Family Vacations and Coworker Jealousy

family vacations and coworker jealousy

Here’s what is perhaps an odd question: Do you ever feel like there is coworker jealousy surrounding your family vacations? What are your best tips for office etiquette and family vacations — what are the best tips on how to take family vacations without instilling coworker jealousy? (AND: How many “buffer” days to you take off to prepare/recover from your family vacation?)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a vacation with kids is a trip — not a vacation! Still, as we’ve talked about before, many parents schedule regular family vacations, which means it may “feel” to coworkers like you’re going on lots of “fun trips.” (I vaguely remember feeling like this when I was a single girl working in BigLaw — and I think there’s definitely a difference to be made in “messaging” around the vacation.) Furthermore, because you may already know the upcoming dates and schedules for school and so forth, you may book the vacation and have it calendared FAR in advance — and that may make coworkers feel like you’re “taking” the best vacation dates. (We got into this a bit with our discussion of holidays, vacations, and office etiquette over at Corporette.)

So let’s talk about it: Do you ever feel like there is coworker jealousy about family vacations? Do you try to carefully handle your messaging about it, such as keeping your out-of-office message simple instead of detailed, particularly if your vacation is an obviously expensive trip like a cruise or a week at Disneyland?

A related question on the self-care side of things: How do you relax when you come back from your “vacation”? Do you take another vacation day for yourself to have a slow, lazy day, preferably with your kids back in daycare or school? Indulge yourself in a massage or a date night?

Psst: You may also want to check out our last discussion on the best family vacation resorts for working parents, Kat’s tips for flying with kids and using Airbnb with kids. If you’re got really little kids and are dreading lugging all of your STUFF with you on vacation, check out this post on companies that rent baby gear for vacations so you can have it waiting at your destination.

Picture via Shutterstock / Willow Dempsey.

Do you ever feel like there is coworker jealousy surrounding your family vacations? What are your best tips for office etiquette and family vacations -- what are the best tips on how to take family vacations without instilling coworker jealousy? (AND: How many "buffer" days to you take off to prepare/recover from your family vacation?)


  1. Boston Legal Eagle says:

    I have the opposite feeling at my office – those without kids seem like they take some great (real!) vacations, some for multiple weeks, while those of us with kids talk about the logistical nightmares of travelling with little ones and end up not going very far. I try not to be too jealous of them b/c obviously I chose this life with kids and it’s just a season of my life, but I do listen fondly to their vacation stories!

    For our most recent family trip, we came back on a Thursday and brought our son back to daycare that Friday so that we could have that extra day as a buffer to unpack and relax, in addition to the weekend before going back to work. I definitely recommend leaving at least a day or two when you come back before work to catch up and transition back into real life, preferably with someone else doing the childcare! We’re also doing a real vacation with just the two of us at the end of this month, courtesy of my parents babysitting. We did this last year too and it was amazing.

    My OOO messages are pretty generic – just noting when I’m out, when I’ll be back. I haven’t seen anyone here put specifics in their messages, beyond something like they’re travelling internationally and may be slow to respond. This can mean work travel too.

    • +1 Pretty sure my younger co-worker going to Italy is not jealous of our family trip to PA.

    • Yeah, pre-kids I would usually one big international trip/year, a trip to FL to defrost in the winter and maybe a couple of long weekends to somewhere within driving distance. Post-kids has been a lot less exciting so I don’t know that anyone is envying my vacations at work.

      One thing I like to do now is schedule the return flight for early-ish in the day so that I have the rest of the day to “recover.” Pre-kids me tried to squeeze every last minute out of a trip and I always booked late flights but I find that if I can have most of the day at home when we get back, I come back to work much more well-rested.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah I thought this was such a weird post! Pretty sure no single people are jealous of their co-worker schlepping three kids to Disneyland.

      I actually struggled with co-worker jealousy pre-kids because DH and I took a lot of luxury vacations when we were DINKs. Most of my coworkers are single or men supporting a family with a wife who stays home, so they don’t have as much cash for travel as we did. Having a baby has actually made it more equal. We still travel, but it’s mostly to see family or to do kid-friendly things, which tend to be inherently more budget-friendly. We’re not going to be staying in an overwater bungalow in French Polynesia any time soon.

