A holiday is double the fun with friends—or is it?
There are certainly benefits to travelling with friends and their children. For one, everyone’s social needs are met. The kids in the group can bond with their peers, while the adults can spend quality time catching up with one another. And when it comes to attractions, especially theme parks, the more the merrier, and the chances of qualifying for group discounts are high too.
However, tensions can arise due to the different needs and expectations of each family. To avoid misunderstandings, have an honest discussion about your needs and wants before the trip. It will guarantee your trip’s success, while ensuring that your friendship remains intact.
Say “No” To Mealtime Squabbles
A mother of three who travelled with her best friend’s family observed “slight tension” between the families when it came to mealtimes. “We are more lax in terms of snacks and healthy eating while on holiday,” she says. “Maintaining the holiday mood and keeping the kids happy is our priority.”
On the flipside, there are families who are fastidious about their food choices, either due to allergies in the family, or because of general health concerns. Do find out about one another’s eating habits (early meals or late?) and preferences, to see if you can meet halfway.
It’s also useful to check on food budgets—if you are a budget-conscious parent travelling with foodies who are not averse to splurging on a meal, you may want to visit places with a range of food choices, or dine separately to keep everyone happy.
Take A Stand On Screen Time
A mother with children under 12 recalls a recent holiday with close friends that hit a sour note because her friends’ teenagers were preoccupied with their gadgets for much of the trip, resulting in her children clamouring to use gadgets as well.
“In future, I would discuss ground rules at the start, even before agreeing to a trip. But it’s potentially tricky. If my friends reveal that they are relaxed about gadget use, am I going to say, ‘Oh, then we shouldn’t travel together’?”
One way to avoid the gadget dilemma is to choose destinations that promote offline bonding for everyone, suggests a parent who has travelled with different families. “In outdoor settings, it’s natural for children to interact with nature, and to play old-school games such as ‘catching,’” she says.
If a trip involves long rides and plenty of downtime, gadget use may be inevitable. Some parents have no issues with their children using gadgets for as long as they like, as it frees the parents to relax and unwind. Conversely, other parents may have strict rules about gadget use for the entire family.
You could set a timer for your children to let them know when they have to surrender their gadgets to you. Alternatively, if you prefer that your children stay off gadgets as much as possible, talk to them about your family’s stand, and let them know why you feel strongly about this. Be sure to bring along books, games, and other materials to keep them occupied—when your friend’s children see how much fun you’re having, they may be tempted to join in too.
Spend Time Apart
When travelling in bigger groups, some minor frustrations are to be expected. A common issue is that some families love to get an early start and cover many attractions in a day, while others prefer to travel at a leisurely pace.
With different personalities in the mix, and especially when younger children are involved, it is best to be less ambitious and agree on one or two major activities to do together each day. Be sure to schedule time alone for your family as well, so you can indulge in activities that your travel companions may not enjoy.
“Separate accommodations at the end of the day is one way of making sure that everyone has a private space to rest,” says a mum. Or, if the budget permits, you can rent a larger holiday home with cozy spaces for everyone to retreat to.
If someone is paying for the group, be sure to keep tabs on shared expenses. Thankfully, with apps like PayLah!, splitting the bill with your Singaporean friends is now a cinch, even when you’re abroad.
When out, take turns to chaperone the children. If not, one parent may end up watching over all the children for the entire trip, while other parents remain blissfully oblivious. It’s best that an adult is always present to supervise the children, even in safe spaces—other children have different influences and they may behave in a manner that you disapprove of.
If you are sharing a holiday home, take time to discuss cooking and cleaning arrangements, so that someone doesn’t end up feeling like he or she is doing all the work. A simple meal plan—when to eat in, and when to eat out—can help to avoid mealtime confusion.
At all times, be proactive and take the initiative to run the laundry, load the dishwasher, or take out the trash. For best results, get the children to chip in too.