“All of you are staying together? Wow, that sounds intense!’’ is what a friend said when I detailed our plans to take both sets of the boys’ grandparents to Portugal with us for a week.
I’d had my eyes so firmly fixed on the prize of a child-free evening out courtesy of double grandparent babysitting that I hadn’t really considered the day-to-day logistics of sharing a villa with not only my husband and our three boys (six-and-a-half, four, and nine months) but also my dad, step-mum, mother-in-law and father-in-law. Cue slightly nervous laughter the night before.
There would be pros and cons, we were sure. The pros hopefully being that there would be more pairs of hands and more eyes to help supervise our lively offspring, one of whom has a habit of ‘playing dead’ when going through airport security.
The cons possibly being that with a higher number of adults in the mix, there might be more of us with differing ideas on what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go and what foods we wanted to eat (made even more interesting by the fact we would be sharing the food shopping and cooking for a week).
The other niggling concern was whether the collective grandparent tribe would tire of the boys’ whingeing, wrestling and farting – something they are usually only exposed to for a few hours at a time!
Now safely back in the UK, I can confirm that not only are all of us still on speaking terms (phew!) but that in fact, our first multigenerational or ‘3G’ holiday experience, as they have become known, turned out to be one of the best holidays we’ve had.
From the moment we arrived at the airport, it felt like there was safety in numbers and that sense of relief continued for the duration of the holiday. As soon as the seatbelt sign was off on the plane we were able to play ‘pass the baby’, though unfortunately for me, the baby did an explosive poo out of his nappy, through his shorts and onto my dress when the seatbelt sign was on and he was strapped to me, something I won’t forget in a hurry.
Arriving to the most beautiful villa, vast and elegant but with all the baby kit we could need (cot, high chair, toys) and its own safety-fenced pool, got things off on the right foot and as the week unfolded, we found we settled into a happy mix of doing things all together and taking a few hours out in smaller groups or pairs to do our own thing.
There was one morning when the grandparents headed out for breakfast as a foursome, leaving us to play in the pool and kick a football around with the boys at the villa.
There were many more outings when we all headed out together, usually for lunch (the baby still screams any establishment down after 5pm) and as we were in two cars, the grandparents never once had to suffer the ‘are we there yet?’ chorus from the kids.
We found a brilliant restaurant, KOKO, just five minutes down the road which had its own shaded play area and the kids loved it so much we ended up eating there three times.
Being in separate cars also gave us the flexibility to leave separately if we wanted to, which we did when two of the boys needed a nap and my step-mum and mother-in-law wanted to stay behind to try stand-up paddleboarding at the nearby lake beach!
The only downside of letting four grandparents loose in a hire car was that it took them half a week to get to grips with using any kind of SatNav or Google Maps and this resulted in a couple of occasions where they got lost, including one where we had to loop back several miles to find them (‘For God’s sake, Dad, just stay where you are!’) I’m sure this is something we’ll tease them about for many years to come.
Perhaps the most special part of the whole 3G holiday experience was the memories the kids will have of the summer they spent with Nanny and Grandad and Granny and Grandad. Playing football, reading together, swimming, wrestling (we couldn’t get them to curb that, even abroad). It’s something they will hopefully never forget.
There’s no denying that having everyone under one roof for a week was quite an intense experience (my friend was right in that sense!) but it wasn’t intense in a bad way and we knew for certain that we’d made the right decision when, on the penultimate evening, we were able to head out for that much longed-for dinner as a couple.
The sea bass we enjoyed with a glass of wine, without having to wipe any of our children’s bottoms mid-way through the meal, was total heaven and if we hadn’t had the extra family on hand it wouldn’t have been possible.
If you’re considering a 3G holiday, I would say go for it. We have no regrets and when I asked our eldest son what he thought of holidaying as a big family group he said it was ‘wicked’ which is high praise indeed. Wicked it was.