      I’ve never seen an OOO message that specifies where the person is going. It’s just “I’m on vacation, returning June 18th. In my absence please contact ___.” Or something like that. Sometimes people will note if they’re on work travel vs personal but I’ve never seen anyone “I’m in the South of France for the next two weeks.” I think that would be so weird.

      • Agree this seems weird and I’ve never heard of coworkers being jealous of others’ vacations, regardless of whether or not kids are involved.

  2. Also – we have to spend more vacation time going home for family holidays b/c we don’t want to just have the kids skip them and can’t just fly out at night/early AM as easily, so I think we have less time available for fun vacations than co-worker w/o kids.

  3. pickle says:

    I also have the opposite issue! As a Federal employee, I have no paid parental leave. I can’t take a paid vacation because I used all my days for maternity leave. I also currently don’t have a vacation budget due to the high cost of daycare in DC and no Federal health insurance coverage for IVF.

    • Anonymous says:

      I work for a state but same boat. Just came back from leave and hoping that I can take an extended weekend by end of summer.

    • Lana Del Raygun says:

      Ha, I was literally crying last night from the stress of trying to hoard leave before my baby comes! I used to think how once I had a real job instead of a string of summer research gigs I would finally be able to go on vacation with my family again. Oops.

  4. We travel a lot with our two kids, but have never experienced co-worker jealousy. Maybe because I work with a mature team full of mostly DINKs, so they travel a lot as well. we have a decently low pressure job, and a large team, so we don’t have to coordinate vacations.

    I get annoyed at the: “that would be way more fun without the kids” “I bet you can’t wait to travel without them” comments, even though I know they don’t mean anything by them. I actually love travelling with my kids, and find it to be really fun.

    My OOO message is always very generic.

    • I get mildly annoyed by the assumptions that I will never go anywhere fun again. Now, people just seem to want to give me tips on places I have no desire to go to, kids or no kids. I know they’re just being nice/friendly but I think the part of me that just wants to continue travelling to “fun” places is annoyed at the implication that I’ll never get to do that again. So more of a “me” issue really.

    • Anonymous says:

      Totally agree with your second paragraph. There’s nothing wrong with parents getting away alone once in a while but it bums me out how many of my (well-off) friends leave the kids at the grandparents every time they travel. Traveling with kids can be tiring, but I genuinely love seeing my little ones discover the world and I feel like they get so much out of it too.

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree. I have lots of friends whose kids rarely, if ever, get to travel with the parents. It is just not our style for the vast majority of our vacations.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am happy to see these responses that I totally relate to. We just don’t have the type of family that will watch our kids for like a week long vacation, so all of our trips will basically be with kids from here on out. That being said, I also love traveling with our kids. We both work full time jobs, so I love the chance to get uninterrupted time with them and watch them explore a new place and new experiences.

      Because of this, I too get mildly annoyed at the passive comments about how our trips with kids won’t be fun or will be nothing but work for us, even though I know the person saying it is probably just making conversation. I think it is coming from a place where they assume we will do a vacation without kids once in awhile, but since we can’t, really they are just implying that all of our trips going forward will suck without realizing it.

      (I have nothing against parents that do a big trip once in awhile without kids – I’m sure if we could we would! – but just keep in mind that isn’t possible for everyone).

  5. I don’t think this is a thing in my office, or if it is, I have managed to stay out of the loop somehow. There are four attorneys in my department (intellectual property – 3 attorneys until recently). My boss’s only “rule” is that we all not be out for extended periods at the same time. It has never been an issue.

    • Do any of your coworkers have kids? I am in a small department (8 attorneys), and every year, 3 or 4 of us take the same week off in April. It’s unfortunate (because we all end up working more than we otherwise would), but all of us are tied to the same school calendar (even though it’s not the same district).

