We’re ALL going on a summer holiday

Many families choose multi-generational holidays as a way to spend quality time together – with the advantage that grandparents are on hand to look after the kids. But how do you avoid the pitfalls these holidays can present?

By Steve Smethurst

Is a big holiday with your extended family your idea of fun? Well, maybe it should be. Many do it regularly and successfully. With a little planning it can be a memorable and treasured way to mark a special occasion such as a landmark birthday, retirement or a wedding anniversary.

It doesn’t have to be a one-off either. Multigenerational holidays are defined as a leisure trip with at least three generations of the same family, such as a grandparent, parent and child travelling together 1 and there is a typical one. It’s a seven-night stay in Spain during July, costing £250-£500 per person with five to 10 people in the party, according to website groupaccomodation.com 1.

Holiday success

But how do you decide where’s best for you? Teaching assistant Sarah Bradley has enjoyed many holidays with her extended family and the most recent saw 12 of them head to the South of France. Sarah, who lives in Bearsted, Kent, recalls that the age range was from five to 68 and that even the youngest had a say in where they went.

“There were a lot of boxes to tick,” she says. “We needed suitably comfortable and accessible accommodation for my mum. We wanted shops, restaurants and the beach within easy reach and various dietary restrictions meant we also needed to be able to self-cater.

“We then had to find a balance between somewhere reasonably warm for the kids (there were five under-18s) and water-based activities, but not too hot for my mum. There also needed to be interesting places off-site in case anyone needed to escape.”

Deciding where to go when there are so many conflicting opinions is no easy task. “I may have blocked out the full horror by now,” jokes Sarah, “but we all had suggestions – from Center Parcs, to a gîte in France, to renting a big house in the UK. Eventually we shortlisted a couple of options and held a vote.”

The winner was a luxury campsite in the Languedoc region of France. Each family group paid for itself, which headed off any arguments about money, and not all stayed for a full two weeks.

Was it a success? “Absolutely! I liked that we were all on the same site but had the freedom to do our own thing. I loved the proximity to the beach and being able to meet at the pool, and eating out together as a family. It was a great holiday.”

Money matters

Budgeting is obviously important when planning this kind of trip. A big family holiday is a significant expense and planning in advance highly recommended. For Sarah’s family this began a year ahead of the trip, but if it’s a holiday to mark a special occasion and likely to be very expensive, it’s best to start planning much earlier.

Alistair McQueen, Aviva’s head of savings and retirement, says that the average household in the UK spends almost £1,400 a year on a package holiday. “For the average household, that would be the equivalent of saving £25 a week over a year into a holiday fund,” he says*.

Planning further in advance gives you more options, however. “If it’s more than five years away,” says Alistair, “it opens up the stocks and shares ISA. This is an attractive savings vehicle  because it comes with tax advantages and gives you access to the stocks and shares market. Remember, the value of your investments can fall as well as rise and you could get back less than invested. 

“If you’re planning a trip that’s two or three years away, you might be better off with high-street banking and potentially a savings product that requires you to lock your money away for two years or so, which would normally lead to a greater interest rate,” he says*.

Finance blogger Lynn James, the brains behind the MrsMummypenny website 2, also recommends a stocks and shares ISA, if time allows: “I put money into one every month for 14 years from the age of 22. I put away £25 a month and it turned into £14,000 ,” she says. 

She also counsels against options like premium bonds and apps that round up every debit card transaction and then invest the rounded-up sums: “The interest rate works out at less than 2% on premium bonds and I find the fees ridiculously high on the round-up apps.”

Lynn says she is already planning a big celebratory holiday – for when her business hits £1m in annual turnover. “I said this to my best friend four years ago. I will hire a villa in Ibiza for everyone to spend some time at during a summer holiday. I’m not quite there yet though!” 

Peace of mind

Of course, no family holiday is likely to be relaxed without insurance and multi-generational trips can bring extra complexity, particularly for elderly relatives. Aviva claims manager Robert Sharp explains that the company’s retail policy can cover up to nine travellers but there is a maximum age of 69 on new annual policies. 

