Simon Reeve: multi-generational holidays

Last updated 1st July 2024

A holiday for all

You probably spent years escaping your parents for adventures around the planet. Free from their calming hand, you backpacked in Bolivia, lounged in the Balearics and did Bikram in Bali. But now you’ve had your own children, it may be time to rediscover the joys of an old-fashioned holiday with your mum and dad.

A family-friendly hotel in the sun is great for quality time together. But if you don’t want everyone racing off in different directions at a resort, think about a clan holiday in a fancy villa. Being locked away with in-laws, or even with aunties and cousins, might fill some with dread, but it could be one of the most memorable holidays of your life. And your children will love it.

I’m not saying it will be easy. Scheduling holidays for everyone can be tricky, particularly with Grandad and Grandma’s busy social life. But with a bit of encouragement and emotional blackmail, you can probably persuade them to put their parties and art events on hold for a week or two. Best of all, your parents are probably baby boomers with a bit of spare cash they can use to take you all away. If there’s likely to be financial tension as a result then at least give a bit of money, perhaps a sum proportionate to your age-gap (if you say it with conviction, they might agree).

The rules

So what are the rules for a holiday with the extended family? Don’t try to do it on the cheap. Even if you’re heading somewhere warm, go for the largest place you can afford, because with the family together, you probably won’t want to be heading out. You know your children need a pool with inflatables, table tennis, grass, a sprinkler, boules and toys.

If there’s strife in your family, don’t go for somewhere too remote. The holiday could turn into a blood feud with consequences that echo through the generations. Instead, book a place on the edge of a busy beach resort, or a friendly warm city, so people can disappear for a day and regain some sanity. But I get on pretty well with my in-laws, I’d like to think, and we had no qualms about following them to a large, remote villa on a private estate in the south of France recently. It was a healthy walk to a shop and a longer walk to civilisation, but it didn’t matter. The villa was a belter, with plenty of huge rooms, giant sofas, a photoshoot kitchen and a splendid garden. Giant portraits of the owner’s children were plastered over almost ever wall. Skiing kids, diving kids, laughing kids. They were too much contrary to Brits. We turned a few of them around to face the wall, and got on with banking our own memories.

My father-in-law and his wife were brilliant. They knew that Jake, my young son, wasn’t interested in going out to sightsee. All Jake wanted to do was play with his family and squirt the older folk with water. And that, as I didn’t hesitate to remind them, is their job. Grandpa took over watching grandson, so I could dive-bomb my young brother- in-law and (nearly) beat him on the Xbox. I even burst the giant crocodile leaping into the pool playing ride-the-inflatable. A holiday with parents isn’t just a chance for the older generation to spend time with grandkids. For me, it was also a great opportunity to rediscover my inner child.

Read more of Simon’s columns here.

Simon Reeve is one of British TV’s most adventurous travellers. Simon has travelled extensively in more than 120 countries and presented multiple award-winning BBC TV series, including Australia, Sacred Rivers, Tropic of Cancer, Indian Ocean and Caribbean. His last series was Ireland.