Nearly time to book next year’s holiday before the rush. Better get a wiggle on if we want Courchevel ski resort for mid-term, Covid-permitting of course. Fiachra was a nightmare last time, sulked in the chalet for the whole 10 days. Maybe he should ask Max to join?
Cher Max If you're browned off with your moody tween or bored teen on holiday, a companion can seem a neat solution. You can hit the slopes guilt-free knowing your child has company, right? "If you're inviting another child just so you can have a more adult-type holiday that's probably not the best reason," says Jenny Carty, clinical manager at the Clanwilliam Institute. "If it's for your child to have a better time and as a result you are happy, that's probably better." But before announcing the plan, think carefully.
Enfant terrible The children are friends, yes, but are they similarly active? "What if it's a sun holiday and you bring a child who is 'action Jackson' and that's just not the way your family operates?" says Carty. If yours is a family of sun-worshipping pool loungers who love nothing more than a late-night paella and a long lie-in, your guest needs to fit in with that. Being judged by your own child is one thing. To have someone else's telling you they're bored is quite another.
Le moolah Will you pay for everything? Make your position clear when issuing the invite: "We'd love to invite Max to Val d'Isere. We'll pay for ski school and meals. Can you cover his flight?"
“Ideally they will offer to contribute. If not set out what you will cover and hope they respond.” says Carty.
Think about the practicalities. If the child has spending money, do you expect that to cover snacks? If the other family rolls with a bottle of diluted Mi-Wadi but for you slurping oysters with a Mont Blanc view is what life’s all about, there may be a mismatch. Just don’t come home and present a bill.
Vive la difference Every family has a different way of being, says Carty. "If your children are 16 or 17, do you let them have a glass of wine with dinner? You might be happy to let your teens go to the local disco. If the kids are 13 or 14, are the other parents okay for you to leave them while you and your partner go out for dinner?"
Your rules might be too lax or too strict for someone else, so talk to the parents before travel. The child's Instagram feed will likely record their trip; the last thing you need is a hacked-off parent reading you the riot act on your holiday.
Le divorce Is this child's passport in date? Do they have a shellfish allergy? Are they on any medication? Do they have a digital Covid certificate? If parents are divorced, do you need formal consent from both parties to travel? Taking another person's child on holiday is a big responsibility. Check with the airline and the Department of Foreign Affairs if you need specific paperwork to travel to your destination with an unrelated minor.
Bon vacances What's normal in your house may be alien to others. If your family are foodies but it's nuggets or nothing for this kid, know before you go. Choose a companion who has spent time in your home and knows the drill.
“If it’s a self-catering holiday and your children are expected to set the table and clear away and your guest isn’t getting involved, are you going to let that go?” asks Carty.
Whether it’s lights out at 10pm, no phones at mealtimes or PG movies only – be fair by setting your ground rules before travel. If the child is from a less structured household and huffs at your ways, you may spend the week navigating their discontent. That’s not a holiday.