A couple of weeks back – over Spring Break – I was was able to check an item off my bucket list. My family and I went to Hawaii. Despite my many years in the Navy, I had never been. It was beautiful and we had a great time. I fully intend to write about it for Traveling Dad when I get the chance. One thing I will mention about the trip now, though, is that it was not just my wife, my daughters, and me. My brother’s family was with us: my sister-in-law, his two daughters and him. So was my mom. Her being there got me thinking about how many trips my parents and my wife’s parents have made with us. There have been so many trips with the in-laws that it’s become an afterthought.
Have you ever traveled with your spouse’s parents? Maybe other family members outside your own family? Have you thought about it? Are you thinking about it? If the answer is yes (or even if it isn’t), my goal here is to give you my perspective from combining my own family, with my mom and dad, as well as my spouse’s parents on travel through the years. We’ve been blessed with good in-law relationships with our respective parents and that has certainly been enhanced throughout the years by our vacations and trips together.
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Better Life through Traveling with In-Laws
One thing I can talk about in particular, about some of our travel, is that there were trips where some of the adults that went along (other than my wife) would never have made the trip on their own, had we not nagged and then dragged them along. My mother-in-law and, to a lesser extent, my own mother, have been reluctant travelers. Whether it has been a financial burden or fear of the unknown, the initial answer to our offers for them to join us, more often than not, has been “no.”
One great example was our Disney Cruise Line voyage to Alaska. Up until, as close as 60 days before the trip, we honestly did not know if my in-laws were going to make the trip. This was for no other reason than my mother-in-law simply not wanting to go. We finally annoyed her enough, including getting our daughters to call her and beg her to come, into agreeing to make the trip. The two of them had a blast! We had a blast with them! She played BINGO and attended towel-folding classes with our girls. They went on excursions as a couple during our Alaskan port visits. It was a great trip. She actually had such a good time that she and my father-in-law booked a second cruise (a two-week cruise through the Panama Canal) while we were still embarked! The best part about it was that they never would have gone on a trip like that on their own, but because we were making the trip, it was less nerve-wracking to go. We would love for them to join us again next time.
Peter Pan (Grandma) and Goofy (Grandpa) enjoy their napkin hats with the kids during their character breakfast on the Disney Wonder. Photo: John Vanda
One of the benefits of having some parents-in-law with you on a vacation is the built-in child care available. Now, I wouldn’t recommend your going-in motive for inviting your in-laws be that they are there solely to watch your children. That wouldn’t be much incentive for them to come with you. However, being grandparents, they often will offer to watch your children while you are away. Why? Well, first because they love spending time with them, especially when they don’t live close by to where you live. Secondly, they remember what it was like raising their own children and what a blessing it was to get a break once in a while. One trip that comes to mind for this was when we were down at Walt Disney World for a marathon weekend. One afternoon, my parents offered to watch our girls so that my wife and I could go to the theme parks by ourselves. It was so relaxing to not have to worry about anyone but ourselves for a little while!
Quality Time with the Grandparents
I mentioned earlier about the grandparents being able to spend time with their grandchildren. We live in Virginia. My wife’s parents live in Ohio and my mother lives in North Carolina. Because of the distances involved, they don’t get to see our daughters nearly as often as they would like. Thank goodness for Apple’s FaceTime to bridge the gaps, but it’s just not the same as being together. That’s why family vacations have been a great time to have our parents along.
One trip that will always be special was our Disney Cruise with my parents back in February 2015. My father was battling terminal cancer at the time and was often very fatigued. But he would say at the end of the trip that he was so glad that he came with us. We all got to spend so much time with him. My daughter Audrey took it upon herself to be his chauffeur and push his wheelchair around the ship. They had such an amazing time doing activities together when his energy would allow. We also had my mom’s sister-in-law and her two daughters (my first cousins, Tara and Brittany) with us. The fact that all three of them are just as enormous Disney nerds as we are, made it that much more fun and memorable. Add to that, that my dad passed away less than a month later and it only made the trip that much more special in retrospect.
For married couples, family dynamics are a very important thing to focus on in healthy relationships. Instead of the words mother-in-law inducing cringe, take it from me that traveling with the in-laws can create wonderful life stories that everyone will cherish.
Want to hear more about Disney Cruise Ships? Check out Tim Jones’ ranking. After 20+ Disney Cruises, he’s become quite the expert!