Quest for Happy Holidays breeds nation of OOPS

Family holidays are creating a nation of ‘Out of Office Parents’, as British mums and dads relax the rules in a bid for an easy life when on holiday, a new study from Vrbo?, a global expert in family holiday rentals, reveals.

While parents might be sticklers for routine at home, parents are happy to bend the rules, when away, with half of parents changing planned bedtime routines for their kids on holiday, in a quest for some much needed R&R. The research reveals how parents flex their parenting styles at home vs away and how they reward their children to keep the peace on holiday.

Parenting at home vs away

With a mammoth 95% of parents saying routine is important to them when they’re at home, but only 55% saying the same in the context of ‘when on holiday’, why is it that parents become OOPs when they go away? And what is the impact of this new-found freedom on their children?

Dr Angharad Rudkin, an expert in child psychology, commented: “Being on holiday and easing up the routines does not mean that parents are happy to lose control.” Only 4% of parents said their children had full rule while on holiday whereas over half of parents said that they share the decision making.

“This democratisation of the family is something we are seeing more and more these days with Gen A. Children have a lot more say about what they eat, what they do and what they wear, compared to previous generations. On holiday, this also happens, with parents listening to their child’s preferences and taking into account their wishes when making decisions.” said Dr. Rudkin.

Bending the rules on bedtime

We all know that for children in particular, having a bedtime routine is important for maintaining good sleeping habits and ensuring kids don’t veer into the much-dreaded over-tired territory.

Tucking the kids in on holiday however doesn’t appear to be so scheduled, with half of parents admitting to altering their kids’ planned bedtime routines. In comparison to the 85% of parents who have a set routine at home, only a third of parents say they stick to this when they’re on holiday.

And it’s not just the physical routine of a bath and story before bed that’s forgotten – it’s the time the lights go out too. In fact, for some this can even be as much as 2-4 hours later, with a whopping 83% parents putting their kids to bed before 9:30pm when they’re at home, in comparison to just 35% in the context of ‘when on holiday.’

Dr, Rudkin, commented: “A very significant shift for parents on holiday is an easing up in the bedtime routine. Without all the props and pressures of home life, parents let their children go to bed later and have less of a strict routine. Holidays provide a welcome break from this rigmarole, and parents can let their children have a more independent bedtime.”

According to the research, it’s mums who are the most easily swayed to bend the rules on staying up late, with 20% admitting to allowing their children to stay up for an extra 2-4 hours past their bedtime in comparison to 15% of dads.?

TV personality, charity campaigner and mum Katie Piper said: “When we get away as a family, whether in the UK or abroad, it’s an opportunity to switch off from my busy schedule and spend quality time together with my family. I can certainly empathise with a lot of parents about the struggles of keeping the kids happy on holiday - I do find myself taking a more relaxed parenting approach when we’re away from home! Introducing some flexibility to our normal home routine keeps everyone happy and staying in whole home holiday rentals definitely gives us the best of both worlds – that home away from home feeling for some structure and additional space and privacy for when routines can go out the window!”

Rewards in quest of precious R&R time

Holidays are meant to be an opportunity for the whole family to relax and escape the everyday stresses of normal life. But taking children on holiday can often be a headache in itself if they begin to misbehave.

It would appear that rewarding good behaviour is one way to stop little ones from acting up on holiday. The research found that some of the most popular incentives by parents include:

  • Allowing them to stay up later (36%)???????

  • Giving them snacks, sweets and treats (30%)???????

  • Allowing extra screen time (9%) ???

  • Letting them play with friends (7%)

And with all the bending of rules, rewards for good behaviour and scrapping of schedules, 4 in 10 parents actually said their kids are better behaved on holiday compared to when they’re at home!

Keeping the kids sweet with treats

Stopping children from becoming ‘hangry’ is one way to limit tantrums and bad behaviour on holiday. With nearly three quarters of parents admitting to sticking to set meals and snack times with their kids at home, routine goes out the window as soon as the suitcases are packed. ?

As parents relax, it would appear they tend to go with the flow when it comes to feeding their kids, with only a third keeping in place set meal times, giving much more freedom over when and what their kids eat. Dr. Rudkin said: “Because parents are more relaxed and feel a bit “off duty” on holiday, parents give in to their children’s requests for ice cream and treats more, thinking “why not.”

