Family holidays at every age

School holidays, Easter, a couple of long weekends – they’re all coming up in the next few weeks and we know what this means: a possible minefield of awkward family interaction.

While December is often cited as the ABSOLUTE WORST month for good family relations – what with Christmas lunches to be planned and prepared, New Year’s Eve activities to be sorted out – April comes in at a close second.  

However, it need not be that way.

We’ve decided to take a look at the 11 stages in the life cycle of family holidays and suggest that, for once, we all regress to the blissful ignorance of childhood… or try at least.  

So, here goes, what family holidays look like at every age...


Equally the light of everyone’s lives when you're sweet and smiley, and the bane of their existence (especially the non-parents and -grandparents) when the screaming won’t stop at 03:00 in the morning.

Luckily, you’re completely oblivious to all the awkwardness and tense vibes at this age, so it's all pretty good! On the downside, you really have no choice in any matter and are pretty much forced to just go with everyone else's flow.  


Arguably the pinnacle of the family holiday life cycle (yeah, sucks it happens so soon). As a toddler, you’re super cute, tend to say funny things, have a vague idea what’s potting around you and know just which buttons to push to get exactly what you want.

You’re too little to help out with any sort of work, so the grown-ups leave you to play and frolic to your heart’s content. The only sucky thing is – afternoon naps. (Don’t you wish you could go back and tell your toddler self to take all those naps?!)


Between the ages of 6 and 11, family holidays are still loads of fun – especially if you have adventurous parents, not to mention, siblings, cousins or best friends. You spend most of your time building a fantasy world of fun and live yourself out in it thoroughly. 

However, you’ve also lost a good deal of that cuteness that used to keep you out of trouble and may, on the odd occasion, find yourself in an unpleasant fix with the adults. By this time, you’re also big enough to help out around the house/campsite and often get tasked with niggly little jobs that keep you away from what’s really important – exploration.    


Groan. Just groan. You feel awkward, your parents are embarrassing beyond belief, you HATE your siblings and wish you could just be grown-up and out-of-the-house already. (Strangely, one day you will look back on these holidays and remember them quite fondly).  


By now your relationship with your parents and siblings has improved greatly – in fact, you actually kind of like them now. Since you aren’t financially independent yet, you enjoy tagging along with family plans every now and then, but also make the most of your new-found independence to plan epic trips of your own.

Basically, you’re an intriguing butterfly that flits in and out of the family holiday realm, inspiring sighs of nostalgia for simpler days in the older generation.  

Young professional

Your triumphant student days are over and you’re eating humble pie once more – paying off loans, coughing up what feels like way too much for accommodation, car installments and managing an ever increasingly complicated personal life.

While family holidays tend to verge on the awkward side of things – mainly people asking when you will be getting married or promoted – they also offer you a welcome of refuge from your own annoying realities… for a little while.

Interestingly, these short breaks also send you off with a new-found appreciation for your own space and the actually-pretty-awesome journey that is your life.    


Your experience can be summed up in two, hyphenated words: in-laws. Will you ever get the hang of these strange people? Will you ever have a peaceful break again? So much explaining! Aaargh!  

Young family

In the face of babies, toddlers and kids, troubles with the in-laws suddenly wane. While you won’t be so brazen as to admit it, going away with family offers the delectable promise of willing babysitters (who don’t need to be paid!), loads of helping hands… and perhaps even a full night’s sleep and alone time with your partner.

During this stage, your kids also still think you're cool and they haven't become entirely horrible... just yet, which means it's happy times all round! After toddler days, this is possibly the second best stage in the life cycle of the family holiday.

Make the most of it by checking out these 13 fantastic South African places to show your kids during holidays.  

Approaching middle-age

So, you’re the parents of that nasty, horrible teen? Urrgh. Your self-esteem has taken a bit of a knock due to various reasons over the past few years, and frankly you’re actually just exhausted most of the time.

Your family holidays are characterised by the burden of making arrangements, cajoling unwilling members into having fun, for goodness’ sake, and covering all the costs. But somehow… you wouldn’t have it any other way, and cherish every moment of your break with the ones you love the most.  

Empty nesters


Your kids are adults and you have to make peace with the fact that they will not be joining you for the entire duration of a family holiday anymore, if at all. While it may be hard at first, by the third or fourth year you will realise that you’re about to get your second lease on life – an opportunity to relive your carefree student days in a slightly more mature and measured manner.

You love the brief interactions with your kids and relatives over holidays, but are also quite relieved to head off into the sunset on adventures of your own when it’s all over.  


Your willingness to babysit, cuddle, cook and foot the bill is used and abused by everyone, but hey, you love every moment of the bustle. While it may not seem like the family really appreciates your presence, you can be assured of the fact that they would never trade it in for anything in the world. 

What is your favourite holiday memory ever? Tell us in the comment section below, share it with us on Facebook, tweet us at @news24travel, drop us a line on Google+or tag us in a comment on an Instagram pic.
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 2571 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
52% - 12670 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
34% - 8417 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 832 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.