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Sister-in-law can’t afford the vacation they’ve planned

Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My husband and I will be taking a three-day trip with our two children, which we never do. We asked his sister and her family if they wanted to meet us for the trip. She agreed but now is worried about money. My family wants to stay in a decent hotel, dine out, and enjoy local attractions … nothing extravagant. She prefers to pack sandwiches and wants a cheap motel.

Any advice on ways to enjoy the trip and compromise? We don’t want to come across as selfish, but we want to enjoy our vacation.

— Family

You’ve got to decide, unfortunately, which is your priority — the accommodations or the company. I’m not judging either way.

If the bigger priority is family harmony, then you revise this trip into something cheaper, and maybe use some of the money you save on sandwich meals to treat everyone for one nice(r) dinner.

Sometimes you want the trip you want, too, and you’re entitled to that. If that’s the case here, then it might make sense just to say to the sister that you planned the trip as X, Y and Z, and you totally understand if that’s not what they want to do, and maybe a different trip altogether would make more sense for the two families? Later in the season? Or next summer or fall?

Then, maybe for the two-family trip you rent a vacation home near water, or hiking trails, where the entertainment is built in to the location and doesn’t cost extra, and you cook your own meals together.

Short version, it’s OK to pull the plug on the joint trip if it’s turning into something you don’t want, but it would be kind to be ready with an alternative that costs what they’re willing to pay.

Dear Carolyn:

I’m in my 50s and went through some very turbulent years in my youth. My parents died a few months apart when I was a teenager.

I’ve thrived since then — college, career, good kids/family, etc. — but I have an emotional “dead zone” inside because of the grief I had to tamp down just to get through those tough times.

Is it generally a better bet to continue burying the past and focus on the real pleasures and accomplishments of the present? Or would it be better to confront the demons once and for all … even if that risks going back to a painful part of my life?

— Anonymous

Short answer, if you’re asking, then you probably want to confront the demons. Contented people just don’t dwell on this stuff — which sounds so traumatic, I’m sorry.

Some people are generally and genuinely at their best when they shrug and leave stuff behind. I think of them — admiringly, since I wish I were one — like sharks. They stay alive through constant forward motion.

But if you have a nagging sense there’s more love out there, more depth, more feeling, more joy (and of course more pain), then talk to your partner, if you have one, and have preliminary talks with some therapists. You can decide whether to dig further from there.

Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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