      • My boss has three kids. The youngest is nearing the end of college. My child is 2.5. Another coworker has a 1 year old. The new attorney is single with no children. We’ve kind of lucked out as far as having people in different life stages so far. I used the quotes for the “rule”, because it isn’t written in stone. We’ve all taken the same days off around the holidays before. The main thing is that someone is available by email or for at least a phone call in case there is a true emergency. We can’t all be off the grid at the same time for more than a day or so. It’s really just never been an issue yet.

  6. avocado says:

    Co-worker envy of family vacations is totally a thing in my office, even though it makes absolutely zero sense. We get one set of PTO days to cover both vacation and sick leave, so parents are always using up all our PTO for school closures and sick kids and have problems saving up enough PTO to take an actual vacation. Then when I do manage to take a vacation, one particular childless co-worker likes to send me vitriolic e-mails about how I am leaving him with all the work. Never mind that this guy takes more vacations than I do, during which I never bother him…

  7. We don’t have a vacation budget; once every other year we travel halfway around the world to visit my family. Very small office (~12 people) and definitely no coworker envy here. I would like a vacation…!!

  8. CPA Lady says:

    I’m taking my darling 3 yo, who has recently been acting like she is possessed by a demon, on a two hour drive after work to the city with an airport with direct flights, staying in a hotel over night, followed by a nearly 5 hour flight tomorrow morning, all solo. Plus two suitcases, two carry ons, and a carseat. Just call me pack mule. Woo “vacation”! Pray for me.

    • Boston Legal Eagle says:

      Wow, all that and doing it solo? I hope there is a large margarita (or your preferred drink of choice) and a crew of family waiting to watch the kiddo on the other side.

    • You can do it!

      You didn’t ask for tips, but I fly solo with my two young kids pretty often. My go-to is to have a bunch of activities and snacks in small 1/2 cup tupperwares or baggies. You can pull one out every half hour or so for a new distraction. Also ask the flight attendants for a two cups and an ice cube, and let her play with that for a while.

      Activity ideas – mini playdough tub with a mini cookie cutter, cheerios with string to string them on (and then eat), those WaterWow painting books – they usually sell in bigger airport stores, pom pom balls with a clothespin to pick them up, M&Ms to sort into colors (and then eat), sticker books, grapes and toothpicks to build shapes (and then eat), cut up plastic straws with yarn to thread them on, small animal toys with lengths of yarn to wrap them in cocoons and then unwrap again, goldfish crackers that they can line up or make patterns with (and then eat).

      • shortperson says:

        this is a great list. the only thing i would add is to bring silicon muffin cups and request ice (and napkins!) from the flight attendants

  9. NewMomAnon says:

    I realized this weekend that I haven’t taken a vacation other than trips to the shore with kiddo in 4 years. My first instinct was, “I should fix that!” and my next thought was….”or maybe not.” But the idea of a tropical vacation in January is appealing.

    • Pigpen's Mama says:

      If you can swing the cost — Disney Cruises are pretty amazing and sometimes relaxing for parents. Especially if it’s just you and kiddo (I think that’s the case, but I may be mixing up posters). My preschooler who normally complains about not being my shadow was asking to go to the kid’s club on her own, which was AWESOME.

      • NewMomAnon says:

        I’ve looked at those. My experience with cruises was very regimented and scheduled though – you have to show up for shore excursions at a set time, be back at a set time, show up for dinner at your appointed time, etc. Kiddo really loves to just lounge and take her time, especially on vacation – I worry that she’d hate being scheduled on a cruise. I’d probably be looking at a week at an all-inclusive resort where we could hit the beach whenever we want, take naps as we want, and be spontaneous. But not this year, sadly. Not in the budget, either money-wise or time-wise.

        • Anonymous says:

          Beaches Resorts!! Very spendy but they have great kids clubs and she can just hang out at the beach or pool if she prefers.

  10. Pigpen's Mama says:

    Hah! No — like most of you, it’s the opposite. I’m envious of their trips to exotic locations over Thanksgiving break while I’m in a Residence Inn in a mid-western suburb visiting my husband’s family.

    Generally speaking, everyone in our office is pretty good about respecting our co-worker’s “vacation” time — the higher-ups protect the time of the people they supervise, with the understanding that no one takes advantage of it and you haven’t left anyone in the lurch. That being said, I don’t think anyone in our group has not had at least one vacation or trip interrupted by a work crisis…just not all of them.

