Planning a family holiday with teenagers and toddlers

April 25, 2017 Published by

Planning a holiday to include children of multiple ages can be tricky. What delights your toddler doesn’t usually appeal to teens and may result in them skulking off with their headphones firmly attached to their ears; and while your teen is having fun, toddlers can quickly turn smiles into tantrums (especially if it is nap time!).

So, is it possible to plan a holiday that meets the different needs of a family with mixed ages?

Planning a Family Holiday at the Beach with Children

The simple answer is yes, but there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration if your holiday is to be a success.

Choosing accommodation

Your first consideration for the younger members of the family is safety:

  • Does the accommodation offer a secure environment for your toddler? 
  • If there are stairs, does the property provide stair gates? 
  • Is the pool enclosed or does it have an alarm?
  • And is there a safe outside space for your child to play in? 

Secondly, does the holiday provide all of the necessary equipment that your child needs? 

  • A cot?
  • A highchair?
  • A steriliser?
  • Child friendly plates, cups and cutlery?
  • Toys for the pool?
  • Some garden toys? 

Make a list of everything that your child needs and see which holidays provide the most. You can never travel light with young children, but you can ease the load with careful choices.

Girl building a sandcastle at hotel

When travelling with mixed ages, space is essential – the more space you have, the more chance there will be of everybody being able to relax and enjoy what the holiday has to offer.  Older children usually prefer to be away from younger siblings (and nagging parents) so if possible, give them their own room.   Mobile homes/caravans and self-catered homes work well, as you have more choice in the number of bedrooms and can tailor your choices to fit your family’s needs.

A holiday with access to other children will make it more fun for everyone. Choosing accommodation on a site gives instant playmates and keeps children of all ages busy busy (and happy!). Kids clubs are also a good extra for younger children, as they provide a structured place for them to play, and they also give you and your teenager some valuable time together.  If you can find a larger property it can be a good idea to travel with a family who have children of a similar age, or allow your older child to take a friend along.

Planning days out

Days out can be challenging when there are multiple ages involved so do your research before you travel. Teens enjoy feeling like their opinions are valued so try to give them opportunities to help plan part of the holiday.

Wildlife parks and sea-life centres tend to work well, as does a morning spent on the beach / at the river followed by lunch in a local restaurant (it’s a good idea to check the menu and reviews online first).  Try to compromise on food as well; allow your teenager to decide on some of your restaurant choices, even if it may not be the one you would have chosen.

While toddlers are happy splashing in the pool or spending time on the beach, older children need more to keep them happy and engaged.  A swimming pool that has a water park for the older children would appeal to many teenagers; if you are not in a hotel that has this on offer, many holiday resorts have local water parks.

Teens love having a bit of responsibility too, so when doing activities that are more geared towards your toddler encourage your teen to take the lead. If you are feeling creative, you could plan a series of ‘free’ days out that allow your children to work together.

For example, you could plan a scavenger hunt, or explore the wildlife with magnifying glasses and fishing nets. Your teen will enjoy taking care of their younger sibling and teaching them new things. You could even get them to plan their own adventure, like a teddy bear’s picnic in the woods, or a bear hunt.

Try to avoid repetition, as your teen may put up with a day of sightseeing or an activity aimed at your toddler for one day, but will soon feel bored and left out. Find out if there’s anything they’re particularly interested in doing – holidays are a great opportunity to try new activities and learn new skills – and include it in the holiday if possible. They might even just want some time to themselves, or a lazy day.

Entertainment on the go

It’s a good idea to take along some games that you can all play together – card games are good as they are small to pack.  A simple pack of cards and a game such as Old Maid can be enjoyed by a range of ages, as can a game like Dobble. Take along some games to play once the little ones are in bed too, something that is easy to pack and fun to play together; we love Jungle Speed.

Children using iphone on holiday

Managing screen time can be an issue on holiday; with your teenager it is definitely a time to compromise.  Discuss when using their devices is acceptable; there is nothing wrong with them spending some time using a device because it is their way of unwinding, escaping and keeping in touch with their friends.  And you could always embrace your inner teen and enter the world of selfies – they may be unwilling to pose for a family shot, but a selfie is a different matter altogether! 

At first glance, it might seem like catering for both a toddler and a teen is a real struggle. But accepting that your older child needs some space, and also making them feel like a valuable and important part of the holiday planning, can really help keep the peace.

It is well worth putting in the time and effort to plan your perfect break; research conducted by the Family Holiday Association (a charity that helps struggling families to have a break) found that 49 per cent of British people said their happiest memory is being on holiday with their family.

Photo credits:
Family time on #AmericasBestBeaches by Visit St Pete / Clearwater licensed under CC-BY 2.0
Kids Majestic Elegance Hotel by Batle Group licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Kids Club under_15 by Hotel Zora licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


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This post was written by Claire Gillies

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