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The Extended Family Vacation

The Extended Family Vacation

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,

My husband and I have been wanting to take our precious girls (ages 5 and 9) to Walt Disney World for many years. This year we were finally able to make it happen and have already booked and paid for a trip for our family of four. Yay! The problem is that when my mom found out she was very upset that she was not invited, she has been wanting to take the kids to Disney for years.

Advice Smackdown ArchivesThe thing is that I love my mom dearly, but she can be a bit of a handful and I have always felt that I mothered her more than the other way around. I feel like this trip will be stressful enough as it is without having someone else to worry about. Also, she does not have the financial means to pay her way, although she will forgo a mortgage payment or her taxes to make it happen and I just do not want that.

I do not think I should feel guilty about taking my family on a (very expensive) vacation on our terms….and yet I DO. I feel awful that her feelings are hurt, I know that she wanted to experience this with her grandchildren. Part of me wants to see if she can fly down for a couple days to join us, but I feel it is just to relieve my guilt and not because I really want her to join us, it will seriously add to the stress, especially my husband’s. I am not sure what to do and your input (and your readers’) would mean a lot!

Bad Daughter

Hmm. I’ve been sitting here with my head cocked to the side like a very confused puppy for awhile now, trying to figure out what I think is the right call…and right when I’m ALMOST there I flip my head over to the OTHER side, because, well, there’s also X, Y and Z, so….

This is a tough one, basically, with a lot of different angles. Jagged, pointy, emotionally-charged angles.

On the one hand, yes, you ABSOLUTELY have the right to take your family on a vacation on your terms, on your dollar, your schedule, whatever, without feeling obligated to bring anyone else along. My family, personally, is not a big “let’s all travel/vacation together” bunch. My husband’s family is the same. We just…don’t. Everybody does their own thing and then shares the photos on Facebook and occasionally my sister and I talk about booking something together, but we haven’t yet and I wouldn’t expect her to like, forgo a trip in the meantime because she and I talked about it once but we couldn’t swing it financially this year or whatever.

So in my world it’s downright BIZARRE to imagine anyone — even a grandparent — getting bent out of shape because they weren’t invited to tag along on a smaller unit’s summer vacation. And while I can totally see the benefits to taking a grandparent along to Disney (free babysitting! extra supervision! long-line-related outsourcing!), I can also completely see how it could make things incredibly stressful and annoying…and come with a high likelihood for crazy-making. No, thank you. Totally not my cup of vacation-y umbrella cocktail.

But. The other hand! Other families are very different when it comes to travel. But even more important than THAT, is this: If Disney was something that your mom had openly discussed with you as her Lifelong Dream and you guys had maybe talked about her coming along in the past but then you went and booked the trip without her anyway…well, that’s different, and I could see why her feelings are so hurt. You say, “she has been wanting to take the kids to Disney for years.” You knew this ahead of time, yes? No? So her reaction is not a complete surprise? Basically, you KNEW how she felt, but you also KNEW you really, really didn’t want to travel with her but didn’t put the kibosh on the issue earlier and/or give her a reasonable heads’ up that you were booking the trip without her, and now you’re stuck between the rock of her misled expectations and the hard place of trying to justify/explain your role in how those expectations got misled in the first place.

Now, if you’re reading that last paragraph and shouting, “No! No! We never talked about it! I had no idea she felt that strongly and this is all coming up just since we booked the trip!” at your computer screen, then…go back to the paragraph before, and enjoy your vacation with a clear conscience and think of this as a good Boundary Setting Example Time. “Mom, I’m really sorry you’re hurt about this, but we simply cannot afford to bring you along, nor can we possibly be okay with you making a dangerous financial decision (i.e. skipping mortgage or taxes) in order to come either.” The end!

But…again…if there is a chance that you did, maybe, possibly, play a bit of a passive-aggressive role in your mom being blindsided by her exclusion, then. Well. It’s up to you to decide whether you played enough of a role to necessitate making it right. Would it really, truly be so terrible to let her come for just part of the trip? Get her a cheap flight and two-day park pass? Especially since she wants it *sobadly* and *somuch* and is *soexcited* that she might be on her best behavior? Do your girls see Grandma through your eyes or through their own more idealized lenses, and would benefit from some extra special memories with her? Is it possible that you guys will go to Disney again in the future, and can tell her to save up $X amount by then so she can come?

You didn’t really elaborate on the reasons WHY you’d rather she not be there, so…I can’t make any kind of judgment call as to whether they’re justifiable reasons or total dealbreakers or just stuff that might not be as big of a thing as you fear. At the very least, though, I’d apologize for handling the situation badly, by booking the trip without telling her ahead of time — that you knew you couldn’t afford for her to come and were afraid she’d do something crazy financially in order to swing it, but now you realize that maybe wasn’t the best approach and you are so sorry her feelings got hurt, etc.

Remember, it won’t just be the trip itself causing the sting. It will be you returning from the trip, sharing photos of the trip, your daughters talking about the trip, etc. If Grandma is being irrationally insert-y here and trying to flat-out guilt-trip you into something you do not want, all this will be slightly easier to brush off. Annoying, but not crazy-guilt-inducing.

But if you look back and can pinpoint specific conversations that made her think, hope or assume she’d be included, well, then you might be feeling all this guilt for a REASON, and it might not go away the minute you unpack your bags post-trip, either.

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About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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