Unless you grew up around your partner's family, it can take a while to feel fully integrated into their inner circle. (Cue flashes of the circle of trust from Meet The Parents.) Regular cameos at dinner can blossom into an introduction to the family group text. Your SO's parents might start calling you by your nickname and asking you what you want for your birthday. Once you get to vacationing together, you're probably well woven into the fabric of their family dynamic. Nevertheless, despite the familiarity, sorting out financials on vacation with your partner's family ahead of time is one of the best ways to avoid awkwardness abroad.
Family vacations already have several moving parts. Whether it's transportation, scheduling, compromising on activities, spending enough time together, and organizing rooms and beds, all the details can be super overwhelming. Mix in budgets and splitting costs, and it's no wonder people can feel like they need a vacation from their vacation. But when you've been invited on a trip with your partner's family, asking them how much money you should expect to budget can be awkward. You don't want to assume they're paying for everything, but you also don't want to insult them if that is their intention. So.... what next?
Money expert Tori Dunlap, founder of financial feminist resource Her First $100K, says how you approach this dilemma is deeply personal. You should first consider your relationship status, the nature of your relationship with your partner's family, and the length of the vacation. For example, Dunlap recounts her five-day trip to Hawaii with her college boyfriend's family. She paid for her flight, but they insisted on paying for everything else.
"To avoid any confusion or potentially sticky situations, you should be at least prepared to pay for your portion of the trip, including travel, accommodations, food, and activities. You should never inherently expect someone to foot your bill," Dunlap tells Elite Daily. Your SO's family may cover the Airbnb and group activity costs, but they may be expecting you to pay for your flight. Or maybe you'll have to pay for your own hotel room, but your partner's parents will totally have you covered on meals.
Chances are, if your partner's family invited you on vacation, they probably don't expect you to pay for your entire trip and will be willing to pay for at least some parts of your experience. But if you're uncomfortable asking upfront, play it safe and budget for the entire trip. The best thing that can happen is they offer to pay for everything, and you get to save your money. The worst? You spend what you budgeted for. There is no losing scenario if you come prepared.
If they offer to pay for everything, it might be a nice gesture to offer to pay for dinner one night. If they refuse, inviting your partner's mom to a cocktail, or surprising their dad with a prepaid activity also probably wouldn't hurt. Talking to your partner and coordinating a joint appreciation gift can be another great way to thank them for their invitation, from both of you. That way, you're showing your appreciation and still respecting their boundaries.
If you're comfortable reaching out to your SO's family about financials before the trip, do so with a heads-up to your partner. When in doubt, "It's never a bad idea to have an open, honest conversation about expectations," says Dunlap. "Handle the situation like you would going on a trip with friends, and talk about it!" Try something to the effect of, "I'm very excited to be invited on this trip, and I'm looking forward to spending some time with you. I just want to check in with you to see what my costs will be and to make sure I pay my share."
Once you have a frank conversation with your SO's family about travel expectations and you have your budget squared away, you'll feel less anxious going into the trip. That way, you can focus on chilling, connecting with your partner's family, and truly getting the rest and relaxation you deserve.
Tori Dunlap, founder, Her First $100K