With our recent open threads about Disney World and Universal Studios (Orlando), we thought this would be a great time to ask a more general question about family travel: Do you take family vacations with your kids’ grandparents or other extended family like aunts, uncles, and cousins?
Depending on your relationship with your parents and/or your in-laws, we know readers’ answers may range from “Of course!” to “Hell, no!” — but either way, please share!
Some Questions About Taking Family Vacations with Your Kids’ Grandparents
Here are some discussion topics to start us off if you do take family vacations with your kids’ grandparents:
How do you choose the destination? Do you repeat vacations (e.g., the same beach town every year)? Do you prefer vacation spots like those in our post on the easiest family vacation resorts for working moms or favor more general/”grown-up” destinations? Do you try to minimize everyone’s travel time and costs by “meeting in the middle”?
Where you stay? Does each family unit book their own hotel room? Do you rent a cabin, cottage, or other vacation home and share it with the whole group? Does one family member have a timeshare that everyone meets at every year? Do you Airbnb it? (Make sure to read our tips on using Airbnb with kids!)
How do you deal with travel/destination costs? Do you and your partner/spouse solely pay for your/your kids’ expenses, or chip in on top of that? Do the grandparents offer to cover the whole trip — and if they do, do you accept the offer? (We’ve talked about vacation money strategies over at Corporette — how does it factor into family vacations if the members of your party have different budgets and strategies?)
Do grandparents babysit so that you and your spouse get to enjoy “date nights” or day trips of your own without your kids? (Related: Have you ever taken a vacation without your kids?)
If every family member has their own thoughts on what the ideal family vacation looks like — one prefers to just veg out, another wants a full itinerary every day, and so on — how do you compromise? (Have you experimented to figure out what kind of family vacation is right for you in general?)
So, readers, do tell: Do you take family vacations with your kids’ grandparents? Is it something you love to do, or … not so much?
We always bring my mom on our vacations. We pay for her trip, and she babysits in exchange. She and the kids are usually tired by 7pm anyway, and then DH and I will go out to dinner, have a drink, walk on the beach, etc. We always stay in Airbnb’s with multiple bedrooms.
I am so interested in the responses to this! My inlaws take us on vacation, and pay for everything. They have a time-share to all inclusive resorts and I’m hoping they think it’s a good use of their share, because I absolutely love it. No one is cooking, cleaning, or planning, and everyone has their own space. Previously we have done beach vacations where they rent a house, which is less fun because then someone is always cooking or cleaning, some of the kids leave giant messes and their parents don’t care, etc. We have switched to the tropical vacation time share model and I’m a huge fan. We are on an every other year schedule, and outside of that just have small visits to various houses where the whole family can get together.
My parents (mom really) talk a big game about taking everyone on vacation, but when I tried to actually organize a relatively simple beach vacation that I thought would be easier to do with my side of the family because it’s less people, it was impossible. My dad didn’t want to leave the dog at home, my brother balked at how much it was but didn’t want my mom to subsidize, and after the arguing over where and how much, I’m pretty sure actually being there wouldn’t have been as fun anyway, because I suspect we then would have had constant negotiations over who is paying for what and who owes who and my dad wouldn’t have wanted to do anything while there and would have complained a lot (which we don’t have with my in-laws because they make it crystal clear they will pay for everything and don’t want anyone to offer, and are also generally better sports). Maybe someday we’ll all go on a cruise but I’m not holding my breath.
omg, my parents’ dog is #1 reason they can’t do pretty much anything. I swear when I moved out, the dog became their surrogate child.
Could not agree more with the misery of renting a house for vacation, especially with multiple families. Emptying the dishwasher and cleaning up after other people is not my idea of vacation.
Along these lines – we do a yearly vacation with my DH’s side of the family. Rent a big house. Regarding the clean up duties – each family unit picks one night to prep and serve dinner, and each family unit picks one day of doing all the dishes. One of the uncles always handles breakfast, and lunch is generally a hodgepodge of sandwiches and leftovers. Until we created this system the cleanup was typically falling to the same people who noticed it and it just wasn’t fair. But this new system seems to work much better.
