Recently, my son asked if we could invite one of his friends on vacation with us. I thought about it for about two seconds, and I said no. Why not?
My Experience Going on Trips with Friends as a Teen
I was lucky enough to get invited on several vacations with my friends’ families when I was a teenager. I have fond memories of all of them, and I’m grateful that I was invited to tag along!
One friend invited me to go camping with her family several times. My family didn’t go camping, so it was nice to get that experience. I also got to tag along with her family on a trip to Aspen and a Spring Break trip to New Orleans.
A different friend invited me to go in their RV to Yellowstone National Park. We had fun riding in the back of the RV, just the two of us while her parents rode up front. We stopped in different campgrounds along the way.
One of my all-time favorite vacations with a friend’s family was a week-long stay on a houseboat at Lake Powell, Utah. I had no idea what to expect, but it was incredible. We anchored the houseboat in a different inlet each night, and we slept on the top deck underneath the stars.
All of these trips fell into two categories:
1). Older siblings were grown and out of the house, so I was a companion to the “only child” of the family
2). All siblings got to bring a friend, so all of the kids had a companion
I was only allowed to invite a friend with my family on vacation one time. My dad liked to play in bridge tournaments, and my brother and I were employed as bridge caddies. One year, we traveled to the national bridge tournament in Salt Lake City, and my parents allowed me to bring one friend who had also worked at local bridge tournaments with me. But as a general rule, my family didn’t bring any extra kids on vacation with us.
Considerations when Inviting Extra Kids on Vacation
Before I’d open up our family vacations to our kids’ friends, I would need to consider the following:
Cost/Logistics: What is the cost of adding another child to our group? Is it minimal based on needing the same lodging, or would we need another room or a bigger rental? Can we still fit all our people and gear in one car comfortably?
Maturity: Is our kid mature enough to handle a friend on our trip? Is the friend mature enough to be ok without his/her parents?
Family Dynamics: How do family dynamics change with this extra kid around now? Do siblings get along better or worse? Will the friend respect our parenting style and rules? How would we handle misbehavior of a kid that’s not ours?
Craziness Threshold: Can I handle the stress of an extra kid? How crazy would the noise level get?
Why I’m Not Ready for Friends on Vacation
I’d thought about this topic before my son asked me. In fact, I almost considered letting him invite a friend to our treehouse adventure. But, I decided against it.
So far, it’s been my oldest son who has mostly gotten to invite friends to places here in town, just based on his age and the amount of freedom other parents give their kids to come with us.
Here’s the thing. In my family, whenever we have a friend visiting or accompanying us anywhere local, it causes a lot of tension between my two boys. My oldest feels like the younger one is bugging them, and my younger son always feels excluded. Or if my younger son brings a friend, he feels like my older son tries to monopolize his friend. And then everything explodes and I have to deal with it. Like every five minutes.
My three kids on a trip is more than enough for me. Maybe if we were more laid-back parents, or maybe if we got more trips alone as a couple, we’d feel up to the challenge of inviting along extra kids.
And it’s nothing against any of my kids’ friends. They are all great kids. It’s just that our family dynamic changes such that my kids get along even worse than they did previously. And that’s not good. Plus, why would I want that tension on a vacation?
When we travel, even on our short one-night trips, it forces us to spend time together without as many distractions. When we went to the treehouse last month, my boys played together longer than they have in forever. And if a friend or two was along, that wouldn’t have happened.
So It’s a No…For Now
My oldest son has already gone on a few camping trips with friends, and I am grateful he’s had the opportunity (since my family doesn’t do traditional camping). And I salute his friends’ parents for putting up with the extra kid dynamic.
But no, I just don’t see it happening for us. At least not yet. We will have to show our generosity to our kids’ friends in other ways, like sleepovers at our house and invitations to the movies.
Maybe we will change our minds when our kids mature more and the extra kid doesn’t affect our family dynamics as much. Or maybe when our oldest kids are grown and we just have one left at home and she wants a companion for a vacation. Maybe. Or not.
Do you invite along any extra kids on your family vacation? Why or why not?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.