#AD: HOW TO GO ON HOLIDAY WITH ANOTHER FAMILY AND NOT COME BACK HATING THEM
Lisa Williams and Ben Wynne-Simmons on the Dos and Don’ts of group trips...
I don’t know about you, but some of our best and some of our worst trips away have been with other families. When it works well, a shared family trip can be an amazingly transformative experience: the kids have playmates, the adults have company, the laughs are louder and the memories last longer. But when it doesn’t work well, it can be a hotbed of clashing parenting styles, building resentment and bitchy WhatsApp messages to your friends at home.
As part of #TripsXYZ, our travel project with Airbnb, we took our two little families (Lisa, Will, Stanley, 2, and bump, and Ben, Cath, Tess, 2, and Freddie, 3 months), away together to a beautiful self-catering cottage in the south-west of England. We came back not just still talking to each other, but with brilliant stories and two toddlers who are now the best of mates. Here is our guide to making a group family trip work…
DO: Pick your holiday buddies wisely
Obviously go for people whose company you and your kids enjoy but, in addition to that, work out who might not drive you up the wall during a week together. Are you a clean freak? Don’t go away with some known slummers unless you’re happy to do the lion’s share of tidying and not be a martyr about it. Late-night game players? Invite a family who you know have great playlists and who you can safely beat at Shithead. Ben and Cath are not big chefs (although Ben does make a mean bacon sandwich) but Lisa and Will love to cook on holiday, especially in a kitchen like the one in our Airbnb - which was a huge upgrade on their one at home - and so it worked out nicely. Ben and Cath were swift both to clean up and to bandy around compliments on the cooking, which Lisa and Will lapped up. It helps to have spent some time with the other family before so there are no nasty surprises when you all arrive. We know of one family who don’t see their holiday buddies at all any more, after it became clear that one set of parents didn’t plan on doing any child care nor cleaning all holiday, and no this isn’t either of us, before you ask.
DON’T: Be shy about shared space
Sharing a holiday home is quite intimate, so it’s good to be relaxed about things like nudity and bodily functions. However, as we’re British, we all know this is absolutely impossible so how about a sense of humour and a bit of code language instead? If you need the loo, say you’re heading off ‘for some me time’ and people will know what you mean and give it a wide berth when you emerge. If you and your partner have the time and energy for a holiday shag but don’t want anyone to hear, be creative with the timings and say you’re going to have a little nap when the other couple has offered to take all the kids for a walk. When we were planning our trip, our helpful Airbnb host was happy to answer questions about how soundproof the rooms are, although admittedly we asked because we were worried about Ben’s newborn waking up the rest of the house rather than anything more exciting.
DON’T: Intervene too much with the children
Kids all have their bratty moments, even yours. It’s important to remember this when your families start sharing a beach ball and a bathroom. It’s easier to let them run the full range of emotions from new bezzies to arch rivals and back again than to butt in too much and create a situation. Obviously if someone crosses a line and starts pushing or biting, it is better for all concerned to step in and discipline appropriately, but remember that the naughty step doesn’t work that well on adults. If you’re unsure of whether or not to tell off someone else’s child, don’t be afraid to ask their parents what they think. We were both more than happy for any adult to intervene when our toddlers got naughty, although thankfully they were too busy playing with our Airbnb host’s beautiful dog and raiding the snack cupboard to play up too frequently. Hanging out at close quarters with our families gave us both reassurance that we're all doing a good job and raising happy, sociable children. It was also noted that, while parenting styles can vary from family to family and get a bit awkward, what’s probably more common is varying parenting styles between parents of the same children, so let’s just forget our differences and enjoy the sunset, ok?
DO: Share the load
Our Airbnb property had a gym and a tennis court (it also had a gorgeous swimming pool but sadly the weather wasn’t quite good enough to use it), and using them meant we could go home feeling a bit more buff and very much more relaxed than before we went. One evening, Ben and Cath put both toddlers in the bath (much more fun for them than bathtime-for-one, and the bath in our place was an enormous 5-star hotel suite number, so more like going swimming) while Lisa used the gym and Will cooked dinner. Then next evening, Lisa gave the toddlers dinner while Will hit the gym, and Cath and Ben had a knockabout on the court. We think baby Freddie was accounted for somewhere among these plans but he’s such a contented, quiet little chap it’s hard to know.
DON’T: Forget why you’re on holiday together
While tag-teaming is efficient, being more-the-merrier is the whole reason you’re away. Our Airbnb hosts recommended a day trip to Longleat Safari Park and, when we arrived, we realised that piling into one car to feed deer and watch lions prowl around was much more fun than going around in two. That was, until a monkey ripped the rubber strips off the roof of Lisa’s car and she wondered why Ben was so keen to leave his own car safely tucked away in the car park. We actually loved hanging out with each other's families, not talking about work and getting to know each other's kids and partners better than before, and we managed to not talk about work at all - shop talk was banned! Forcing our kids to hang out also meant they’re now friends and that means we’ll get to see a lot more of each other as they grow up and demand playdates. They definitely squabbled over snacks and toys, but they also revved each other up in an exhausting but very cute way, and they learnt from each other too: Stanley taught Tess some of his advanced expressions (mainly stuff like, ‘more bread’, ‘want more bread’ and ‘want more bread now, Daddy’), while Tess taught Stanley how to run faster than his parents. Happy days.
:: For more travel guides + inspiration from other families and Airbnb, follow the #TripsXYZ hashtag on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.