“However, if they take out an annual policy before the age of 70, then renew it every year, they can stay on until 75. On a single-trip policy – say if a grandparent paid for their children and grandchildren to go away and they just wanted one policy as it’s a one-off – we cover people up to age 79,” he says.

It’s important to stress that unless everyone is on one insurance policy, then each party member will need to ensure they are insured in their own right. 

“It’s not only for while they’re away,” adds Robert. “Even if the grandparents have paid for everyone’s holiday, it’s the individuals themselves who need to ensure they’re covered should they need to cancel. From an insurance point of view, if the trip has to be cancelled because they aren’t able to go, then they are the ones who have lost the holiday (even if it was paid for by another family member) and that’s where the claim needs to be made – to that person’s insurer.

“It’s also worth noting that if grandparents have paid for a villa for everyone to attend, for example, and the villa costs £X, no matter how many people turn up, then you might be looking at claiming for flights only, as that’s the only bit that can specifically be allocated to you.”

If you’re unsure, discuss with your insurer when you take out travel insurance.

Medical histories

One area that can be particularly awkward if people are taking out group insurance policies is making sure everyone travelling has declared any medical conditions. As Robert says: “If the parents are paying and they’re arranging the policy as well, it’s incumbent upon them to make sure that they’re aware of any conditions to be declared because each person named is essentially equally responsible for ensuring that the information declared to the insurer is accurate. 

“You couldn’t come back at the point of claim and say well I didn’t know that my daughter-in-law for example had XYZ medical condition.” 

Unfortunately, that might mean disclosing conditions you’d rather your in-laws or grandparents were unaware of. The good news is that Aviva takes each case on its merits. Robert says: “We wouldn’t immediately decline a case simply because there are mental health issues that hadn’t been disclosed, for example. We would look at the facts of the case and make a decision based on all of the details that were available at the time.”

Keeping everyone happy

It turns out we really do like our in-laws. Research from Aviva’s travel survey 3 suggests that 60% of people have been on a multi-generational holiday and, having been on one, as many as 45% would do it again. Almost 18% of people have not been on one but would consider it.

The most popular reason for choosing a multi-generational trip is to spend time with extended family, with 58% saying they enjoy spending time with relatives on holiday. A quarter of people said they live far away from family so going away is a good way to spend time together. 

Other reasons include helping older relatives who need support in order to travel (17%) and 1 in 10 people say they go away with relatives to help with childcare.

But a big family holiday is not for everyone – 27% people said they would not consider one because it would be too difficult to find a destination and activities suitable for everyone.

Sarah agrees. “One of the nicest things about booking our holiday was the 'we won't book anything unless everyone is happy' ethos. That way, no one felt forced into a trip they weren't really keen on. It requires give and take on all sides and some semblance of things in common between everyone going. 

“We also booked and insured separately, because otherwise the stress on the person booking it is too much. Just ask my sister about booking a Christmas trip to Center Parcs for the entire family. I don’t think she’s ever recovered!”

Robert Sanders’ tips on how to avoid conflict on multi-generational holidays

  1. Make it an invitation: say ‘we would love you to come,’ so that people feel they are valued. 
  2. Give everyone a guest list.
  3. If people choose not to come, express your disappointment, but don't push it or sulk! There are lots of reasons why people might not be able to attend. 
  4. Don't own other people's conflict. You can aim to make for a happy holiday environment, but if your aunt and your father don't see eye to eye it's their problem. Invite everyone who ought to be invited and let them decide whether to go. 
  5. Try to find somewhere with breakaway spaces so that you don't all have to hang out together all the time – spare rooms, garden areas, terraces.
  6. Have as many bathrooms as possible.
  7. If people fall out while you’re away don't take it personally. You are not responsible for other people's behaviour. Ask yourself – will this matter in a week's time? 

Robert Sanders is a life coach, therapist and blogger.

* If you are unsure whether a product or service is suitable for you, you should seek financial advice, for which a charge will usually be made for.