Care and Feeding

Our Family Vacations Are Starting to Get a Little Weird

How do I talk to my parents about this?

A young woman looks curiously at a set of hotel room keys.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by insta_photos/iStock/Getty Images Plus. 

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am 20 years old and in college and still very close to my parents and sibling. I even still go on vacations with my family (when I can). However, when I do, all four of us share a hotel room. Sometimes (not every time) I even end up sharing a bed. I love my family, but I don’t feel great about all of us together in one room anymore—I’m not a child, after all. But I’m not sure how to bring this up. (And before you say anything, let me assure you that my parents are sane and reasonable people. I’m only hesitant to ask because I’m trying to graduate debt-free, and my parents still have student debt themselves. So none of us have a whole lot of money to spare.) Maybe I could offer to pay for a second room myself, or we could come up with another way to split costs?

—All Grown Up in Greater Tacoma

Dear All Grown Up,

Yes, of course you’re old enough to sleep in a separate hotel room from your parents. You don’t mention how old your sibling is, but presumably it wouldn’t be you in one room, and your parents and sibling in another; it would be one room for your parents and one room for their two kids (unless your sibling is very young). That’s how it usually works when the kids start to grow up, but are still taking vacations with their parents.

If you ask them, the next time they plan a trip, if it would be possible for you and your sibling to have your own room “this time” (setting that precedent for future trips), and they say no, feel free to offer to split the cost of the rooms with them. See what happens. They may wave the whole idea off as silly or unnecessary—it may be that they can afford two rooms, but think it’s a waste of money or that it would “ruin the fun” of a family vacation—and you can stand firm. If they can’t afford to pay for two rooms but point out that you can’t either, you have two choices: You can insist on helping with the cost, or you can regretfully decline to join them on vacation. Grownups often have to make hard choices.

By the way, if you hate the idea of sharing a room with your sibling—if what you’re saying is that you want a hotel room of your own—then being “all grown up” means you must pay for it yourself. (And no judgment from me, by the way, since at 20 I wouldn’t have wanted to share a room with my younger brother; hell, even now, if I’m traveling with anyone but my husband, I want a hotel room all to myself.) If this is the scenario you’re thinking about, then the next time your parents suggest a family vacation, pipe up immediately. Tell them you’d like to book your own room. If they object, be clear and direct: Speak the truth they may be unwilling to recognize—that you’re too old to be bunking with them. Do not go down this road if you cannot pay for this with your own money. They may offer to pay for a separate room for you, and you are certainly free to accept that offer. But do not bank on it.

The bottom line is that it is hard to juggle being all grown up with being one’s parents’ kid. Parents can help with this process for sure, but your parents seem to need a little nudge. I hope that nudge won’t irritate them or hurt their feelings—me, I think they should be thrilled that at your age you still want to take vacations with them!

— Michelle