Family holidays should be the highlight of the year, the big chance for the whole family to relax and enjoy spending time together in exciting places, away from the worries and problems of everyday life. However, if the family holiday is really going to work, and prove a time of relaxation and enjoyment for everyone, there are a great many factors to be considered. Without the right kind of preparation, the much-anticipated holiday can turn out to be stressful and disappointing.
Keep Everyone Happy
The most obvious challenge for a family holiday, of course, is keeping everyone happy, especially if there are different age groups involved -- for instance teens and school-age kids, or school-age kids and toddlers. Teens in particular can be notoriously fussy when it comes to holiday activities -- it can often be difficult to persuade them to come on a family holiday at all, and they can turn awkward if things aren't exactly to their liking. Meanwhile, keeping toddlers occupied and entertained can be a full-time job, especially when they are away from their normal routines, and in the midst of all this, Mum and Dad often end up forgetting to take time out for themselves.
Accommodation is Key
One of the most crucial aspects of ensuring a family holiday is successful is choosing the right accommodation. You will naturally go for a hotel that calls itself "family friendly", but these are not all the same. There is a big difference between hotels that simply allow children, apparently rather grudgingly, and those that pull out all the stops to ensure that all ages are comfortable and happy. So what makes a really good family friendly hotel?
The location of course is all-important, especially if you are travelling with toddlers and younger children. If it's a beach holiday, the beach needs to be sheltered, ideally beside a calm lagoon, and have shallow calm waters. If you are looking for a variety of activities, you need the hotel to be centrally located, within walking distance of plenty of attractions, or with easy transport links.
Plenty of Space
The type of amenities provided will be what really distinguishes the truly family-friendly hotel from those that just want to pack the families in. Family-friendliness really starts with space -- being cramped in a room with all the beds jammed together and no privacy is really not much fun. If the hotel provides a crib or a cot, it isn't much use if there is no room actually to set the cot up, without having to climb over it to get to the bathroom.
Space is especially important if you have toddlers or very young children who go to bed early -- you want to be able to shut the door on them and have somewhere to relax. It's not much fun having to tiptoe around in a darkened room from 7 o'clock in the evening, to avoid waking your kids up. If possible, it's a good idea to book a family suite, or two inter-connecting rooms, rather than a single room.
Activities for All Ages
The best way to ensure that everyone in the family has plenty of fun, while Mum and Dad have some time to relax on their own, is to pick a resort with activities for different ages. Many resorts nowadays provide both kids' and teens' clubs, and these are often so good that the main problem is dragging the youngsters away. For babies and toddlers, look for a hotel that offers childcare or babysitting services, or at least a baby-listening service, so you can have a peaceful grown-up or romantic dinner in the restaurant, and reception will alert you if the little ones wake up.
All-inclusive or Self-catering?
One important factor to consider for a family holiday is your board basis, as meals are a crucial part of any holiday. All-inclusive family holidays can work extremely well, provided the resort has plenty of child-friendly restaurants and eateries, with a variety of menus to keep picky kids and teens happy -- this gives you peace of mind knowing most of your expenses are covered, especially if the deal includes drinks and ice-creams. On the other hand, a self-catering holiday gives you more control over what your family is eating -- for this you need basic facilities in your room, such as a hob and microwave, a grocery store or supermarket in the hotel or nearby, and some good child-friendly restaurants within walking distance.
Because they involve different age-groups, family holidays are never simple to organise. However, just a bit of thought and forward planning can ensure a holiday that keeps everyone happy. In particular, ensure you choose the right family-friendly resort, and you will find half the battle is won before your holiday even starts.