Surviving the Family Holiday: Tips for Smart Kids

It’s one of the best times of the year, heading off on a family holiday – the excitement, the anticipation, the chance for everyone to spend some quality time together… but don’t put on your rose-tinted sunglasses just yet, because family holidays aren’t always fun and games. Anyone who’s gone away with the whole tribe before knows that it rarely goes as smoothly as you hope, so with that in mind we’ve compiled a family holiday survival guide for smart kids, to help you deal with over-excited parents when you travel together…


Make sure your parents give themselves more time than usual at the airport. Maybe an hour extra. Maybe more than that.


Parents simply don’t understand the added pressures of travelling-while-young. They’re busy faffing around with passports, boarding cards and luggage, wasting their time thinking about ‘gate closing’ this and ‘last call’ that, totally oblivious to the absolute minefield of panic and stress faced by kids on holidays.


Do they have any idea how difficult it is to walk past three different fast food outlets in one airport… did they even notice the limited edition McFlurry on the menu?  Don’t they realise that the tiny bladder wants what the tiny bladder wants, and there’s no point trying to regulate or predict it?


Have they any concept of what the displays in the duty-free sweet section do to tiny minds? No, you can bet your giant toblerone they do not. You have to make allowances for them. Arrive in enough time to ensure you can get the essential airport stuff done, without getting distracted by your parents.

Remember the 5 Ps – Proper planning prevents panicky parents


Ensure they bring some books to read. Know why? Because their phone/tablet/laptop has really good games on it, and you have really good stamina for asking, repeatedly, to use it. Now, nobody’s saying that adultscan’t try to use their own devices throughout the journey. Nobody’s saying that at all. It’s just, well, they might find themselves with a little more peace and quiet if they just hand over the device and read a good book instead.


That’s not a threat, just an observation. It’s quite simple, actually… you get the device, they enjoy the book, everyone’s happy. (Unless the book has candy crush on it. Do books have candy crush? Can we have a go? What about now? But you said that ten minutes ago…)


This is about managing expectations.


If you’re driving long distances, we recommend  you make it very clear to them at the beginning of the journey that you will be bickering and fighting with each other in the back seat, and that it’s almost certain you won’t stop tormenting your brother/sister.  Beyond that, make sure they understand that you know that they won’t actually turn the car around, and that there will still be a holiday, even if you don’t cut it out this instant.

Butter wouldn't melt


Encourage them to make friends around the pool. As much as it’s great to get away with the parents for a family holiday, if you have to spend two full weeks together there’s a good chance they’ll start driving you mad within a few days. There’s only so much entertaining them you can do, and after a while you just won’t be able to continue pretending you want them to watch you jump in the pool again. They’ll have a great time too, making some nice new friends and doing things with people their own age. If they can get chatting to a few other parents around the pool, they’ll do their own thing a bit more and you’ll have more time to yourselves.


Do your best to avoid restaurants that don’t have chicken nuggets on the menu. It’s a well-known fact that grown-ups are flighty and unpredictable when it comes to eating in different countries, and will order weird, strange food when they go to different countries. Children, on the other hand,  are capable of remaining rational and consistent in their love for chicken nuggets, chips and burgers (no gherkins, obviously).


Until your parents can learn to control their taste buds and stop behaving like such grown-ups when they go away, it’s best you pick the restaurants.

Escarg-NO. Image via iStock: LauriPatterson


You need to monitor their sightseeing. You can allow them to do some sightseeing of course;this is their holiday and they’re so excited about it, bless ‘em. But it’s important not to let them lose the run of themselves either. Try to get them to stick to the important sights – giant waterslides, famous cartoon mice, notable ice-cream stalls, toy shops, and the like. A non-stop stream of museums, churches, galleries and whatnot is not what this holiday is about.


There are churches at home. There are galleries at home. There is no waterpark at home. You do the maths.

Sun Safety

It’s not good for your skin to lie out in the sun all day. Parents know this, but you know how they are at that age – they all think they’re invincible.  Luckily, a great way to stay protected from harmful UV rays hitting the skin is to be buried up to your neck in sand. Suggest this to your parents. If they’re being difficult, explain that you’re doing it for their own good. If that doesn’t work, wait until they’ve dozed off on the beach and then get to work. They might not be happy when they wake up, but just tell them they’ll thank you later. If they’re still angry… well never mind, eh – they’re buried in sand, what are they going to do about it?

It’s unlikely your dad will be as happy about it as this guy is…


Adults are pretty good at remembering to have juice boxes and bottled water at hand for when you get a little hot and cranky. But when they get a little hot and cranky, juice just doesn’t cut the mustard. Luckily, we know just how to soothe them so that you can get a little peace and quiet. If high temperatures mean tempers are frayed and fuses are short, try this: gently whisper ‘cold, crisp Sauvignon Blanc’ intermittently. This may take a little time to work depending on the situation, but eventually the message will sink in, and before you know it they’ll be happily occupied with a glass and you can get a little peace and quiet to continue tormenting your siblings.


- Dee Murray