15/08/12 - Survival tips for family holidays

I’m currently writing this en route from Liverpool to York – feeling very professional on my little netbook - after spending my morning in work and having a crazy dash to catch the train.  And all to meet my family on our annual holiday, only two days late.  I know a lot of people stop wanting to go on family holidays as soon as they hit the age of fourteen (or whenever they start considering themselves to be too cool for spending a week with their parents), and believe me when I say that I went through that phase as well.  But I’ve come out the other side of that now.  When you’re a skint student who only sees their family for a handful of weeks out of the year, a free holiday suddenly has its appeal.  Regardless of where we’re going – this year, it’s East Yorkshire which is incidentally where I live and go to university during term-time.  But we’ve always been a family for British holidays, something I’m grateful for.  I’d rather make the most of the delights this fine country has to offer as it’s cheaper and makes foreign holidays that bit more exciting.

But no matter how much you love your family or how much you appreciate a week of having all your meals bought for you, enjoying the unrelenting company of your parents can start getting difficult around day three.  They’ve moaned at you for sleeping in and spending too long getting ready, you’re already fed up of trailing around after them feeling like a kid and if you’re lucky (or otherwise) enough to have siblings, you’ve probably had at least one argument followed by a barrage of snarky sarcastic comments.  You’re missing your friends, the Internet connection and phone signal are undoubtedly playing up, and you can’t wait to get home.  But there’s still a week left.  What to do?

1.       Keep an open mind.

Yes, you probably think you have better things to do than whatever your parents have got planned for the holiday, but once you’ve arrived at wherever you’re staying, it’s a bit late to start moaning about it.  So make the best of it!  Sulking and pouting will just make the experience horrible for everyone involved.  Slap a smile on your face and at least pretend you’re enjoying yourself.  The more convincing you are, eventually you’ll convince yourself.  And who knows?  The museum your mum really wants to go to could turn out to be pretty fun.  I’ve been to a lot of random places on family holidays that I wouldn’t have necessarily have chosen – the Cumberland Pencil Museum springs instantly to mind – that have turned out to be really interesting.  And if you’re cooperative, your folks might not mind just popping into that shopping centre for a couple of hours to keep you sane.  Just make sure you get plenty of sleep or you’ll be grumpy all day, regardless of what fun activity you have lined up.

2.       Enjoy being able to act like a kid

I know this one sounds strange.  This doesn’t contradict my earlier suggestions and give you leave to sulk and throw a tantrum whenever something doesn’t go your way.  Your family are the only people in your life who have known you literally since you were born.   They’ve been there through the petty playground arguments with friends, the hideous haircuts and the embarrassing school photos.  They’ve witnessed your development from childhood through awkward adolescence and into young adulthood (or whichever step along the way you’re at).  So for once, you can let your guard down.  Chances are you’re not going to see anyone you know on this holiday, so take the opportunity to stop acting all cool and just enjoy yourself!  If you can’t be bothered wearing make-up one day, you have no one to impress – your parents know what your face looks like.  Ditch style in favour of comfort.  If you have a younger sibling, feel free to just act silly with them.  When my sixteen-year-old brother and I spend too much time together, we revert to being complete children – laughing over every little thing and creating hundreds of stupid in-jokes.  Of course, this step is easier if; a) you have a good relationship with said younger sibling and b) you actually have a younger sibling.

3.       Take lots of photos

Document these memories while you’re young enough to still get away with going on a family holiday without your parents thinking you’re some kind of freeloader!  I don’t know how much longer I’ll be welcome – maybe the rules will change when I graduate.  But until then, get some good snaps for the album (Facebook album, most probably these days) – when you’re older and have kids of your own, it’ll be nice to have photos to look back on that are something other than drunken nights out.  And if nothing else, it gets everyone smiling!  Very few people will continue fighting with a sibling or sulking at a parent when a camera is whipped out and they know the moment will be forever frozen in time.  Just remember that these are the best days of your life (bleehhhhhhh) and you want to remember them as clearly as possible.  Photograph the places you go and the things you see – they can really help jog the old memory when you’re reminiscing in the future.

I’m sure there are lots of other ways to make the most of a family holiday but this is all my sleep-deprived mind can conjure at the moment – I had a late one watching the Olympics Closing Ceremony last night, and an early morning for work.  Apparently the Internet reception at the cottage we’re staying in is pretty abysmal but I’ll be popping into my university house during the week, so I’ll get this uploaded using my wireless there.  I have a few more blog ideas which I’ll put into motion when I can, but once I get home from this holiday, I’ve got a busy couple of weeks coming up. 

I hope everyone's having a lovely summer, whether you're going away or not!  Do you have any more tips for surviving the familial onslaught this summer?