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By James Stone

There was a time back in the very distant past when the highlight of the year was to go away with the family to some sun-ridden part of the Med and spend two glorious weeks building sand castles and eating ice cream.

I must have been about five or six at the time, but those weeks seemed to last forever, and it was frankly bliss. Fast forward a few years though, and suddenly you can't think of a situation that would more closely resemble hell. Taking a family holiday when you are a teenager is rubbish. There is nothing to do and nowhere to go, and your annoying parents are around all the time. You can't even go and hang around in the shopping centre to assert your rebelliousness.

It's around this time that you start considering the idea of going on holiday with people you actually like - your friends. This is an alien concept when you first think of it. Strangely, holidays seem to be exclusively the preserve of families and to take your mates with you seems a bit perverse, as if you're seeking to turn a friendship into something more significant.

Two weeks in the sun with your friends has its obvious advantages. For a start, you all tend to want to do the same things, which means sitting round the pool drinking and talking rubbish, rather than visiting quaint fishing villages or grand art galleries as your mum and dad would. You can also swear whenever you like and smoke cigarettes to your heart's content without those critical glances.

But there are the disadvantages too. When you go on holiday with your parents and siblings, you're going with people that you've already spent a hell of a lot of time with. There's no real chance that they're going to come out with some annoying habit that you haven't seen before. This doesn't mean that they won't end up annoying you - it's just that you'll know beforehand.

Your friends are a different matter. You've seen them playing pool down the pub, or in the office at work, but you've probably spent less time with them than you imagine. And when you're in the enclosed space of a holiday apartment, living in each others back pockets, they suddenly start turning into the most annoying people possible. They're either irritatingly anal or grumpy, or they try too hard to organise everyone.

So my advice is to try the family holiday again. Seriously - it's a whole different ballgame when you're grown up. OK, so maybe you can't get away with just making sand castles and flying kites all day, but on the plus side you might find that you have more in common with you folks that you thought. Even those quaint little fishing villages might start to sound appealing.


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