Before having children we preferred to holiday on our own rather than travel with friends or as part of a group. It meant we could do what we wanted, when we wanted and at the pace we wanted. Now that we have three kids, however, things have changed.
For the third summer running, we spent a week with old university friends who also have three children (all older than ours). It’s not an arrangement that would automatically work for all families but it works for us. Here are seven reasons why.
1. Sharing the cost
As with so many things in life, economies of scale apply when it comes to booking holidays. We stayed at Chalet Beauvoir near the Alpine skiing town of La Clusaz in the Haute-Savoie region of eastern France.
Paying half the cost of a ten-bed chalet meant our money went a lot further than if we had just hired a place for ourselves. It also meant we had the kind of facilities you only tend to get with larger places: swimming pool, hot tub, steam room, sauna and gym, plus sizeable living and dining spaces for everyone to spread out in.
2. Sharing the mundane jobs
Two families effectively means halving the work. When you’re staying in self-catering accommodation, the last thing you want to do when you’re on holiday is to be constantly shopping, cooking and doing all the other dull stuff that needs to be done. Instead, we shopped for fresh groceries on alternate days, shared cooking duties and so on.
Also, you know that thing that happens at the end of a group meal where you try to divide the bill between 17 people, argue over who had drinks and/or desserts (and should therefore pay extra) and debate how much to leave as a tip? Not here. We’ve known each other long enough that we didn’t bother totting up shopping and restaurant costs. Instead we picked up bills in alternation and allowed things to even themselves out over the course of the week. Far less stressful.
3. There’s always someone else to play with …
Whether it’s playing together on iPads or teaming up for card games with the grown-ups, various combinations of kids found ways to occupy themselves without adult supervision or involvement. Again, less stress.
4. … And to read you a story at bedtime
Isaac and Toby – for the first time in, well, ever – were happy to sacrifice story-time for extra game-playing time in the evenings.
Meanwhile, Kara continued her hero-worshipping relationship with our friends’ son. Despite an eight-year age gap, they provided each other with a regular source of amusement, and when it came to bedtime there was only ever one person she wanted reading stories to her – and he was always happy to oblige. It was very sweet.
5. Musical chairs (and beds)
Having five bedrooms meant we had flexibility in terms of the kids’ sleeping arrangements. Our friends’ youngest daughter spent the first few nights sleeping with our boys before declaring they were waking up too early and disturbing her – we could have told her that would happen! – and relocating to share with her brother.
More frequent and successful were occasional exchanges of children between our two cars to change the mix and allow them to avoid the tedium of grocery shopping. It added a little extra fun element to travelling and probably helped avoid some inter-sibling bust-ups along the way.
6. Twice the water fun
It goes without saying that six kids in a pool or with a water mat at the beach is going to be at least twice as much fun as with three kids, right?
Having our own swimming pool has always been mandatory for these joint holidays. It becomes the hub for our late afternoons and early evenings, and it’s been on these holidays where each of our three kids has made huge strides in learning to swim, encouraged by the presence of older and more able swimming friends. This year Toby overcame his fear of the water and was soon splashing quickly through the water with a buoyancy aid, while Kara mastered confidently swimming with armbands and was even willing to have a go without.
7. Scouting parties
Although we mostly went places together, we had a couple of days in the middle of the week where the two families went their separate ways.
This made sense as it meant we weren’t under pressure to compromise on doing activities that were too old for our kids or too young for our friends’, and it also meant they scouted out a couple of places we weren’t 100% sure about and vice versa, which helped informed our choices later in the week.
How do you spend your holidays? Do you travel with friends, or is the thought of doing so a recipe for falling out?