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Whose "Vacation" is it?

A new trend is popping up for my clients these days. The clients are all on different Baby Steps and many of them have very generous parents. In fact, their parents are so generous that they decide to go on vacation and invite their kids and grandkids to come along.

Here’s one client story:

The husband of the couple (and dad of two boys) explains that they’re leaving for Hawaii on March 15 for 9 days. Originally, the offer from his parents was to come to Hawaii to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Nobody would want to miss that, right? The parents offered to pay for the airfare and lodging for this family of four.

For those of you who have been to Hawaii in the past couple of years, you know how much the airfare and lodging are and what a gift this could be. If you are parents you also know about the endless requests from the kids for food, excursions, and souvenirs. These expenses can add up quickly for a family of four. What could have been a blessing could become burdensome because the family didn’t budget to take care of the extra expenses. This is the first time we’ve worked together so we talked about what it could look like for them to use their budget this month and some savings to avoid putting anything on the credit card during their trip.

I love being generous and I love generous people. We all have different ways of being generous though. Many parents who are approaching retirement or who are already retired want their kids and grandkids to have fun with them during this precious time of their lives. With rising costs of travel, food, etc. it is harder for parents to pay for an all-inclusive trip for their family members. When there isn’t a clear conversation about who is responsible for what expense, it can become even more uncomfortable emotionally and financially than if the invitation was never extended in the first place.

Challenges are arising for my clients for a few reasons.

  1. There isn’t a clear explanation of who is paying and for what they are paying.

  2. A discussion hasn’t occurred beforehand about what the expectations or desired outcomes are for the vacation.

  3. Client budgets are thwarted, and the “vacation” doesn’t really feel like a vacation. It feels like an obligation and can result in spending beyond the budget.

  4. Creates a cycle of unreasonable expectations on each side of the family.

Here are some of the strategies that my clients and I came up with when facing the opportunity to go on a “vacation” with their family.

  1. Save each month for vacations, both planned and unplanned

  2. Communicate gratitude for the invitation/offer

  3. Decide and communicate what YOU want to see if there’s a way that everyone can enjoy the vacation. It’s your vacation too! I know this can be difficult and extremely uncomfortable. Trust me, doing this now will help you in the long run by setting some clear expectations and boundaries about what you and your family are and aren’t willing to do.

  4. Practice saying no. I promise, it will not kill you.

  5. Take responsibility for your happiness and STOP blaming others for your situation. I love this quote by Dr. Henry Cloud: “If you continue to blame other people for “making” you feel guilty, they still have power over you, and you are saying that you will only feel good when they stop doing that. You are giving them control over your life. Stop blaming other people.” Henry Cloud, Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No

I want my clients to feel empowered and to focus on the things they can control. Whether or not you decide to go on a vacation is something that can be controlled. I implore adult "kids" with retired parents to be clear about what you want when a vacation invitation/offer is made. If an offer can’t or won’t bring you joy, think twice about accepting the invitation.

As I had this conversation with one client, he asked, “do you talk about this kind of thing with other clients?” My simple answer is “yes.” The topics of priorities and boundaries come up a lot when talking about vacations and other budget categories.

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