High Cost of visiting during Holidays
October 6, 2017 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Should my wife and I spend the money to go visit family during the holidays?

My in laws are hoping that my wife and I will come out to visit them for the holidays this year. They are trying to do their best to get all of their kids and family together for the holidays which does not happen very often. I like my in laws. And my wife gets along pretty well with her parents. The issue here is that the cost of the trip when everything is all said and done...plane tickets, boarding our dog, food, etc. is probably gonna hover around $2,000. Financially my wife and I do fine though we are in no way rich. I think the biggest thing on our minds is, do we wanna spend this kind of money on visiting family during the holidays? Both of us, actually my wife more so seems to think we'd get more out of our money in other ways. We don't usually visit family during the holidays due to cost. When we do visit them(not during holidays) we can easily do so for less then half of that. Obviously the cost is jacked up because it's the holiday time and I don't think plane tickets are coming down...probably will go up. My wife's mom is subtly but surely trying to push us to come. Would it be wrong for us to turn it down? $2,000 is not chump change. They offered to chip in for the cost but I feel funny about that. Any thoughts here are helpful.
posted by ljs30 to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If they can easily afford to chip in, let them and then go! It sounds like you'd enjoy the trip and they'd like to have you there.

I recently paid half the cost for a friend to visit me at an expensive time - she could have paid the full amount, but it would have been a hit to her budget. I couldn't easily travel myself and she could easily travel but not pay. We both wanted to spend time together, so she let me pay the difference between normal flights and the more expensive ones. 100% worth it for me - I'm so glad she let me pay part of the cost and so glad I got to see her!
posted by insectosaurus at 3:44 PM on October 6 [10 favorites]

Holidays are special. Yes, it's irrational, but particularly for the folks who host, there is an enormous emotional value in Having Everyone There Together To Celebrate.

If the cost is problematic then accept the money they offered you. They'd much rather send you a check to help you come than be told "no, we don't care about being with you and the family for the holidays." You can feel fine accepting a check for the difference between what it takes to come at holiday time vs what you'd have paid in the off season.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:44 PM on October 6 [32 favorites]

From what you say, the whole extended family is rarely all together at once. If it looks like everyone else is going to be able to make it this year, then this is the year to go. I'd think if it as a one time family reunion and decide whether that is worth the extra cost. For me that would warrant the extra cost and hassle of holiday travel, but YMMV.

Oh and I'd let them chip in. They love their family and if the cost of helping everyone be together is worth it to them, then it is. They're adults.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 3:56 PM on October 6 [10 favorites]

Tell them that their financial contribution to help pay for the trip is their holiday gift to you, if that helps defray some of the awkwardness of their offer?
posted by misterbrandt at 3:56 PM on October 6 [12 favorites]

+1 vote for: time spent together during the holidays feels worth the extra money. (Dangit.)

Depending on your family, it might feel more comfortable if your in-laws could cover 100% of the cost of one item, and then you'd handle the rest of the (admittedly increased) expenses. For example, if they could 100% cover the cost of dog boarding while you continued to pay for everything else as normal, that might be less awkward for everyone. They could also send you an airline gift card, enabling you to apply that toward the purchase of your flights.
posted by samthemander at 3:58 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]

My family chooses a different weekend in December and pretends it's the holidays - we're so good that my nieces and nephews have confused their teachers with "It's Christmas tomorrow!" when everyone else is celebrating in another week or two. It gets around the split attention of sharing my siblings with in-laws and others, and eases the pain and expense of travel during the busiest weekends. It works really well for us, though may not work for more sentimental families. May be an option for you? Travel in the first two weeks of December is generally really cheap!
posted by valeries at 4:17 PM on October 6 [3 favorites]

I think if it's a larger gathering and doesn't happen that often, you might need to bite the bullet and pay the money. In the future, you might raise the idea of a one-every-few-years gathering during the summer break instead when it's less expensive and hectic to travel, but people don't have to pull their kids out of school to do it.

(I just had to make a similar decision, so I feel you on the cost.)
posted by vunder at 4:20 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]

I don't even really like the holidays that much but I still think you should go. If the parents are financially comfortable, I'm sure they would really love to pay half of the cost of the plane tickets to have you there rather than to hear you say 'we aren't coming for financial reasons'. Also...these are the sort of decisions that you save money on and rationalize in the short term and will probably regret later on...
posted by bquarters at 4:46 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]

Fine, I'll be the morbid one. If this is unusual behavior for your in-laws -- in trying to organize a big holiday gathering, to point where they're offering to foot part of your travel cost because it's so important to them that you be there -- are you certain they're both in good health? That everything's all right in the extended family? (Veteran of a few large family get-togethers that preceded bad-news announcements, here.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:53 PM on October 6 [8 favorites]

Even if they are in good health, you don’t know how long they’re going to be around. They’ve told you it’s important to them. They’ve offered to help with the cost. Accept the money and go.

