ONCE his exams were over, our 18-year-old announced, in the way only 18-year-olds can, that he was heading off round Europe with a group of friends for a few weeks.

We knew one of the six he was going with, and knew of one of the others. Listening in on his conversations, I deduced that there was a mixture of male and female. “There’s no point in telling you, you don’t know them,” he said when we inquired who the others were.

There was talk of Budapest, Prague, maybe Rome, Paris, Berlin, I think, and then possibly meeting up with some others to finish up in Amsterdam. They didn’t know if they were going to stay in hostels or Airbnbs, they’d see what was around, he said.

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All very casual, all very relaxed, and the total opposite of the family holidays I have had to organise with painstaking, military precision over the past 25 years. With five children in tow, everything has had to be arranged months in advance, following many more months of intensive online research. Nothing can be left to chance.

For weeks before we go, I have lists detailing the vital things I must not forget, from passports to boarding passes, villa information, euros, hire car documents, asthma inhalers, copious amounts of sun cream, insect repellent, European health cards, insurance details, holiday guide, phrase book, maps and directions.

I’m also in charge of swimming goggles, tennis racquets, Scrabble and anything else that will help keep them all occupied. Trips to major tourist attractions have to be booked online in advance and, with such a large party, which in recent years has also included girlfriends, we generally can’t risk dropping into a restaurant and assuming we’ll get a table on the spur of the moment.

I envied Roscoe as he headed off with one small rucksack: “Are you sure you’ve got everything you need in there?” I said, pointing to the backpack, which was the sort of thing I might bring on a day trip. “What about socks and underpants? Pyjamas?” “I’ll just be wearing swimming trunks and T-shirts most days,” he said, as he pointed at the flip-flops on his feet. “Where are all the documents and information you’ll need?” I said. He waved his smart phone at me: “It’s all on here,” he assured me.

When we went off at the same age, our parents didn’t expect to hear from us at all, other than maybe receiving a dog-eared postcard, if they were lucky, after we’d got home. But, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we were following what Roscoe and his friends were up to on a daily, if not hourly basis, on WhatsApp. Sometimes this wasn’t a good thing.

As well as seeing pictures of them enjoying themselves by the Berlin Wall, in an Amsterdam Ice Bar, cycling in Warsaw, at the top of the Eiffel Tower and even next to Chris Froome at the finish of the Tour de France, we discovered one of them had her bag pickpocketed and wallet stolen in Prague. “It was no problem, she just cancelled her card and had all the money transferred onto another one,” he told us. One hostel they stayed in, which called itself “the worst in the city” and had a sign saying “We don’t listen to your complaints” looked particularly dodgy, but it didn’t bother them.

They did get on the wrong train once and ended up heading for Dusseldorf instead of Amsterdam. On another occasion, they jumped on the wrong carriage, on its way to Slovakia when they needed to get to Krakow. So they ended up sleeping on railway station benches and floors for a few hours here and there.

“It was no big deal, Mum,” he said when he got back, clearly invigorated by the whole experience. “We got where we wanted to be in the end and we’re home safe. I don’t know why you get so worked up about organising our holidays. I think you should relax more.” He could be right.

FOR our family holiday, we stayed in a villa in Crete and were met by the owner, who showed us round. But her mobile kept ringing and she apologised for breaking off to answer it. After the fourth call, she explained it was her son, in his 20s and recently qualified as an engineer, who was calling for advice. “In his work, he does all sorts of complicated things with maths and satellites that I can’t even begin to explain,” she said. “But he cannot understand how to work the laundry.”