Holidays with Children

See also: Tips for Surviving the School Holidays

Holidays (vacations) before children. A chance to get up late, relax on the beach, go out for meals, soak up the culture, or dance till dawn. In other words, to relax and recover from the stresses of your everyday life in whatever way suits you best.

Holidays with children are a totally different matter. At worst, you might look on them as just childcare in a different location, possibly with added stress because your child is too hot, or out of their routine, or otherwise stressed in some way.

But at best, holidays with children can be a happy family time, a chance for you all to spend time together doing things that you enjoy.

This page is designed to help you achieve that.

Holidays with Babies and Young Children

Babies and toddlers are a bit ambivalent about holidays.

This is perhaps unsurprising when you look at it from their point of view (see box).

A baby’s view of holidays

Your baby is presumably pretty happy at home. They understand how things work (mostly). They have their toys, their bedroom is familiar. Everything is geared up for them.

Then you take them away somewhere.

Bear in mind that young children have very little concept of time, and often much less understanding of the adult world than you might think.

Unless you and they often go away to strange places and then return home, they will have no idea that the holiday will only last a short time, and then you will go home again.

They may quite easily think that they will never see home again. This is not unnaturally going to lead to some odd behaviour in even the calmest child.

Add in unaccustomed heat or cold, and jet lag, and you have a recipe for a very unhappy baby.

Fortunately, this phase does not last very long. Children quickly learn that holidays are short-lived, and that you always return home again afterwards.

You can also make life easier for all of you by following these tips:

  • Avoid long-haul destinations, especially if they are in very different time zones. This is not always possible, especially if you have to visit family abroad, but jet lag is hard enough for adults, never mind children, and long flights are likely to lead to tiredness for everyone.
  • Take familiar toys and games with you, especially anything essential for sleep.
  • Try to keep to the same routine while you are away, particularly bed times, and any nap times. Also try to provide familiar food as far as possible. You don’t have to be rigid, but it will make settling in, and settling back home again, easier for all of you.
  • Remember that you need to do child-friendly activities. You cannot go and look at art galleries or museums all day with a small child, or spend the whole day sunbathing or reading your book. You may find our pages on Outings with Children helpful.
  • It can be a good idea to go on holiday with grandparents, as this gives you a couple of extra pairs of hands to help you with the children, and means you may just be able to have a quiet evening out if you want.
  • Go back to the same place several times, as it will then become familiar to your child. Again, this will make settling in easier, although it doesn’t work well with very small children as they won’t remember more than a few weeks or months back.

Holidays with Older Children

As your children grow, holidays become easier.

You may still want to avoid long-haul destinations and jet lag, but you will be able to make a decision based on your knowledge of your children, and not just avoid the idea completely.

The key to enjoyable holidays with children aged between about four and twelve, or so, is entertainment.

You have a choice here:

  • You can provide all their entertainment yourself. This is a challenge, but does mean that you will be spending family time together. Beaches, holiday parks, and theme parks are all likely to feature in your plans.
  • You can go on holiday with friends or family with children, so that the children will entertain each other. You will still need to provide some supervision and support, of course, but much of the pressure will be off you. You will also have congenial adult company, and may be able to share babysitting and catering duties.
  • You can go to a resort with a children’s holiday club, and staff on hand to entertain your children. The problem with this, of course, is two-fold. First, it costs money, although you may be delighted to pay for the privilege of having some child-free time. The second is that your children may not want to go to a kids’ club. After all, they may not see much of you when you are working, and may want to spend some time with you.

The happy medium is probably a combination of all three, designed to fit your family.


Children do not know about the dangers of a new environment

You will need to tell them, and to take action to protect them.

This sounds obvious, but may not be in practice.

For example, you know how much sunburn hurts. Your children don’t, and you probably don’t want them to find out. But you will need to remember to put sun cream on them, and probably more often than you put it on yourself.

Holidays with Teenagers

Holidays with teenagers are, in a way, the beginning of the end. There is only so long that your children will want to holiday with you. The teenage years mark the end of that period, so you may want to make the most of them.

The best way to have good holidays with teenagers is probably to involve them in the planning.

They are, after all, growing up, and need to learn about budgeting, choices, planning and self-awareness. Putting together a family holiday ticks all of those boxes.

Let them get involved in the selection of the venue, both country and resort, and decide what they want out of a holiday, whether that’s sitting on a beach, or activities, being around other people, or somewhere secluded.

Develop a compromise that works for everyone, although be prepared to tweak it when you get there too.

You might even consider inviting one of your children’s friends along, although this could increase the cost too much.

Your children will, after all, be much less able to complain about the holiday if they have helped to design it.

See our section: Parenting Teenagers for lots more help and advice about navigating through the teenage years.

Remember, holidays are about relaxing

This goes for all of you. If you don’t think you will find a holiday relaxing, then don’t go. It’s as simple as that. Holidays are meant to be fun, not a chore.

As a family, therefore, you need to find a way to ‘do’ holidays that works for all of you, and only you can do that.