Family Vacation. To go or not to go.
February 25, 2015 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I need help deciding if I need to suck it up and go on a family vacation and if I don't, how to deal with the guilt of missing out on family events.

So earlier this year, my SO's family invited us to a ten-day cruise in June, and we accepted. Both of us dislike cruises generally, but he wanted to spend time with his grandparents, and honestly, I kind of wanted to go to Alaska for free, so it wasn't him dragging me along. A month later, my family decides they want to go on a seven-day cruise in the Caribbeans in April and invites us.

I am torn. I have two nieces and parents in their 60s who've just recently started taking vacations again, so I feel really obligated to join. On the other hand, I reeeeallly don't want to go on two cruises in two months. We're not the cruise type of people, and just did a different Caribbean cruise last year with them and this just sounds miserable. I could go on my own, but it'd be that much more miserable without my SO, who doesn't want to go but will because he's nice. This also cuts into a lot of my vacation time, and leaves me with four days left for the rest of the year. It's also not the best time for my work.

So I've already told them no because I thought I was out of vacation days and this would need unpaid days off. They were understanding about it, and I said we'd do something in the summer, but I know it won't be another "big" trip until next year. But then I recalculated and realized I do have enough days left. So now I feel even worse, and feel like I'll feel guilty if I take any other trips this year since I've turned down the family one.

Any advice? I feel like I'll feel bad either way, but I just don't know which is worse. And if I don't go, how do I deal with the guilt that follows?

note: i live three hours away and normally drive to see them about once/month or two months.
posted by monologish to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think you made the right decision.

Plan something nice with your family later in the year.

I love cruises, but man, if I have to cruise the Caribbean one more time.....
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:19 AM on February 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

It sounds like you really don't want to go on the Caribbean cruise, so don't go.

It doesn't matter how many vacation days, etc. Only do things that you want to do.
posted by Flamingo at 10:20 AM on February 25, 2015 [18 favorites]

but I know it won't be another "big" trip until next year

You don't want to go on 2 cruises in 2 months which is totally understandable.

If it was your last chance to go on a big vacation with your family, I'd urge you to do it ... but since you say there will be another big trip next year, I think you'll be ok declining this time and planning something you'll enjoy!
posted by JenThePro at 10:30 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

You don't owe your vacation days, or your vacations, to your parents.
posted by jaguar at 10:37 AM on February 25, 2015 [16 favorites]

Two cruises in two months sounds completely miserable to me, especially if it's going to be cutting into limited vacation time...even if it's not completely zero-ing you out, four days for the entire rest of the year sounds not-fun if you're wasting those days on something you do not wish to be doing. Also, it depends on you job of course, but I can imagine that with many jobs it would be sort of not cool to be taking so much vacation time over 2 months that aren't the winter holidays, even if you technically have the days (this depends on your industry -- for me, it would be tolerated but sort of looked at as not the best choice).

It sounds like you get to see your family pretty frequently as it is -- I would let go of the guilt and just plan your life around what you want to do. I haven't gone on a family vacation since I was in high school (that is, with my parents -- my fiance and I travel with each other). I don't think it's BAD to still be doing the family vacation thing, but I certainly don't think it's required for close family relationships. I prefer to do visits in one hometown or the other (i.e. family visiting us in our city, or us visiting our parents where they are) and then save the vacations for romantic, just-us time. Obviously lots of ways to arrange this, but point being that love isn't measured in how many cruises you go on!
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:39 AM on February 25, 2015

So, you went on a Caribbean cruise with your family last year, your SO's family invited you on a different cruise this year, and then your family invited you on yet another Caribbean cruise? You have multiple ways to say no to this:
  • An alternating year family trip schedule (last year your family, this year your SO's, next year yours again);
  • Too many vacation days;
  • Too many cruises (TBH even two cruises is two more than I'd want to go on, ever);
  • Other (like, "us" time for just you and your SO).
Pick one or more, and don't fret about it at all. FWIW we've sort of laid down the law with our families that we're going to alternate major holidays and no-travel years. Everybody understands that this is how it works and there is only a minimal amount of guilt applied.
posted by fedward at 10:42 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think you already made the right choice. Enjoy your time with your SO and their family, do something small-scale with your family on a weekend, and enjoy your remaining vacation days - all 11 of them - whenever you like during more ideal times of year.
posted by Urban Winter at 10:57 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

It sounds like your family may be starting a tradition of doing a Caribbean cruise every year. Best that you bow out now instead of being penciled-in to a schedule of endless annual cruises. Chewing up an entire week of vacation on a boat you don't want to be on sounds awful. Whether or not you actually have vacation days to spend is a non-issue.

You see your parents far more frequently than many adults manage. Stop feeling guilty.
posted by quince at 11:09 AM on February 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

Normally, I regret the things I don't do rather than the things I do, but I think this is the real exception. I would so much more regret going than not. Tell the family to send lots of pictures, maybe even Skype you in one night to say hello.
posted by 724A at 11:22 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

And if I don't go, how do I deal with the guilt that follows?

For your own guilt, remind yourself that time you choose to spend with them on your own terms will be more meaningful and loving than time you're forced to spend with them; and time you spend doing something you enjoy will be more fun than time spent on a cruise. For external guilt trips, deflect to remind them of times you are spending with them, ways that you do show you love the family. Take a long weekend with them over the summer, and drop the hint "too bad about the Caribbean, but I'm really glad I had enough vacation days to be here now" or whenever they guilt you about the cruise, start making plans for another visit (that will use all those vacation days you've saved just for them!)

Also, don't leap off onto a guilt trip that they're not really sending you on - if someone says "We did X, Y, and Z, and it was awesome, I only wish you could've been there." then you could interpret two ways. Maybe they're throwing guilt - "I would have been happier if you'd been there" - and you feel the need to apologize. Or you could interpret that to be an apology from them - "we had such a good time! we were so happy! Oh, wait, I didn't mean to rub it in that we were having a good time without you, let me reassure you that we missed you." If you don't have voices in your head telling you that you ruined their vacation by your absence, then you're free to interpret everything they say as them apologizing for doing things without you. "Gosh, it's so nice of you to say so! I missed you, too, but I'm so glad you had a good time! Tell me more about Z!"
posted by aimedwander at 12:58 PM on February 25, 2015

It was never easy, but in the past I had very real work obligations such that I had to bow out of these kinds of things. I always felt badly about it - did I really need to work? And etc. But looking back on it, my career (and thus my immediate family's well-being) are arguably in a much better place now because I carefully chose to make some of these kinds of sacrifices. I'm just saying: in theory I should be able to take a vacation anytime I want to. In practice, many jobs won't let you get away with that. If you think your job is like that - then it probably is.

Although I'll warn you that you really do need to try to maintain a balance: my parents passed on several years ago. So I don't regret any of the times I did go with the "extended family vacation", either.

From what you've written, if I were you I'd bow out of the Caribbean cruise and announce an intention to alternate every year between your family and your SO's family. And as much as it reeks of "first world problems", maybe put in a word for something other than the Caribbean as a destination.
posted by doctor tough love at 1:05 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the future, I'd look for a win-win solution so that you can get the hell outta Dodge for some quality vacation time with your family without being guilted into a big cruise vacation (on short notice!) that isn't your cup of tea. Assuming your parents are reasonable people whom you can actually discuss things with, why don't you suggest planning some sort of family getaway for 2016 that isn't a cruise?
posted by drlith at 1:44 PM on February 25, 2015

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