She continued: “As parents relax their own food rules (adults will often let go of a diet on holiday so they can relax and enjoy themselves more) it is likely they will also relax some of their family food rules, such as not snacking between meals.”

The research also revealed that sweet treats are a much more common occurrence on holiday than when at home. Parents are more likely to give their kids double the amount of ice-cream they’d normally be allowed, with the average number of servings rising to seven per week, compared to four at home.

Another challenge in today’s modern world can be tearing kids away from the TV, phones and tablets. Parents are putting their feet down on holiday, by allowing less screen time than normal. With holidays providing the perfect opportunity to spend time with the whole family, the research revealed that parents only allow an average of eight hours of screen time per week when on holiday, compared to an average of 11 hours. “More relaxed ‘out of office’ parents may not need the electronic babysitting function of screens as much when on holiday”, said Dr. Rudkin.

Karen Mullins, Market Insight Lead, Vrbo: “As any parent knows, nothing upsets the relaxation of a family holiday more than an unhappy child. So it’s no surprise that our latest research revealed that parents are more flexible when it comes to routines on holiday.

At Vrbo, we understand it can be difficult on holiday to stick to schedules when staying in an unfamiliar setting. Staying in a holiday rental provides holidaymakers with plenty of space and privacy for the whole family to have a perfect holiday away together, in a home away from home. The flexibility of having your own accommodation means mealtimes and bedtimes can be whenever suits your family.”?

Dr Angharad Rudkin said: “Holidays are an important part of family life, and these findings give us clues as to why. On holiday, parents feel that they can ease up on their routines, spoil their children and themselves more.

“Because the family don’t have to get up early and dash out of the door in the morning, parents can afford to be more relaxed with routines and structures, so will therefore place less demands on their children. Holidays offer busy, stressed, overwhelmed families a valuable time to regroup, relax and share genuine quality time with one another.”

Top tips from child psychologist Dr. Rudkin, for parents going on holiday for an easy, stress-free trip away with the kids: ?

1.????? Family values: As you start to plan your family holiday, think about what is important to you as a family. What kind of activities would you like to do? What would you like to get out of the holiday? Then you can prioritise these when you’re away.

2.????? Journeys: Travelling can be a stressful time, as parents work hard to entertain their children while also trying not to disturb other passengers. Change your mindset so that journeys are the beginning of your holiday, rather than an obstacle to get over. Pack a little bag of activities and fun for your child and offer a new item at regular points throughout the journey.

3.????? Quality time: Make the most of having more time together on holiday by getting to know one another even more.? Play games, talk while you walk, try different food. Holidays are times of exploration and change. Tap into your playful side with your children and with your partner.

4.????? Changes: Some children struggle with the many changes that holidays bring. Prepare them by talking about where you’re going and showing pictures. Discuss what you will be doing, what will be the same (e.g. you will still have teddy to sleep with) and celebrate what will be different.

5.????? Food: Children can find the different flavours of food abroad quite a challenge. Try to keep a light tone around the meal table and fall back on as many comfort foods available – if your child lives solely on bread and cheese, sausages and chips or spag bol for the week, so be it! Have a little exploration plate next to your child’s main plate so that they can try different tastes without it having to be their main meal.

6.????? Routines: Your kids are more likely to behave well as you all relax into the less pressured environment of family holidays. You can keep a general pattern to your day, but can ease up on the specifics of the routine as you get into your holiday. When you do get back from holiday, it doesn’t take long for kids to adapt to normality.

- ENDS -

Notes to editors:

About Vrbo

In 1995, Vrbo introduced a new way for people to travel together, pairing homeowners with families and friends looking for places to stay. We were grounded in one purpose: To give people the space they need to drop the distractions of everyday life and simply be together. Since then, we've grown into a global community of homeowners and holidaymakers, with unique properties around the world. Vrbo makes it easy and fun to book cabins, condos, beach houses and every kind of space in between.

Vrbo is part of Expedia Group and offers homeowners and property managers exposure to over 750 million visits to Expedia Group sites each month. To learn more, visit

? 2020 Vrbo, an Expedia Group company. All rights reserved. Vrbo, HomeAway, the Vrbo logo, and the HomeAway logo are trademarks of HomeAway.

Research methodology

An online survey was conducted by Atomik Research among 2,004 parents of children aged under 15 in the UK who have been on holiday in the past 5 years. The research fieldwork took place on 23 – 28 Septembre, 2020. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code.