Holidays with other families: collective yay - or no way?
Is sharing a family holiday with friends and their children a stroke of genius, or a recipe for disaster?
You like them. They like you. Your kids get on. What could be more lovely than spending two weeks in the sun together? Quite a lot, actually, if Mumsnet discussions are anything to go by. Various unforeseen (but hugely irritating) differences between you may only become obvious once you're all together in the “cosy” villa with nine more days of shared hell to go.
BUT… don't rule it out just yet. Holidaying with friends can be a great experience – as long as you go into it with your eyes open. Before you pack your bags, take the advice of those who've braved the joint holiday challenge and survived unscathed.
Ask yourself: are you willing to compromise?
“If this is your only holiday this year and it's really, really important to you that you get to do everything you want your way (which is fair enough: holidays are important things), then it might not be the best idea. If, on the other hand, you're quite easy-going and prepared to compromise a bit, then it'll be fine.”
Work out a reasonable routine
“Agree beforehand not to do everything together everyday. This is important, even if you are best friends. In fact, agree to make sure you spend some time separately.”
“Find out what their kids' bedtime and mealtime routines are before committing to anything. If they're in the habit of letting the children eat with adults and stay up till 11pm while you're 'pack them off to bed at 6pm, so we can get some peace' kind of people, then you will all end up killing each other.”
Ask the necessary (cash-related) questions
“Discuss how you are going to handle money. Are you going to have a kitty for groceries? What about meals when out/treats/shared petrol? Before you go, have a meal and bottle of wine and discuss it all openly!”
Get honest answers on the things that really matter
“Make sure you know what their kids really won't eat. All the meals I cooked for the kids went uneaten by my friend's child even though he, apparently, 'eats everything'.”
Don't scrimp on what's important
“Insist on booking enough bedrooms. One couple sleeping in the living room can be awkward, especially if you need to go through it to get to the kitchen or bathroom.”
Set some parenting ground rules
“Agree that whichever parent is present at any given moment is The Law, and has the right to dispense whatever discipline the situation calls for. This helps to make things much more relaxed for us as parents, because you don't have to be on duty all the time.”
And if there's one rule you live by…
“Do not comment on the behaviour of the other family's children or their parenting style – unless it is to compliment them!”
It might just be wonderful after all
“I used to be of the school of thought that banned friends or relatives from staying with us on holiday. I was extremely zealous and rigid about it – until we shared a massive villa with some friends of my husband's who had four children. I was dreading it. But the children played together, the families cooked for one another occasionally, converged occasionally, diverged occasionally, friends popped in… It was fabulous.”