I did…once. It was AWFUL. My parents are super helpful when they visit us or we visit them, but they had the attitude that they were on vacation and weren’t babysitters. Which is fair, but should have been better communicated in advance. And when my baby didn’t fit into their plans, they just left me alone in the condo by myself. My husband was not there, so it was a week of 24/7 parenting a speed-crawling, non-walking infant in a very much not babyproofed condo. Oh and my baby was jet lagged and woke up at 3 am every day of the trip. It was, quite frankly, one of the most miserable weeks of my life. And I’m someone who really enjoys taking trips (even international) with my husband and kid! It makes all the difference having someone to share the childcare with. I would only consider it again when my kid is much older and way more independent. Maybe 6 or so.
Legally Brunette says
We generally take our moms (both grandmas live locally) with us on vacations within driving distance. We book an Airbnb with multiple bedrooms. We pay for everything. Our moms take care of all of the cooking (we don’t eat out much when we go on vacation), sometimes they babysit in the evenings as well.
When our kids were younger, we absolutely brought my mom with us on almost every international trip including beach vacations. We paid for everything. My mom is the best, she hasn’t had the chance to see much of the world, and she took care of all of the cooking and a lot of childcare too. So it was a no brainer.
Yeah, we try to take grandparents when we can and wouldn’t dream of asking them to pay for anything (not that they could afford to, so there’s that). Maybe it’s a cultural thing (Indian here), but we also pay for everything on these trips but grandparents are very helpful in terms of cooking and helping with the grand kids.
When we took MIL to India recently with us, she and I shared a room the entire trip while DH slept with the kids in the other room. So yeah, no privacy either. :) That’s the Indian way, ha ha.
I am the oldest of my siblings and the only one with kids, so we have done two vacations with my parents (and siblings) and our kids. It’s not a regular thing because $$ but my parents still want to occasionally do family vacations, so they will occasionally do that (every few years or so) rather than other gifts.
Forgot to add that this is not something that is done on my husband’s side of the family though I could see us paying for his mom to come with us on relatively close (driving/short flight) vacation in the future if it made sense.
yes. me/husband/toddler. mostly my with parents (and often my brother and sister in law too) but also an upcoming trip with my aunt/uncle too. husband’s mother is local, so it hasn’t come up with her the same way sicne she sees us all the time. with my parents they almost always pay everything. they also make all reservations. location is usually a shore or resort we go to regularly. i try to pick up things where i can, but their philosophy is they want to spend time with us and have fun and that’s how they want to spend their money. they often try to give husband and me a night off where they babysit so we can have a date night and/or sleep in. with my aunt/uncle, they made the hotel reservations and offered to pay for that. the rest hasn’t been discussed, but we’ll probably try to pay for the meals. it’s just a two nighter, but same deal. they have no kids of their own, but really love my brother and me, and my child. they want us to spend time together, but they live about 6 hours away, so we’re trying this out to get some quality time outside of holidays. i do feel really lucky that we have such wonderful family. we all generally get along pretty well on these trips. everyone gets that we can’t make a toddler do certain things so people just branch off as desired. we’re usually in locations where we don’t all have to do the same group thing during the day, but we come together for meals.
Mrs. Jones says
We took one vacation with all three grandparents. We each paid our own way. But I won’t travel with my MIL anymore because reasons.
We’ve taken two vacations with my parents, to DisneyWorld. They offered to pay for hotel/parks, and we paid for our own food etc.
Otherwise it’s just our immediate family. Husband and I have taken a couple of trips without son.
We used to take my mom and my mother-in-law with us. My mom died a few years ago, so now we just take my mother-in-law. I will say, having my mom die unexpectedly makes me so grateful that we always included her on our vacations. She was the best!
