Family vacations and herding cats

So hubby says to you “Honey I think we should plan a vacation to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary”.  What a great idea.  Maybe a Caribbean cruise?  You happen to mention it to your sister who says “Fantastic – we’ll join you”.  ….  OK.  Well now that your sister is coming you should maybe invite your brother and sister-in-law.  Then you have to invite your parents and …… his parents.

Now your parents and his parents get along just fine – in small doses – and you can usually get through the Thanksgivings and Christmasses without any hassles but a whole week together?  They are very different.  Your parents like bingo, stand up comedy and a few glasses of wine.  His parents prefer a small glass of sherry and a string quartet.  But hey!  They say cruises these days cater to all types and with 2000 people on board then it should be easy to get lost in the crowd.

But then Great Aunt Ethel pops up on the radar. Of course she wants to come – how can we leave Great Aunt Ethel out of the picture?  Only problem is Great Aunt Ethel is 75 and is travelling as a single as Great Uncle Ernest shuffled off his mortal coil a few years back.  This provokes a family debate about how unfair the cruise lines are to charge double just because Great Uncle Ernest is not around any more and after all you are a travel agent – isn’t there someone you can speak to?  Tell you what – let’s put Tamara in with Great Aunt Ethel.  Then Tamara’s mom and dad only have to share their cabin with two kids intead of three and Great Aunt Ethel doesn’t have to pay the single supplement.  

No-one refers this to Tamara – after all she is only 14.  However Tamara finds out about this scheme via her younger sister Chloe (aged 6) who has radar ears and picks up everything.

“Hahahaha – you’re going to have to share a cabin with Great Stinky Aunt Ethel”….

Tamara – “My life is ruined!  MOM…. you can’t do this to me.  Then I am not coming.  That’s it.  I am going to run away.”

No amount of reasoning or bribes can convince Tamara to share a cabin with Great Aunt Ethel.  However your mother in law has already phoned the cruise line directly despite the fact that you are the travel agent on file.  Naturally the cruise line can do ANYTHING for a member of the public and immediately offers a reduced single supplement for Great Aunt Ethel.  Wonderful, now you look like a complete idiot but at least Great Aunt Ethel is off your hands.

In the meantime your father in law has been reading online reviews about the cruise ship and is starting to question your choice of ship, cruise line, itinerary, pre cruise hotel and flights.


You reassure him about the cruise line, gently advise him that he has been looking up the wrong ship and reassure him regarding the itinerary which you have done before and absolutely loved.

After getting everyone’s deposits on file your get a phone call from your brother-in-law.  He needs to tell you confidentially that he is considering leaving your sister and therefore the timing of this cruise is totally out for him.  He hasn’t told your sister any of this and now he has dumped this in your lap.  Do you say anything or not?  How can you not?  And of course the deposit is non-refundable.


Isn’t this supposed to be about your wedding anniversary?  Phone the cruise line rep, call in a favour, get all the deposits fully refundable, cancel all the bookings and get the refunds to everyone’s cards.  Quickly get the last two seats on that flight to Tahiti, book the overwater bungalow, tell your husband…..




By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


  1. We frequently see similar goings-on (from the cruise-provider’s perspective) and have received (secret) calls and e-mails from family members asking us to tell “Great Aunt Ethel” (or her equally eccentric counterpart), that the dates in question are completely booked. It’s a bit of a moral dilemma, but I consider the white lie an act of “maintaining world peace”. There’s really nothing worse than spending vacation time with warring factions!


  2. Leslie – now you know why I travel alone and never tell anyone where I’m going and what I’m going on.
    Also, often single supplement is worth it – just to have your own bathroom!!!!
    You know what I mean…


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