The one thing you must have for a successful family holiday

There's an old trope in our household (it's not me, although the kids say I'm cliched) that goes like this.

"Mum, Dad, I want [insert unreasonable request here]." "Yeah, well I want a Ferrari/yacht/mansion, but that ain't gonna happen. Now, EAT YER GREENS!"

To slow the children's steady – yet inevitable – devolution into overindulgence, we intersperse five-star holidays with one-star, ants-up-the-bum, sand-in-the-togs, snags-on-the-barbie camping.

They enjoy each experience equally, as long as certain conditions are met. So do the more than 22,000 children who took part in a new international survey. A huge 89 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds say a strong Wi-Fi connection is "essential", for taking social media snaps and staying in touch with friends while on holiday.

Campground Wi-Fi is often slow, so you'll need a mobile broadband dongle. "Hopefully you have enough reception from your carrier," Stephen Fenech, the editor of techguide.com.au says. "You can check this before you leave on the telco's coverage calculator on their respective websites." (He also suggests taking portable pre-charged batteries, or strapping a solar charger to your backpack.)

Two-in-three teens rate a pool as their second request, while being near the beach is important for almost half. Interestingly, only one-in-four wants to make friends with other children on holiday. This is a distinct departure from our childhoods, when holiday friendships – and sometimes, nascent romances – were the highlight.

The five to 11-year-olds are more sociable, with two-in-five searching for playmates. A pool or water slide is the top priority for this age group, followed by "evening activities so I can stay up late". Not surprisingly, more than a third would like to have all the ice-cream they can eat.

Overall, Japan is rated as the best destination for Wi-Fi, and the United States for "cool pools".

The cultural aspect is fascinating. A whopping 84 per cent of Taiwanese kids want to sleep in a "bigger bedroom than at home". So do 72 per cent of Malaysian children, and 70 per cent of Thais. It's a salient reminder that not everyone has our standard of living.  

Perhaps the quirkiest finding from the research, conducted by Booking.com, is that one in 10 children expect holiday staff to be "good at telling jokes". This is fine if you're at a Disneyland hotel or on a family-friendly cruise, but it's a big call for those who are over-worked and under-paid in the tourism sector. (Let's file that under Things Spoiled Children Say, shall we ...?)

So why am I concerned about what children want to do on holidays, while fighting a rear-guard action to avoid them becoming brats? Because this information makes it easier for all of us.

If we throw the animals a couple of bones – say Wi-Fi and a strip of sand – they'll leave us alone to read a book, or sneak in a snooze. This is preferable to the soundtrack of, "My Wi-Fi's dropping out. Can you fix it?" or "I'm soooooooo hot. Can we drive an hour to the lake for a swim?"

Then it's a holiday for everybody.

tracey.spicer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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