6 survival tips for travelling with grown-up kids

Would a holiday with your adult children be fab family fun in the sun, or a bickering getaway where all you want to do is get away? Here’s how to avoid the latter…

By Paul Merrill

Just because your offspring are old enough to legally drive your car doesn’t mean they’re too old for the annual family holiday.

Over half of young Aussie adults have been on a beach break, cruise or road trip with their ‘olds’, according to one recent survey, with ‘sharing quality time together’ given as the main reason. 

Tellingly, a third admitted that it helps if their parents’ credit card comes along for the ride too!

Going away together is a great way to bond and enjoy each other’s company without the stresses and strains of everyday life. But even a relaxing sunbake by the pool or walk in the park won’t be a walk in the park if you haven’t prepared properly.

Here are our 6 top tips on surviving a holiday with kids who are no longer kids.

1. Consult, compromise, cave in

You may naively think you know your own sons and daughters, but think again. They might have once loved a day on the sand with a bucket and spade, but that ain’t necessarily the case now.

Before booking your dream break, ask them what they like doing during their leisure time and then find somewhere they can do it. 

You may love the majesty of the outback, but, for 18-30-year-olds, patchy phone reception is like patchy oxygen supply, and being deprived of WhatsApp or YouTube for a few hours is more traumatic than losing a limb.

If in doubt, check out some online forums aimed at teens and 20 somethings to make sure the nightclubs, bars and action sports are up to scratch.  

2. Don’t over plan

Pre-booking that 9am ancient temple tour may have seemed sensible, but you’ll end up feeling like a crumbling ruin yourself if you have to chisel 3 kids out from under their doonas barely an hour after they collapsed into bed after an all-nighter in the local nightspot.

So, bear in mind that a bracing trek up a mountain to catch the first shards of sunlight over the ocean may be your idea of heaven, but your children may not have been conscious during a sunrise since Year 10.

Keep things as flexible as possible and read the mood of the room before suggesting any activity that involves actual activity on their part.

3. Be clear about who pays for what

Back when they were little, you paid for everything so there’s a real and present danger they might assume nothing’s changed. And that could mean checking out of your resort will be marred by a four-figure minibar bill and the realisation that 77 Jägermeister’s have been charged to your room.

Agree strict rules up front about exactly what Mum and Dad are still good for, and what will be down to them. Eg alcohol, damage to hotel property and those ‘specialist’ pay-per-view channels.

That said, if they’re penniless students or halfway through an apprenticeship, it might be wise to stand them a few rounds and give them some cash for a night out, if only to give you some peace.

4. Expect disaster

If they’re very young adults, then some things will inevitably go wrong.

And that’s fine. It’s all part of growing up and learning from your mistakes, though hopefully no defibrillators, embassy staff or police horses will be involved.

So be on your guard, and don’t assume they’ll remember to bring their passport to the airport or restrict themselves to a sensible number of those exotic, fruit-based cocktails.

Accept that, at 3am, you may get a call to say they’re in an Uber and can’t remember which apartment block (or city) you’re staying in. If/when that happens, best avoid threatening to tattoo the address on their forearm.

In essence, while you don’t want to be accused of treating them like little kids, make sure you do exactly that, but subtly. 

5. Give them space

If all of you and the dog are packed into a five-metre caravan for a fortnight in a muddy field, it’s going to get pretty intense if you don’t build in some ‘us and them’ time (and slip industrial-strength deodorant into their bag). 

You don’t need to be joined at the hip, so don’t guilt them into traipsing round with you all day. Remember when our parents bored the crap out of you? Exactly. 

And don’t get angsty if you get back to the room after a day of sightseeing to find them still in bed glued to their phone. If that’s how they ‘chillax’ so be it.

A crafty tip is to actually show (or feign) an interest in what they like doing, even if it’s Minecraft – it’s a great way to bond and show you want to find out more about them. 

6. Engage with them

A few days away is the perfect opportunity to do something with the kids you probably haven’t done since they turned 13 - have a real-life conversation.

If all you normally get out of them is a few grunts and the odd shrug, you can finally talk as adults. Before you attempt such a risky manoeuvre, however, there are a three golden rules: 

  • Don’t judge them - their outlook is different, not wrong. Listen to them and bite your lip if you’re tempted to correct grammar or point out the idiocy of their arguments. 
  • Avoid topics likely to end in an uneasy stand-off like politics, why today’s music is rubbish and cancel culture.
  • Open up - yes, you’re still their parent, but show some vulnerability and talk about how you’re feeling and your hopes for the future. A sneaky Tooheys New might loosen your lips, but go easy - getting slaughtered so you end up dissing their new partner and ranting about Barbie being too preachy might not help the bonding process.
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