Holidays with extended families: Wish you weren't here

Quality time, free babysitting and lower costs mean more of us are holidaying with our extended families. But as Julia Webster discovers, there are downsides

I can only conclude that you're having an affair!" my grandmother bellowed across her paella, waving her glass of Rioja perilously close to my new white holiday dress. There were 19 members of our family, spanning four generations, all sitting round the restaurant table on that balmy Spanish evening. But her eyes were firmly locked on her son – my father – with whom she was apoplectic for flirting with the friend that my cousin had brought along on our family vacation. It was at that moment I realised our holiday was beyond redemption.

My father has always been a flirt. But while his mother normally witnesses his inevitable beeline for women for the odd evening only here and there, we were by now on day nine of a holiday in a remote Spanish villa where there was little to do other than observe each other and our idiosyncrasies.

Believe it or not, we're a close family. We range from five to 84 years old and we genuinely enjoy each other's company. Some of my fondest memories are times spent altogether, laughing until my sides split. Which is why a fortnight's holiday seemed like a genius plan. And for the first... now, let me count... six days, it was everything we wished for. The views were second-to-none, the villa was straight out of an interiors magazine, the pool was vast, the company as good as ever.

But as the first week ended, the dynamics took an unexpected turn. The family's two keen cooks were getting tetchy about who was going to cook what and there were issues about some family members never seeming to have any euros to hand when the supermarket bill was divvied up. Why couldn't the men in the family ever help with the mountains of washing-up? And couldn't cousin Bill's second wife refrain from boozing long enough to notice her two pre-school children nearly fell into the pool twice?

Multigenerational holidays are on the increase. A study by has found that more young adults than ever are holidaying with their folks. Other recent research discovered that nearly three million families will go on a "greycation" this year – a term used to describe three generations holidaying together. Holiday companies including Center Parcs, Blue Chip Vacations and Explore predicted that holidaying with the extended family would be huge this summer, and the travel industry body Abta confirms that large family bookings (from groups of five to 10 people) accounted for nearly half (41 per cent) of all passengers last year.

My own experience begs the question why. The first answer is simple – money. Travelsupermarket found that younger people aren't known as the piggy-bank generation for nothing. Nearly a quarter of adults admit their parents have paid for or supplemented the cost of a holiday since they turned 18. But hold the tut-tutting just because you're older. One in 20 confesses their parents still pay for their holiday, regardless of their age, and 37 per cent say that's a major reason for sharing their hols with their kin. The "greycation" research is similarly disheartening, with one in five respondents admitting that they will take a UK trip with all the family expressly to save money. Worse still, 18 per cent of parents admitted the grandparents were there to provide free babysitting.

But take heart. Almost half said their aim is to increase time together between children and grandparents, with many stating that they were returning to a family tradition from previous generations. Likewise, nearly half of those interviewed by claimed they travelled with their parents because they enjoy spending time with them.

"Why wouldn't I do it?" asks Dean Evans, 24, genuinely bemused at the question. Evans, who lives in North Wales and holidays with his parents and his 18-year-old sister every summer in Spain, says: "I pay for my flight, but that's about it. They cover pretty much everything else, so it winds up costing me under £200 for a nice holiday – and it is a nice holiday because I get on with my parents really well."

There are things that make it work, he admits – a spacious villa, with the emphasis on spacious, and the agreement that everyone does their own thing if they want. Then comes his most telling statement. "I still live at home, so in many ways, a holiday is business as usual."

That's the thing with Generation Y. Almost one in five graduates in their late twenties lives with their parents, while 20 years ago, only one in eight returned home. Even those with offspring who have moved out are more likely than ever to be helicopter parents, so called because they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach. If they're not texting their 27-year-olds to remind them of a dental appointment, they're (you guessed it) booking their holidays.

"We are much more hands-on parents these days and very involved in our grown-up children's lives, both emotionally and financially," says Eveleen Hatch, whose 19-year-old daughter, Emily, and her boyfriend will accompany them to Kos later this summer.

"I don't want to get any older and the idea of going on a family holiday makes me feel like one of the 'children' still," admits Emily. "As for my boyfriend, he can't wait because he's an only child and loves my family."

Those in their thirties, forties and even fifties can be in for some rude surprises too, says the psychologist Linda Blair. They may discover unexpectedly old patterns kicking in as they're asked questions such as "Are you really going to wear that?" and "Don't you mind your daughter staying in bed all day on holiday?" Then there are the in-laws...

The key is to know why you're going, she says. If, for example, a multigenerational holiday is your idea of hell, but you think it's good for the grandparents and grandchildren, decide to put up with it, just as you'd put up with Christmas, or send your kids on holiday with them while you and you partner sneak off to a boutique hotel.

Reduce expectations, she adds. People are away from their normal routine, beds and mealtimes. "Use humour," she advises. "Not sarcasm, but respectful jesting to take the edge off potential conflict."

For 24-year-old Tom Mitchell, who accompanied his 27-year-old brother and their parents to Majorca last year, part of the trick lay in agreeing to try to "right" the things that used to go wrong on childhood holidays. "My parents would always row about map-reading. Now they let us navigate," he says. The family also cleverly agreed to road-test the idea in advance, with a long weekend away together.

For my family, get-togethers are back to being enjoyable. We even laugh about (most of) that holiday and I, for one, choose to remember the many, many fun bits. But there are some wounds from that vacation that will never heal, and, just sometimes, I do wonder if it was worth it for the sake of a fortnight.

Tips for a harmonious holiday

1. Agree who is paying for what from the early planning stages.

2. Choose a destination which offers something for everyone. All-inclusive resorts are good at getting the balance right, and self-catering is good for lots of people who want to do different things.

3. If you opt for a villa, get one with all the mod cons, especially a dishwasher.

4. Rather than hiring one larger car, get more than one smaller one.

5. Consider bringing friends into the equation, especially for the benefit of the younger generation. It will keep the rellies on better behaviour, and prevents anyone from feeling they are gatecrashing their parents' holiday.

6. Consult your partner. He or she may not share your enthusiasm about spending two weeks with 17 of your nearest and dearest, and the undercurrent of resentment could spoil it for everyone.

7. Don't sweat the small stuff. Not every comment or instruction from a relative is worth fighting over.

There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Manufacturing Manager

    £35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...

    Recruitment Genius: Conveyancing Fee Earner / Technical Support

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Fee Earner/Techn...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This law firm is seeking a happy, helpful and ...

    The Jenrick Group: Production Supervisor

    £26000 - £29000 per annum + Holidays & Pension: The Jenrick Group: Production ...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'