When You Vacation With Family, Who Pays?

guilt trip

I’m back from my family reunion, and I can subtract a little more off my summer travel budget; although I estimated I would spend $150 over the long weekend, I ended up spending $56.50.

On this trip, my parents covered the bulk of the vacation costs. They paid for the hotel suite we shared, the rental car, etc. (I did offer to buy them dinner, but it was lovingly refused.) So my expenses included the Bolt Bus ticket back to Seattle, my contribution to the cost of our family reunion lunch, and a meal with friends in Portland.

That tends to be how our trips go, too. I pay for my travel and expenses when it’s just me (like the flight home for Christmas—although my parents have helped with that during some of the leaner years), and then they pay for dinners, etc. while we’re together.

The “who pays when adult children travel with parents” question is probably the sort of thing that will shift back and forth over the course of both the children and parents’ lives, depending on the family. There are so many factors involved: who’s doing the bulk of the traveling, who currently has the higher income and discretionary spending capacity, whether the parents are retired, whether the children have kids of their own, whether the daughter regularly posts her income and expenses to a website so her parents know exactly how much money she has to spend.

So I could sit and worry about “but what does it all mean,” the whole business of what parents pay for and what adult children pay for and whether it is equitable and how it reflects my own adulthood, and I used to do that, and then I stopped. (Hat tip to my therapist on that one.) I don’t need to hold up a debit card at dinner so I can see my own adulthood reflected in it, though I will also always lovingly offer because come on, we’re family.

But let’s turn it over to you all. Three questions:

1. When you travel with your parents, who pays? (If you have adult children, you can also describe what happens when you travel with your children.)

2. Has this balance of “who pays” changed over the course of your adulthood?

3. Do you worry about “what does it all mean,” or are you pretty much “yes, this is how my family does it, it may change in the future, but that’ll be something to figure out when it happens?”


This story is part of our Travel Month series.



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