(Veteran of sudden, completely unexpected death of parent.)
posted by FencingGal at 5:10 PM on October 6 [16 favorites]

samthemander mentioned this above too: if you feel awkward accepting a vague transfer of money, you could accept their offer for a specific thing. How about letting them buy your wife's plane ticket?
posted by reeddavid at 5:22 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]

Look at it this way. If they are willing to pay the 'holiday tax' on travel costs so they can see you at that particular time, it would neither be polite nor understandable not to take them up on the offer. In other words, what excuse would you have not to go? Your own embarrassment?
posted by Thella at 5:25 PM on October 6 [5 favorites]

If you like them at all you should go, sorry. I love money and hate help too, but they really do want you there and making this A Thing will hurt their feelings.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 6:54 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]

We've been trying to come to terms with this issue for years now. It costs my husband and me about $1700 just in airfare to visit our parents over the Christmas period, and the rest of the year we can do it for around $600-$700. Even just waiting a month brings the fares down closer to that second number. But my in-laws in particular really, really care about having a big family Christmas. And we can afford it; it just grates that for that much money, we could visit twice or even three times during the rest of the year.

We tried a few different solutions. For a while we tried going every second year, so that even though the airfares were more than double the usual price, it averaged out to closer to a standard airfare per year. But the in-laws were still sad that we didn't come more often. Then we tried offering to host every second year at our place. We did that once, and realised that the cost of hosting was pretty close to the cost of travelling. As well as all the Christmas food and booze for a large group, which came to something like $600, we had to rent an extra car to help transport everyone everywhere, so that was another $200 or so, and then we ended up doing a whole lot of touristy things with them that added up to a few hundred as well, and then going out to eat for some meals. In the end, while it was still cheaper than visiting them, it wasn't cheaper by enough to make up for the fact that it was definitely everyone else's less-preferred option.

We also tried to persuade them to hold Christmas a couple of weeks later one year and pretend they were Orthodox or something. But they really didn't like doing that. And then one year when I had to visit their town for another reason in late January, so we were coming over then anyway, they STILL wanted us to come for Christmas as well, so it became clear that it was really about the actual Christmas celebration, and not just about seeing us.

So now we just suck it up. They gave us some money a few years ago to help defray the costs, and we know it's also a self-limiting timeframe - they won't be around forever, and we know we won't regret having spent the extra time with them when we could.
posted by lollusc at 7:25 PM on October 6 [7 favorites]

Yes, take the money and visit. I'm assuming you do actually like these people--you don't know how long it'll be until you'd be willing to spend anything to see them again and it won't be possible.
posted by praemunire at 9:13 AM on October 7 [1 favorite]

I'm going to be the crank in the thread: for most family holiday travel I lean no — but it sounds like this may not be a "most" sort of situation and you do need to figure that out. We have established with our moms (both now widowed) that we will travel for some holidays, but we're not even doing alternate years at this point and we've been chipping away at what we'll actually do, and when.

Flying over the holidays is just 100% unmitigated awfulness between crowded airports and weather delays. We also really like having our own Christmas tree in our own home. We do like seeing all our family, but my sister is overseas with kids and can't afford to travel here with the entire family even in the off-season, and my wife has some family here in town we will see if we're here for holidays instead of traveling. We do a lot of soft rejection of this sort of thing now, like "oh, we already have that big trip planned and I'll be out of vacation days," or "that's a bad time for her to be away from work" (both at least mostly true and often 100% true). That stuff saves us from saying "no, we just don't want to" even when that might be true.

If I were in your shoes I'd ask for a straight answer as to whether this is supposed to be a big/sad announcement sort of thing, or a last hurrah, or what. Also if I were to go I'd take the money, because my parents haven't let me pay for my own holiday travel since I moved away, and who am I to turn it down?

On the big/sad thing, we did suck it up and go see my parents for Christmas after my dad's cancer diagnosis, but then we already knew about that and had pretty much agreed, "well, that's our plan for Christmas, then" almost as soon as we got the first call. If somebody is saving bad news like a diagnosis for a holiday, that's a pretty rotten thing to do. I hope they're not doing that.
posted by fedward at 1:27 PM on October 8

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