A family holiday. It should be a dream. A week in the south of France with the whole family. Then why are we all rowing with each other, sulking and in need of help?

There are some lucky families who sail through family holidays without a word uttered in anger, but for the rest of us, arguments on holiday are commonplace. With the biggest family holiday break on the horizon the stress is already building in some households. But it doesn’t have to be like this, says Wendy Buckley, who is the owner of Travel with Kidz, a company that has specialised in family travel for more than 16 years.

Buckley says by following a few simple rules, parents can increase their chances of having a happy and stress-free holiday. “The number one rule for a successful family holiday is to sit around the table and include children in decision making,” she says. “That way each person has a turn at saying what they’re interested in.”

This discussion ideally should take place six to 12 months out from the holiday (okay, if you’re planning to go away at Christmas your family might need to take the crash course, starting now) and can involve children as young as five, Buckley suggests. “Ask the children if they want to go to a hot or cold environment, for instance.”

Once a destination is decided upon, then activities should be discussed. “When we were in New York I wanted to go to Tiffany’s, my husband wanted to go to the Guggenheim, my daughter wanted to play squash and my son wanted to go on the Staten Island ferry,” she says. A way to cater for everyone’s needs is to alternate between an “adult day” and a “child day”.

It’s also important for children to contribute financially to the holiday, Buckley says. “We made an agreement that if the kids were going to come they’d have to contribute financially. My son got a part-time job delivering newspapers and when my daughter wanted a new Barbie doll and dress, she sacrificed the purchases and the money went towards the holiday instead.
“If kids are involved in the decision making and have financially contributed they will be very appreciative from the moment they leave home.”

Keeping everybody busy and minimising options, such as where to eat, is also important. “You need structure – even on holiday – and kids generally need to be kept busy,” Buckley says.

For families with older children, such as 12 years and up, she suggests activity-based holidays such as an organised bike ride in Vietnam or a safari trip in South Africa or Kenya. For multi-generational families she suggests a cruise, a Club Med resort-style holiday or hiring a house and self-catering.

“If you are travelling with a grandparent then you need to establish firstly how active they are and if they want to cook or not. Many people in their old age don’t want to eat out every night and that is where Club Meds are popular. Cruises are also great and so is hiring a house.”

Overall, a family holiday should be a team effort, Buckley says. “Everyone has to be involved in deciding where to go, what activities to do and how to pay for it.”

Find lots more ideas for family holidays online.