My mother-in-law does a lot for us too and we love to treat her by taking her along and paying for everything. She usually pays for a meal here or there, or gas, but we cover the majority of the trip. Usually a beach destination and a VRBO rental. Last year we went with my brother and his family, and my husband’s siblings and their families. Everyone got their own condo at the same resort and it was fantastic! It allowed everyone to have their own time or hang out together if they wanted.
I love family vacations and I know my kids love the memories they are making! Some of my best memories are from vacations with my grandma, aunts and uncles, and cousins!
We’ve done family trips with grandparents and siblings (both domestic and international) and it goes great. Everyone goes into it with the expectation that we’re going to plan our schedule according to the kids (who currently range from 6 months to 3.5), but they know they’re free to go off and do their own thing if there’s something they want to do that isn’t kid friendly. We also do most of the schedule planning, because we know what the kids are capable of.
We don’t usually use get much free babysitting out of the trips, since the goal is all hanging out together, but have occasionally gone out for dinner or drinks and left the kids sleeping in the rental house with their grandparents. (We’ve always done rental houses or apartments, so it’s easy to hang out during bedtime or naptime.)
These trips are also basically funded by the grandparents, who have the money and enjoy doing so. For one side we buy our own plane tickets, but then they pay for the house, car, food, activities, etc. The other side covers everything, include plane tickets to meet up with them.
My parents are now pushing the concept of “we’ll pay for you and your sister to take the families on a vacation each year instead of doing birthday/Christmas gifts.” We did it last year, but are going to have to skip this year because my husband is unemployed right now, so I can’t take time off. Last year went well, despite medial problems that kept my parents from joining us on the trip. The two families spent a week in a condo in an area we’d vacationed in before, and we spent an additional week at my parents’ house. I’m hoping that we will be able to continue this tradition, and hopefully I can talk everyone into going to Dollywood one year.
I did take the kids on a cruise with my family once, but wouldn’t do that again. My husband was in Afghanistan at the time, and my kids were young and needed constant supervision. My parents got sick as soon as we got on the boat, and my sister and her family were doing their own thing, so I was pretty much on my own on a cruise with a 1 and 3 year old.
On my husband’s side of the family, we do not vacation together and I would not. His dad and stepmom are a little distant with the kids, and prefer to vacation in NV where they can play slot machines. His mom is the type to offer a last-minute trip to somewhere like Disney, then spend more time taking pictures to show she is a good grandma instead of actually helping or interacting with the kids.
“then spend more time taking pictures to show she is a good grandma instead of actually helping or interacting with the kids.”
I’m dying. There’s a grandparent I could write the same about in my family. Hahah.
I’d love to do this but don’t see it happening often. My parents winter in FL and we visit them at least once per year now that kiddo is old enough to be trusted around the non-child-proofed pool. So that is a little like vacationing with them in a way. My parents are very happy to babysit but only willing to travel when it is something of great interest to them (which isn’t very many places). My in-laws like to travel, but are less likely to enjoy traveling with kids/grandkids. They rent a place somewhere warm for 4-8 weeks every winter and have previously said that they aren’t really interested in visitors. They’ve made a few invitations in recent years, so I don’t know if they’re changing their minds or just saying it to be nice. In 2018, we gave them a weekend away with us for Christmas when they were having a rough year (DH’s brother was very ill for a bit, and they helped a lot). They did seem to really enjoy it. When kiddo is older (4 now) and less hands on, it might make more sense. So for now, we just keep visiting at their homes and inviting them to visit us.
Every summer we spend a week at a lake with DH’s entire family, we each pay our own way It’s important to those who can’t spend as much that they pay their own way, so It’s been a struggle to find a place that is affordable, but also not so crappy that others (me and DH) aren’t annoyed about burning a week of vacation on it.
