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DISCLAIMER: COVID-SAFE GUIDELINES WERE ADHERED TO AT ALL TIMES AS PER GUIDANCE & RESTRICTIONS.

In the United Kingdom National Lockdown 2.0 seems to be nearing its end and although I do not think this virus is finished with us just yet, the easing of restrictions certainly does feel both liberating and a little scary. On one hand it is incredible to hug our family and friends again and spend time in each other’s homes making memories, it also triggers just a little anxiety having people in your personal space after such a long time apart. The reality that there are new variants that has caused so much devastation has impacted how safe many of us feel, particularly for those who have spent their days inside a hospital or health centre over the past year.

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

When the “Roadmap Out of Lockdown” was initially announced I did feel like it was an empty piece of encouragement but did not want to miss the boat and not book holidays, I knew that by this stage I was going to need some time off and the thought of a holiday had my mind racing. After talking to our friends E & A about our idea of travelling to Scotland for a week, the idea of a holidaying together was in play. We met our friends online in a group for Australian Expats and they really helped us navigate a few tricky expat challenges and it was great to be able to build that connection prior to the very first lockdown, even if very new. We really felt a connection with their family, and it was not just situational as fellow expats, being such a genuine family, it was an easy decision to plan a holiday together.

When you listen to holiday horror stories, there is always one whereby friends go on holiday together and they either fall out or resent their holiday experience and I can attest to having at least one of those experiences in the past. I am not sure whether I am just older and wiser and better travelled now, but I can say this week has been the best experience and we cannot wait until our next holiday let alone our more regular adventures together. I sat and reflected on what helped to create such a great experience, and I think I have cracked some of the best tips for how to rock at combined holidays with friends.

“YOU MUST PLAN TO BE SPONTANEOUS” – DAVID HOCKNEY

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Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

THE PLANNING STAGE

As a family we really love spontaneity and when living on the Sunshine Coast in Australia we lived by the seat of our pants so to speak, having last minute barbeques by the beach, jumping in the car to travel hours to Byron Bay for a day trip after random decision the night before. What we have come to realise this past year is that in a world dealing with ever changing restrictions and guidelines coupled with the flurry of holidays close to home occurring, preparation and planning is a must!

Individually as a family look at the following three things: your non-negotiables, your must-dos, and your cherry on the tops.

  1. Your non-negotiables can be anything from the place you want to stay, to the activities you want to engage in, to smaller details about how time is spent. These will be things that you will absolutely not budge on and things that will make or break your holiday. Our non-negotiables included accommodation that was rural and not side-by-side to strangers, facilities to cook for ourselves, and having some down time to just chill.
  2. Your must dos consist of those bucket list items that make the trip worthwhile and memorable. Ours included eating out a few times in local venues, seeing both the Isle of Skye and the Cairngorms, horse-riding for Mackenzie, and some hikes/walks.
  3. Your “cherry on the top” are those moments that are memorable and take your breath away and although these are difficult to plan for, you certainly can decide how you want to feel on your holiday and ensure that what you do aligns with this. We wanted to feel relaxed, unhurried, and connected to the people we were spending our time with, so we ensured that our actions were going to have that outcome.Now of course once you know what you want (and what you do not want), it is time to share that with your friends and see what aligns – at that point you can then decide what you will do together and what you will do apart. We were really blessed that our friends had remarkably similar interests and ideas on how to spend our time, so this was a no-brainer. Time to book everything and this is important to do together so you are certain you are booking the correct locations and activities.

THE ENJOYING STAGE

The One Where Everyone Has A Great Time. The best part of a holiday of course is the enjoying part – the day-to-day activities that are the backbone of great memories and is what will make you feel relaxed and refreshed if you do it right. There are a few key things I can share to help you enjoy your holiday more without you feeling like you need a holiday to get over your holiday.

Give yourself more time than you need. When staying in a new place it is easy to get lost or side-tracked along the way, not to mention trying to get out the door each day. Make this easier for yourself and a whole lot less stressful by giving yourself extra time to get to, do, and return from any activities – this also applies for the travel to and from your actual holiday destination.Be gracious about each other’s needs. Each family and each child have different needs and abilities, so it is important to keep this in mind when travelling with friends and making allowances for those along the way. It is meant to be a pleasant experience so feeling like you must rush or do something that does not fit your family can be unsettling. We have a child with special needs so getting out the door each day can either be great or a challenge, and do not even get me started on food choices for her. Having great friends who understand this has made this holiday such a pleasure, and we try to extend the same courtesy.

  1. Time together and time apart are equally important, and we all have managed to balance them both ensuring we have enough time for our own families to just chill and relax – although our friends too our daughter for a night also which we were incredibly grateful for. We also factored in time at each accommodation to chill out, and there is nothing better than family games and roasting marshmallows over an open fire.Try new things and step out of your family’s comfort zone or rituals. We did not really need to step out of our comfort zone this time around however we did try new things like archery and “wild swimming” (swimming in nature) in rock pools on the Isle of Skye. Just like team building exercises, trying new things as a group can build connection and ensures for lots of fun and laughs.img_4717
  2. Take lots of photos of each other. When on holiday with just your family it often lands in a stranger’s hands to take what you hope is a lovely photo of your family, but you miss the candid shots and shots that really capture the fun you are having making memories. That said, please take photos of your friends and their family and share with them so they can look back at them and remember the great time they had. We also included “mummy selfies” and whole family shots (this may have included all of us on a set of stairs eating Australian Tim Tams).I am not sure about you but after our holidays we are always keen to plan for the next one, and we have already begun talks about the places we would like to visit together restrictions and safety permitting. We feel a much closer connection to our friends now and our children have had the opportunity to bond as well. If having a holiday together with your friends is not at all possible, why not have “day breaks” of the same nature and build upon your connection as friends – its worth the investment.

If you have holidayed with friends, comment below and share your experiences.

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