  11. Has anyone taken their child to the optometrist? My 6 year old is blinking nonstop and squinting. My eyesight started going at 7 or 8 so I’m going to take her in for an eye exam. Should I look for a pediatric optometrist, or is a regular optometrist OK? I’m concerned that if we go to a regular optometrist and she needs glasses, we’ll have to go somewhere else for kids glasses. Any experience/advice?

    • Oops! I did not meant to post this in the themed thread but would appreciate feedback all the same!

      • My parents took me to their optometrist when I needed glasses at age 7. They had a decent selection of kids’ glasses there.

    • NewMomAnon says:

      I’ve bought kids glasses for myself at the regular optometrist before (small face, cheaper frames), so they’ll have a few options. But in general, if you have access to a pediatric optometrist, it’s likely to be a better experience. They’ll probably have kid-size equipment, charts meant for early readers or non-readers, strategies for dealing with kid-length attention spans, a kid-friendly waiting room, and a bigger selection of kids glasses. Good luck!

    • I take mine to my optometrist. (In California the visit before age 1 was free, not sure if that’s still true.) When they were babies, my optometrist had someone who was specially trained in pediatrics (and had the kit), but that person has left so the regular optometrist does the exams (now they are school-aged, so it’s fine). My office has a decent selection of kids glasses as well as fun Japanese erasers, but you probably want to check beforehand.

    • KS anon says:

      Maybe ask around at her school for a recommendation. MY DH is an OD and sees lots of kids,but in Kansas ODs can’t advertise a specialty, so searching for a “pediatric optometrist” around here wouldn’t be helpful. At his office the front desk will generally schedule kids with him versus the other OD since kids and parents like him, and he’s the younger OD there. Maybe ask about the selection for kids when you call and that could give you an idea about how much of their practice is children?

  12. Question for the hive: I am currently four months pregnant and live apart from DH (I am trying to move to his city). A great job in gov’t came up in his city that I am very qualified for; however, there’s no way I’d want to start before having the baby. The added wrinkle is that I have almost six months of maternity leave saved up, which means that ideally, I wouldn’t want to start a new job until almost 10 months from now. I realize this is not realistic for almost any job, including a government one. Should I apply anyway and see where the chips fall? For all I know, I might not even get an interview.

    • NewMomAnon says:

      You’ll never get it if you don’t apply…if they like you, you may be able to negotiate a start date.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would apply. 10 months might be a little but of a stretch, but it might now. I’ve interviewed for about half a dozen government jobs, and the fastest from application deadline to first interview was 4 months. Most have been closer to 6 months, and then, if you get it, you still have to do the background process.

  13. Totally the opposite. Did MUCH more interesting travel before kids. Dramatically more interesting – safaris, Galapagos, that sort of thing – and older coworkers with families were sometimes a little jealous (but not to the point it was any kind of problem, more just that they wished they could go to some of these places). Family vacations now are very uninteresting to anyone besides parents of similarly aged children who want to know if the destination ended up being as family friendly as hoped. Very confusing post.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m taking my 8 year old on safari this summer, and we will probably do Galapagos in 2-3 years! Interesting trips are possible with kids, they just have to be a bit older.

      • Anonymous says:

        But I totally agree with your broader point. I think childless people generally take more frequent and more interesting vacations.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Oh my god this is some absolutely insane nonsense.

  15. BigLaw Sr Assoc says:

    This is a weird post – I don’t know where to start.

    One thing – no one thinks families with kids get the “best” weeks. They generally go in the summer – those are the worst weeks for crowds and summer heat in a lot of places. We typically take a spring in fall and spring, even with kids for those reasons. I’d rather our family have a better vacation experience – they can miss a week of school, they’ll be fine.

  16. I have to agree that there is something off about this post. I cringed at the question, “What are your best tips for how to take family vacations without instilling coworker jealousy?“

    My answer: none. If a coworker is jealous that I’m taking a vacation, the only thing I can do is hope that the vacation ends up being as good as my coworker thinks it will be.

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