We Made Sacrifices to Pay for This and, for Our Family, It Was Worth Every Penny

I gotta tell ya, vacations with adult children are freaking awesome. They blow trips with toddlers out of the water. Sure, the merriment in your three-year-old’s eyes as they met the real, live, walking, talking Buzz Lightyear was special. But chilling on a Mexican beach with your 20-year-old who’s just tipsy enough to really tell you about his first weekend in college… waaayyy better.

We’ve taken several trips with our adult children. They’re fantastic—a perfect mix of adventure, history, wonder, quality time, and glorious relaxation.

Vacations with grown kids can be amazing. (Photo Credit: Tonya Rodriguez)

Four tips for an unforgettable family getaway

1. Plan to pay for everything, but be cool about it 

Research indicates that people are happier when we spend money on experiences rather than material things. Can I get an amen?! My husband and I are not rich, not by any means, but we value travel. Especially trips with our kids. So we budget for it.

We forgo new clothes and shoes that we don’t truly need, cancel subscriptions we barely use, and try not to pay for new things around the house that can easily be repaired. We sock away money during the year to cover the cost of a magical getaway with our favorite people on the planet.

So far, paying for the trips has worked out smashingly. Young adults understand the value of a dollar, which makes them more appreciative than they were as kids. They also tend to be agreeable to whatever you plan when they’re not the ones paying. I mean, if someone offered you a free vacation, would you have much to complain about?

But you gotta strike the right tone when you pitch this idea. You don’t want to come across obnoxious or grandiose, and you don’t want to give the impression you’re pinching every penny either. You also don’t want them to feel indebted to you, like they owe you anything afterward. That’s no fun for anyone. We present it to our kids like this:

“We understand money is tight when you’re just starting out. Now that we’re able, we’d like to share a trip with you that we could never have afforded when y’all were little. Plus, you’re fun to hang out with now. We’ll pay for airfare, accommodations, meals, and excursions. Y’all can cover your own souvenirs and any extras.”

Works every time. And when everyone knows up front who’s footing the bill, it sets the stage for a comfortable trip. No weirdness when the dinner checks come or awkward conversations about who owes what for their share.

2. Expect to pay double what you think

While we’re on the topic of money, let’s just get this out of the way. Our rule of thumb: Whatever the cost of airfare and accommodations, double it. That’s what we expect the final tally to be when the trip is over. If you go into it fully expecting to pay more, then you’re pleasantly surprised when you come in under budget. And if you do go a little wild, you won’t have a stroke when you see the credit card statement a month later.

3. Bring your kid’s significant other(s)

This tip might be controversial, but just hear me out: Offer to bring their significant other.

If your grown child is hesitant to go on vacation because they don’t want to leave their partner behind, can you blame them? Remember what it felt like to be young and in love. How could you fully immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of a tropical rainforest if the one person you wanted to share it with most was absent?

Not sure about this match? I say go ahead and bring them anyway. Nothing like traveling together to put a serious relationship to the test. And it will give you a chance to get to know their partner—it’s almost impossible to keep up pretense for an entire week.

You’ll get to see their true colors, and they’ll get to mix in with your family. By the end of the week, everyone will probably know if there’s a real future.

But what about sleeping arrangements? I hear you. My husband and I are relatively young, and we had our first child before we were married. We’re far from naive. But we’ve also become more traditional over the years. When we invited our son’s serious girlfriend on our family vacation, we were not comfortable getting a hotel room for them to share. As my husband put it, “That’s just too weird. And if she were my daughter, I would want her to have her own space.” We didn’t want to get her an entirely separate hotel room, cut off from the rest of the group—that would be weird too (and expensive).

VRBO for the win. Find a condo with enough bedrooms for your whole party. The couple can spend every waking minute together if they wish—and then retire to their own separate rooms at bedtime. Bonus: After an intense day of zip lining, rock climbing, and sunburns, a little alone time is nice for everyone.

4. Get passports now

Now is the time for international travel! Your kids are grown—they can handle a 9-hour flight to Europe. No sippy cups. No wiping someone else’s behind in a cramped airplane lavatory. No preteen attitude or mood swings.

Your kids are mature enough now to appreciate an afternoon stroll through the Louvre or a walking tour of the Hungarian Parliament. Buckingham Palace is more than just the setting of The Crown—it’s a real, live place they can experience in person.

Before you balk at the cost, just do a little research. If you book in advance, or set up alerts through a discount travel site, you can find some incredible rates on airfare across the globe. And you can actually get a lot more bang for your buck if you’re willing to venture outside the U.S. The American dollar stretches far in certain parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Trips to Mexico and the Caribbean are jaw-droppingly affordable.

Parts of Central America are safe, gorgeous, full of adventure, and way cheaper than you might imagine. True story: A couple of years ago, I was planning a trip to Yellowstone when one of my kids mentioned Costa Rica. An entire week in a stunning 4-bedroom, 4-bath beachfront penthouse condo would cost less than three days in a cramped cabin outside Yellowstone. I booked it, half expecting to be let down once we arrived.

There was no catch! It was absolutely gorgeous, exactly as advertised. We’ve been to a lot of places, and that Costa Rica trip ranks in our family’s top two.

For their next birthday, maybe pay for your young adult’s passport. Make sure everyone in your family has one handy. When that too-good-to-pass-up deal for Switzerland comes across your inbox, you won’t have to stress about anyone getting their paperwork in on time. Just book it!

The time is now for traveling with grown kids

One last thing to consider if you’re on the fence: If they are still single and childless, now is the time to travel with your adult kids, before they have children of their own. Not only for financial reasons, but because life gets hectic when babies enter the picture.

Who knows how long this window of freedom will stay open? And who knows what else the future holds? If you’ve got the energy, will, and flexibility to put aside the funds, then start planning your magical adult family vacation now.

More Great Reading:

The 7 Life Lessons I’ve Learned Road Tripping With My Teens

About Tonya Rodriguez

Tonya Rodriguez is an insatiably curious old soul trapped in the body of a neurotic suburban mom. She loves irreverent comedy, red wine, her husband, and two grown kids. Longhorn football makes her happy, and then sad. She works hard, runs for fun, reads a lot, listens to podcasts about politics and murder, and is currently transitioning from a career in marketing to...You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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