Family Travel Survival Guides: Holidays With Grandparents

Holidays with grandparents

Booking villa holidays with grandparents? Planning a safari with the in-laws? Make sure you know the unwritten rules.

There was a time when the thought of a holiday with parents or in-laws might have filled you with horror. But these days it’s got definite appeal. There’s the free babysitting, for a start. And if they’re willing to get up at dawn with the kids, well, that alone is worth the cost of their flights. Plus grandparents often have endless patience for building sandcastles and crabbing, and being one stage removed, tend to act as diplomats at moments of high tension, which means you might actually get to enjoy your lunch in peace.

But if you’re going to end the holiday on speaking terms, you’ll need to play by the rules…

Find out what everybody wants from the holiday
If you want to spend your days sightseeing, but everybody else wants to flop by a pool, that’s fine – as long as you all know that. Holiday disagreements usually arise when people have different expectations of the trip, or feel forced into doing activities they don’t want to do. If you plan to climb every step in the Torre del Mangia, go ahead, just don’t expect everyone else to do it with you.

Rent the biggest house you can afford
Ideally (for them and you), you’d have separate but adjoining properties, but it isn’t always possible – in which case, go for size over decor. You all need your space. It’s a very special grandparent that truly enjoys the 6am wake-up call.

Set the ground rules early
If you don’t want to eat with your in-laws every night, make that (politely) clear from the start. Set nights to go out alone, this can even be done in advance. Once a pattern is set, it’s much harder to break without offending somebody.

Don’t take the babysitting for granted
It’s an unspoken assumption that grandparents should chip in with childcare, but you can’t expect them to tear around after your offspring while you lie by the pool. At least not every day. If you’ve got them doing the early shift every morning, then babysitting each night, you’re going to have a very resentful older generation on your hands.

Plan a cooking rota
Getting meals on the table is one of the biggest jobs on a villa holiday, particularly if there’s a big group of you. Plan who’s going to shop and cook on each day, and when you’re eating out, so that no one feels that they’re doing more than their fair share.

Bite your tongue
There will come a point during the holiday where you actually think your mother/mother-in-law is going to drive you insane (they’re having those moments too, about you and your charming children). Keep calm, breathe deeply, and remember – they know not what they do. Remember, you can always nip off to a wine bar with your partner on your ‘free pass’ night and have a good moan. It’s exactly what they’re doing after all.