We try and find a resort with a large cabin that has a large living area we can all fit in, sometimes we have to rent a few smaller cabins there as well. We also divide up meals with each family responsible for a dinner and a breakfast, and then we go out in town a few nights. We do a big grocery haul for lunches/snacks/beer and other misc items and split that bill. We splurge a few days and rent a boat that we can all fit on together, splitting it among the families that can afford that. The other families pitch in for gas. It’s a lot of work, with lots of shared Google sheets,emails, and Venmo back and forth for months before and after, but we love the time together and all the memories. I’m hoping one year we can all save and do a cruise or all-inclusive instead, maybe when the kids are old enough to not require constant supervision.
We do two vacations a year w/ DH’s parents. We also separately vacation (usually long weekends) with his brother & brother’s family. We did one giant vacation with all of us once and NEVER AGAIN.
We go down to Florida to visit DH’s parents (snowbirds) in Feb/March timeframe every year. We pay for our tickets and then we usually alternate who pays for dinner and any outings (museums, golf, etc). Since they have a house we eat breakfast and usually lunch at their place so it’s really economical (plus the COL in Florida seems so low compared to Boston, we don’t mind paying for things – it’s like sticker shock in the opposite direction).
We also go to the same beach town every year. We drive separate cars but share one AirBnB. They do pay roughly half whatever the rental is, because without them we wouldn’t need as many bedrooms and they are happy to pay.
I am lucky in that in-laws totally defer to my planning. I always do an itinerary, complete w/ restaurants and reservations if possible. Usually at least 2 nights DH and I go out to dinner and they put LO to bed; we also will do naptime activities where they just stay at the house and read or lay by the pool while LO naps. They’re in reasonably good health but older and honestly 1 activity a day works out just as well for them as for the toddler. On our “free” afternoons we’ve done stuff like visit breweries or go to a baseball game.
My parents are local, so they don’t feel as much of a need to vacation with us to see LO.
Our experience is that whoever pays sets the itinerary. We sometimes take my mother on vacation with us. We pay and plan; she goes along with whatever we’ve planned and assists with child-wrangling. We always make sure she has her own room and some time to decompress.
My MIL has been working through her bucket list, and one item was a cruise with the entire extended family. My in-laws paid for the cruise and one shore excursion that was very important to Grandma, and each family was responsible for its own airfare, other shore excursions, and on-board charges. We did whatever Grandma told us to do but also had some time to ourselves.
We do not vacation with my inlaws. They don’t travel much, and even if they did, DH and I would lose our minds – as it is they are local and we see them maybe 2x a month and only for a couple of hours at a time. We do go on family vacations with my family. Typically this is a car-driving-distance for us and my parents beach trip with my parents, their dog, DH + kiddo, my sisters (both single, no kids, have to fly), and my aunt (same). Sometimes other family members or friends will come too, but they typically stay separately. My parents usually rent a large beach house – parents get a room, aunt gets a room, sisters share a room, DH and I get a room and then kiddo either has her own room if the house has space or sleeps with us if it doesn’t. DH and I usually take one or two nights to go out to dinner while the aunties and grandparents babysit. Also nice in that there are more helpful hands to entertain and supervise and play with kiddo, although we’re still primarily responsible for her. For costs, we usually chip in our pro rata share (on a bedroom basis) of the housing costs, and then usually buy one of the dinners out – my parents and aunt usually do most of heavy shopping and we eat at home most nights – if we stop by the store for stuff we’ll just pick that up. We also spend time with my parents in their “winter” home maybe every other year when they are there, but that’s a long flight, so not an every year thing for us, and we typically visit my parents at their regular semi-local (2 hour drive) house around New Years. Separately we will sometimes do a girls’ trip (neither DH nor my father ski) to go skiing – mom, aunt, sisters, me and kiddo. My mom usually covers ski housing as a christmas or birthday gift, handles all food and cooking, and my sister gets us discounted lift tickets as a gift.
My parents live in south florida across the street from the beach, so we vacation TO them instead of WITH them. It’s perfect, because there are no worries about cost-sharing, we don’t feel guilty if they keep the kids while we go out to dinner, etc. They’re happy to see grandkids, it’s not their vacation so they don’t feel like we’re keeping them from doing anything, and we have trusted childcare while we get date nights! They are also very supportive of us taking the kids to do things by ourselves, no pressure to do things all together or go out to eat with the whole group a lot or anything.
