Holidaying with friends. Sounds great doesn’t it? Extending the occasional night out with the Jones’s – your kids are best mates at school – to a week in the sun somewhere. After a few glasses of wine, plans are being made, and all of a sudden, you’ve pencilled in the date and booked the time off work.
But before you take the plunge and commit, you need to ask yourself – and the other families – some very important questions!
The bikini test!
For it to work, you have to be honest with each other. Families have very different ideas of what makes a great holiday. Some won’t entertain the thought of staying anywhere but in the lap of luxury – if there’s not a spa or a fine dining restaurant, it simply won’t do – whilst others scoff at modern comfort preferring to get back to nature – a tent, a torch and a calor gas stove is all anyone needs.
You also have to be honest with yourself. Do you really want Kevin, father of Johnny from year 4, to see you in your bikini? Are you happy to share a bathroom with another family? Will Susan’s refusal to go out unless she has her full face of make up on get on your nerves? Can you all really agree to go vegetarian for the whole week and forgo the steak carpaccio that you loved last year?
And what about the kids? Do they really get on as well as you think they do? Kids are funny creatures; every age has its own challenges. A simmering romance brewing between teenagers, a gender war with Frozen in one corner and Marvel heroes in the other or a forlorn, tantrum prone 3 year old left behind by a gaggle of 7 going on 17 year olds will not make for a pleasant holiday.
If you’re sharing a villa, or any kind of self-catering holiday, the benefits to the parents are obvious: Splitting the cost of a larger villa between several families can result in significant per-family savings, even during school holidays. Staying in the same place means the babysitting is on tap; ironically, it can be easier to get a night out on our own on holiday than at any other time of the year! And the cooking and chores are a much more pleasant prospect when done in a group with a glass of wine on hand.
The kids will also relish the opportunity to hang out with their mates, old or new. A week without the opportunity to discuss the finer points of Arsenal’s midfield versus that of Manchester Utd would seem like a lifetime to my eldest son. And kids have much more energy to run around with each other than I do. Let’s face it, however ‘cool’ you think you are, the kids will probably be happier playing with friends of a similar age, and with the same interests.
Of course, they don’t have to be best friends to get on! Spending time with kids who have different habits, interests and routines can have a really positive affect and lead to new friendships. Travel exposes children to new cultures, experiences and adventures, and meeting new friends outside their usual circle is a part of that. Even so, you will probably want to make a judgement on personality compatibility, or set up a few meetings/play dates beforehand to make sure that they are not going to clash!
Are you compatible?
However well you get on socially with your friends, and however long you’ve known them for, unless you’ve previously been on holiday with them or have spent a lot of time together, it’s worth giving some serious thought to the following areas.
Attitudes to the children, discipline, eating and bedtimes: Most families are willing to let things slide a little on holiday, but it’s worth having a conversation to get ground rules agreed beforehand, and trying to be consistent! You may be happy to let the kids stay up all hours, your friends might want to get the kids to bed after an exhausting day of fun. You may want the kids to eat at least some healthy stuff, they may have a different attitude.
Food and drink: Will there be competition over who can do the best BBQ, will someone get possessive over the cooking/shopping, do your friends like to live on take away, or are they vegan or organic only? Is there a wine buff who insists on spending a fortune on every bottle, or a tee-totaller who will disapprove whenever anyone gets tipsy? This is an area that can create tension – remember Mel Sykes on I’m a Celeb anyone?
Evening entertainment: Are they happy to let the kids wander off and explore away from the villa while you want to keep them in sight? Will they religiously stop everything to watch Eastenders, or have they brought a whole compendium of board games in the expectation that everyone will shun the TV for the entire holiday?
Daytime activities: Do they want to spend all the time tearing around in the car, visiting every place of interest within a 100 mile radius, or do they like to confine themselves to the villa and closest beach? Of course, you don’t have to stay together all the time, but it’s worth having a bit of a plan or chat beforehand.
Budget: This one is often the elephant in the room! Will you all have a similar budget throughout your stay? Some like to splurge on holiday, from buying designer outfits before you go to booking every luxury excursion and fine dining restaurant once you’re there. Others like to stick to a budget, catering at the villa and preferring to make their own fun. Often, people feel uncomfortable talking about money, but it could be worth discussing budgets, what costs you want to share and what you want to keep separate. A kitty for food and drink is a great idea, but only as long as everyone feels it’s a fair arrangement.
Ok, so you’ve given it careful consideration: the kids get on, the adults are all in agreement and the holiday is booked!
Before you get on the plane though, just remind your family that, however well you all get on, compromise will be required, ground rules will need to be obeyed and sometimes, you may just have to give in a little.
One thing is for sure. If you get it right, holidaying with groups of friends will add a whole new level of entertainment and fun for everyone involved, and leave you with heaps of stories to tell and memories to share.
Large villas from James Villas
If you are looking to go on holiday with your friends and family, here’s a selection of some of James’ larger villas, perfect for larger groups of families and friends to holiday together. With several bathrooms, private pools, even games rooms, everyone has the option of spending time all together or finding a space to chill out and enjoy some peace!
A great choice for groups with older children or teenagers, with ‘essentials’ like free wifi and a games room with a pool table and table tennis complete with its own drinks fridge.
The villa is split between two floors, each with a couple of bathrooms, bedrooms and a kitchen, so the living space can be split by family, or age group very easily.
With a heated pool, this is also a great option for an out of season getaway – the Canaries climate provides warm weather all year round. Try cooking your Christmas dinner on the BBQ here in the sun!
A lovely choice for families with children of all ages, this pretty villa has plenty of space for the kids, including a lawned area and covered terrace. Three of the 5 bedrooms are en suite, there is an outside dining area, a built-in BBQ area and a private gated pool. Wifi, cots and highchairs are also provided free of charge.
Albufeira is a popular resort with families, and is also close to the many golf courses that this part of Portugal is renowned for. Get out and about and discover water parks, beaches and fishing villages – it simply wouldn’t be a holiday in Portugal without sampling locally caught seafood! There is an extensive choice of restaurants in the area, or catch it yourself and throw it on the BBQ back at the villa!
If the kids want their own space, this is a great choice. There are three twin bedrooms with a couple of bathrooms on the ground floor, and three en-suite king sized rooms with balconies make up the the top floor!
The outside space is perfect – a spacious private pool and large outdoor dining area – and it’s a great location from which to explore the area. The airport is only 40 minutes away and there are plenty of beaches and traditional villages close by. You might even get the kids interested in a little history, with the ancient capital of Paphos just over half an hour’s drive!