I must admit to having mixed feelings about taking other people’s children on holiday. When my kids were younger my first reaction would have been “Are you mad?” Aren’t your own kids enough of a handful, without dealing with another child’s fussy food fads, snotty nose and that’s if they don’t cancel on you, leaving your own child feeling disappointed and friendless.
But as my children have grown into tweens and teens, I’ve become a lot more enthusiastic. Once your children reach that phase when they think it’s Soooo uncool to go on holiday with Mum and Dad, you’ll do anything to restore their good humour and have a happy holiday. Teenagers often feel they can’t survive without their friends and may refuse to go away, even for a short time, for fear of missing out on something that their friends are up to.
I have three children between the ages of 14 and 19 and while I might not include their friends in that expensive dream holiday, I’m absolutely willing to bring them along on short UK breaks and even for holidays in Europe. My children have also been invited by their friends to go on family holidays to Greece, Portugal and Switzerland, normally where their friend is the only child travelling and the parents are happy that they bring along a companion.
At its best, you may have a much more relaxing holiday if you take a friend for your child to hang out with, but at its worst they may cause more problems than you anticipated and you’ll end up wishing you’d left them at home.
So what should you consider before you issue the invitation?
The younger the child the more risk that they’ll fall ill, be homesick or generally be a pain if their habits don’t suit those of your family. I personally wouldn’t take away a child who was under the age of 10 and probably 12+ is better, once they’re at secondary school and are becoming more independent. Once they’re into their teenage years, there’s even more chance you can relax on the sunbed without having to keep a constant eye on what they’re up to.
The closer to home you are the less risk that a mishap will spoil your holiday. We regularly take our children’s friends away with us for short breaks in a cottage or apartment in the UK. My son had great fun on when we stayed at Buckshead eco-cottage in Shropshire where he and his friend could mess around on the farm or go for a bike ride on their own. My daughter loves nothing better than to be surrounded by her friends and so we’ve taken them all away to a Welsh cottage in the Brecon Beacons, half way up the mountain where we nearly got snowed in and had birthday parties in a deluxe eco-barn at Fernhill Farm near Bristol. Then there was the long weekend with two of her friends (admittedly one of the Mums came too) at the wonderful Circus Hotel in Berlin, where the girls had their own little apartment and I was banished to one of the funky bedrooms on the other side of the courtyard.
I must admit, however, that I prefer to stay in the UK a couple of hours from home, so that if some mishap happens, it’s not impossible for the other children to get home again. We were glad of that when one of the friends in the Welsh cottage got a nasty tummy bug and her father came to rescue her. Even in Europe a mainstream location will have regular flights that can get you home again if disaster strikes. I’d certainly think twice before taking another person’s child halfway around the world.
Cost can be tricky subject when it comes to inviting other children to come on holiday with you. For a UK break, I’d normally expect to cover the accommodation costs and perhaps ask them to bring some food or treats with them. For European trips, I’d hope that the parents might pay the cost of the airfare, although this shouldn’t be assumed. Not every family has the budget to contribute these costs and so it’s best to be up front and open about what the deal is. I’ve agreed to my daughter going away with Friends in the past, only to realise later that I was paying every penny of the substantial holiday costs, and did wonder if the family budget might have been used in better ways. So your knowledge of the child’s family and their likely budget may determine who you wish to either ask or accept an invitation from.
Before issuing the invitation, you’ll want to give some thought to the character of the child and how long they have been friends. It may not be ideal to invite someone that your child has only known for a short time or who they have a turbulent relationship with. It’s never happened to us, but another child who’s unhappy or who’s had an argument could spoil the whole experience for everyone. Some children may love to spend the day hiking with you, while others may think of nothing worse. It can also be tempting to invite children where you are great friends with the parents, even though the children are not particular friends but just happen to be the same age. My daughter also pointed out that from the child’s point of view it’s good to know the parents and family before you go, so you have an idea of what their expectations might be.
So if you’re fairly relaxed having another child along as a holiday companion for your own can work out well, but perhaps not that three week trekking adventure through the jungles of Borneo
What have your experiences been of taking other people’s children on holiday? A dream holiday or a nightmare?
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