We used to go to a beach house for a week with my in-laws and I haaaaated it. They always insisted on renting the same place and it had moldy showers, gross carpets, etc., but they wanted to bring their (large, not-trained) dogs so that’s all they could get. It had dangerously steep stairs and they would bring a flimsy baby gate to put at the top for the dogs, then ultimately put a trash can in front of that gate to block the dogs when they broke through, so moving around was difficult. It was one of those places where you had to bring your own sheets and stuff, so involved a lot of packing. Also, it was at the beach, but they always wanted to just sit by the pool and not go to the beach, and would get offended if I took the kids to the beach without them. They also wanted to eat our for every single meal which was miserable with kids and also just not fun for us. Again, very offended if we tried to opt out. Even though they’re local we felt like we had to go, they stopped speaking to BIL for months when he couldn’t get time off work for his family to go one year. We’re estranged from them now for other reasons, and I do NOT miss spending 40 hours of my very-limited PTO on that!
Anon for this says
My parents take us all on trips – usually to a rented house, and it works great. They’ll also offer to babysit one nightish but otherwise are more an extra set of hands (who pays).
My ILs both have good jobs and in theory could pay for vacations but would never take them if they were paying, so we take them on vacation and pay for them, and they don’t babysit. It is what it is. My parents are also local and ILs are out of town, so I do think it’s important to continue traveling with them. We do one trip a year (this year it was Disneyworld – so it’s also to a place where we want to take the kids obviously – they loved getting to watch them do Disneyworld for the first time although it was def expensive to take them! They’ll pick up a meal here or there maybe to feel better about it?).
Yes. Or, our kid’s grandparents take us on vacation.
Once a year, my parents have Disney vacation club points and take us on a Disney related trip every year, usually in the spring. They pay for everything. We’ve done Disney World a couple of times and the Disney cruise a couple of times. As Kiddo gets older, we’ll likely do Aulani, an Alaskan cruise, Adventures by Disney, etc. (assuming everyone is still healthy enough to travel then). My parents are also super helpful and make sure my husband and I get some time alone.
In the summers, my MIL takes us to a family member’s beach condo. This condo is literally Kiddo’s favorite place in the world, and he spends all year asking when we’re going to go back. We split the minimal costs. MIL spends some time with Kiddo but doesn’t help much with the childcare tasks. We all do a lot of work cooking (every meal, which is my biggest complaint), cleaning, etc. I do all the grocery shopping and errand running because I need to get out a bit!
Both my dad and MIL have TBIs, so I’d rather have a root canal than visit an unfamiliar place with either of them. Honestly, it’s fine. We visit our in-laws several times a year; kiddo adores his grandma and she can function pretty well when she is at home in her element. My parents are local and my mom hates to travel (mostly because of my dad) but will babysit for us if we want to do an occasional weekend away.
Boston Legal Eagle says
My parents are local and we’ve gone on vacation with them once with one kid, and planning to do so again with two kids. They’ve offered to babysit so we have nights out by ourselves. We stayed in separate rooms in a hotel before but this time we’re renting a large airbnb, so hopefully that goes well. They’ve offered to help pay, but honestly at our current financial stage, we’re also fine to pay for all of us as we would pay for the place anyway and we’re not flying, and also, they’re offering babysitting! We haven’t vacationed with my in-laws yet, for a lot of reasons including mobility challenges, lack of interest on their part and yes, pets!
We do a lot of vacations with my in-laws, my husband’s brothers, their wives and children. We generally do a long weekend trip every year, usually to the same place, but we have started branching out. For this, we usually rent either one large condo or a few smaller ones. We are up to eight adults and five children with another one on the way. My in-laws pay most of the costs. We went to Disney World with this same group a few years ago, and my in-laws also paid. We are in the early stages of planning a big international trip with just the in-laws (they are again paying). They usually do not do much babysitting, it is more about spending time as a family. They do help with the kids, though. For example, last vacation, my husband, oldest son, and I went jet-skiing while my in-laws watched my younger two sons.
