing on many levels - company and distraction for children and adults alike, the possibility of reciprocal childcare, shared costs, and the conviviality of outings and big meals.
But many a beautiful relationship has foundered on the rocks of a holiday with friends.
So don't assume it will be hunky-dory just because you've always been mates - money, bedtimes, mealtimes and parenting styles are all potential sources of stress and sorrow.
Holidays with friends
The obvious first step is to consider whether the children will get on in terms of temperament and mix of ages.
Don't go on holiday with some random people you met at an NCT class. If you holiday with friends you have known a long time, you will know whether they have similar rhythms, prejudices and habits to you.
A lot of ugly holiday tension is created by differences in parenting styles, such as whether children are allowed to live on Coke and ice cream on holiday and/or sit in a darkened room with a games console all day.
You need to agree something like a common approach in advance or the whole thing will descend into a non-stop whineathon about fairness by the children (and adults, in private). Topics to cover: food, bedtimes, activities, screen-time (if relevant), rules about behaviour.
Mumsnetter choosyfloosy has a sensible strategy: "The answer is a) to have a pre-holiday summit to work out where the flashpoints are and b) to be the slack parents. Go on holiday with stricter people, so they have the hard work of trying to maintain their standards while you undermine them. Having said that, the others I went on holiday with don't seem to have rung since..."
Holidays with relatives
Even if you actually get on well, living in close quarters with other, no-doubt opinionated adults can be hellish:
• Other people's children
• Surviving family Christmas
• Children at weddings
• Childless friends
• Mumsnet Travel
• Talk: relationships
- Try if possible to arrange separate accommodation. Especially kitchens.
- Try to arrange time for different subsets of the party to do separate activities: children and grandparents on beach; grandparents and own offspring on boring tour of monasteries while mother and children go to toyshops and eat ice cream.
- If the holiday accommodation is shared and self-catering, make sure there is agreement about the division of cooking and related labour. Don't end up being the universal skivvy.
- If remotely feasible, try to have an honest chat about the above before you go on the holiday.
- You may have to just gnash your teeth a bit.
Holidays without children
It is not evil or neglectful to have these if you want them.
- Try something small - a weekend or even a night is probably plenty for a first effort.
- What is right for you will depend a lot on how much time you spend with your children in everyday life - if you work full time, a month of 'couple time' in the Seychelles may seem excessive.
- Make sure you are absolutely confident about whoever is looking after your children.
- Sometimes the desire to do some grown-up leisure things can be serviced by choosing a holiday which offers some kind of kids' club or crèche for part of the day.