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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.

If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected]

Published April 22, 2011. Last updated June 24, 2018.
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 [email protected].

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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  • KimC

    April 22, 2011 at 9:39 am

    OH my god, the similarities between your situation and mine are CRAZY. Here are the facts. Two years ago, my Mother in law told my oldest daughter that if she would potty train, MIL would take her to Disney world. When she was two. Without asking either of her parents. Needless to say, kid has been potty trained for a while now and uh, she has not been on an out of state trip with my MIL as a reward. Then, this happens. My brother and his wife+ two kids, wanted to do a Disney trip, Asked if we would like to go at around the same time, kids have loads of fun, etc. Husband and I are Disney FREAKS, said yes.Then my husband starts to feel bad about telling his mom no earlier, and invites her. So NOW, I appreciate the extra hands and all, but MIL gets all weird around my family, the discipline style is completely different (my brother and I= FIRM, MIL= lets do whatever the kids want, forever! Candy before breakfast! Beat on your sister! Yayayayayayay!) and I am just nervous. Plus she totally steals my parental JOY- She has previously bought something that she KNEW we were getting for the oldest and given it to her before we could.

    Basically, I feel your pain? And yeah, if you can get away with only a partially shared vacation, you might do that, or not share it at all.

  • Brittany

    April 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

    My mother also has a habit of getting her feelings hurt over being “left out”.  She still has not forgiven me for not letting her be in the delivery room when my daughter was born.  And she didn’t just want to be in the room; she wanted to be right there to like, catch her or something.  My husband and I wanted the birthing experience to be a slightly more private affair so we made her sit in the waiting room and she didn’t get to meet her first grandchild until she was ten minutes old!  I still feel awful about depriving her of that experience, but I was also irritated that she wouldn’t let it go– I was the one having the baby, shouldn’t my feelings matter?  Anyway, I’m not the one to be giving advice but I guess I’m saying enjoy your vacation.  Mothers are great at laying down the guilt but you have to do what’s best for you and your family.

  • Alanna

    April 23, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    The fact that you said having your mother along will make the vacation very stressful for your husband suggests that it would not be the best idea for your family to bring your mother along. How would you feel if your husband wanted to bring your MIL along on vacation and it would stress you out?

    Grandparents do not have a right to come on vacation with you, even if they want to come or even if they can afford to pay their own way. They should only come with you if they will actually make your vacation more fun, not less fun.

  • Andie

    April 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Personally, regardless of whether or not you intentionally or unintentionally led her on or not, I would apologize for upsetting her. I would also tell her that you will let her know far in advance of your next Disney trip so she can plan and save. Go on a Disney cruise so that Grandma can hang with the kids and you and Dad can sneak off and have fun too! I can’t stand my MIL period so I’d have no problem telling her in a possibly civil way to butt out. But, again, you have to think of the kiddos for next time. Would they have more fun with her their to share the experience when y’all go again?

  • Dawn

    April 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    We’re Disney people, and from the letter, I’m guessing that you’re staying on property, so it isn’t as simple as getting her a cheap flight and a two day park pass. Most Disney hotel rooms only accommodate 4 people, so she’d need a room, and even if you could get her a room at one of the “value” resorts, you’d still be dealing with coordinating transportation to meet places, etc.

    Perhaps you could say that you’d love to plan a future trip with her where you could rent a condo/house off property and all stay together? I agree with Andie, above, who said that apologizing for upsetting her would be a good thing.

    We’re actually heading to WDW on Wednesday with our kids (yay). I’ve done big trips with extended family, trips where we stayed off site in a house, trips with friends and trips with just our family…they can all work, as long as you plan ahead and manage everyone’s expectations (you don’t have to spend every waking minute with your vacation companions!).

    Whatever you ultimately do, have a great trip!

  • gizella

    April 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    hmm. I second the person who says to say how sorry you are upset, and to say to plan something for the future. You could say that you would like to start a family tradition of one trip of just the 4 of you each year. I don’t think you have to make her a reservation…The thing about making your own family is that you should and must make the best decisions for all four of you. Would be okay for the kids to have grandma there? Is it going to enhance their trip, NO, because omg disney. Is it going to put a strain on you, it sounds like it….I think your best bet is to go on this one alone, or try to involve planning something else affordable with your mom for next year. If I had a dime for everytime my mom has been offended with our parenting and such…

  • Tracy

    April 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I wouldn’t do it. If you already know that it will be a problem, then it will be a problem. We just did Disney with both grandmothers and it was a problem. Yes, the extra hands are nice, but your kids are 5 and 9, they’ll be great! It was stressful and our relationship has been strained since we returned. Don’t do it.

  • Jessicawp

    April 26, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    My husband and I plan on taking my Dad and stepmother when we take the boys to Disney in a few years but we like to vacation with my parents. Last year they came to the beach with us and we all had a blast. On the other hand my husband’s aunt came with us on vacation two years ago and it was not fun at all, we did not mesh well and will not take her again, no matter how much she hints to it every time we go out of time for even one night. It is our vacation time and we want it to be enjoyable and relaxing.

  • Bad daughter

    May 5, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Thank you to everyone (especially Amalah) for your comments. As it turns out, though, I reached out to my mom and expressed how sorry I was that her feelings were hurt, but we really wanted this trip to be just our family. She apologized to me for acting immaturely. I do think she understands and is OK with it, she even bought the girls Disney gift cards to spend at the park. However, I still try not to talk too much about it with her because I know it stings a bit. We are planning to take a trip with her to visit her family in the summer and she wants to take my oldest daughter to Washington DC soon, which will be fine. Thanks again for your thoughts!

    Isabel: Thank you for sharing how the situation got resolved. Have a great time with your family at Disney.