We used to go with my husband’s uncle, aunt, and cousins, too, but it has gotten to be too many people. Sometimes we plan to go at the same time,but we don’t worry about coordinating.
My in laws would be insulted if we paid. When my husband’s grandmother was alive she would pay, even if she did not attend.
A few years ago we asked them to come on a long weekend trip to babysit, and we paid their lodging.
We are trying to plan a trip to Disney World with my parents, my sister, BIL, and nephew, and would plan on everyone paying. I don’t expect my parents to be much help.
We don’t necessarily plan vacations with grandparents, but we invite them to vacations we’re going on anyway. So far we’ve had grandparent at beach house for a week, grandparent at ski condo for a subset of our own trip, grandparent at AirBNB for quick weekend trips to a city or amusement park. One year we did a big family trip with SIL’s family, MIL, and our family all in the same beach house. That time, we split the cost ~60-40 with SIL’s family since we got a much bigger and more expensive house than we would have otherwise done, but they had to pay for flights to the location that was convenient for us (we’re on opposite coasts).
Both sides are divorced, 3 are repartnered, but 2 usually visit us alone. If we’re renting a condo or AirBNB, we just let grandparent stay with us — it’s the same price for us whether or not they come. We also do most of the grocery shopping, but if we go out to dinner and grandparent offers to pay, or if they want to shop for ingredients to make a special meal, they might cover some of the food cost. They usually pay for their own travel, but we often cover MIL’s flights with Southwest points, since we don’t do a ton of air travel and the cost is more of a hardship for her than for us. My parents drive to meet us, FIL pays his own flights. Grandparents are invited on the cruise vacation we’re taking later this year, but if any of them want to come, they will pay for their own room. We did offer to pay MIL’s flight if she want’s to come (she’s waiting to see how covid-19 plays out).
These have all worked out pretty well. We don’t have any expectations about babysitting, but usually DH and I will get at least one night out. The money is not really an issue for us, and we’re happy to have extra time with family. Key is that we’re all pretty go-with-the-flow, and agree that staying in the same place does not mean we need to spend all day together. Often we’ll do our own thing for a chunk of the day, but we have breakfast and dinner together and play games as a family at night.
This is such an interesting topic! Both of our families are relatively spread out (my 2 siblings, parents, and I all live in 4 different cities) so vacation is a cherished time to get a week together. We travel with families on both sides at least once per year. As families grow and have kids on different school schedules, the approach on both sides is to pick a date and destination and everyone does their best to join based on availability, but not everyone can join for every trip (or for the full time).
On both sides, the preferred approach is a villa/house at a larger resort. It provides the best of both worlds in a way in that everyone gets to be together in a house with a kitchen and common gathering spaces, but we can also access resort amenities and everyone has flexibility to do their own thing when they feel like it. It also means resort staff come to do housekeeping (cough, dishes) daily. On both sides, I’d say we do about 75% of activities together, and split off individually or in small groups for other activities. Grandparents are usually happy to have grand kids to themselves for an afternoon or evening so we can go to dinner. It’s special time for them and special time for us.
We typically do breakfast at the house every day, lunch sometimes at the house and sometimes out, and dinner either at a restaurant or have a chef come to the house (which is so delightful, especially when you have young kids who can’t sit still at a restaurant or go to bed early). On our latest trip, we had a chef come for every breakfast and every dinner–it was a tropical island recovering from a hurricane so it was very affordable for us and a wonderful job for island locals in midst of a recovery. That was such a luxury–especially since it meant no dishes!
Very lucky for us, grandparents pay for everything on both sides. Kids usually try to pay for at least one dinner as a “thank you.” As our family grows, I could see wanting more vacations with just our nuclear families, but right now we truly cherish vacation time with parents and siblings since we don’t get it on a more regular basis.