Carolyn Hax: Will staying in different hotels ruin a group vacation?

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: A few months ago, my extended family — mother, stepfather, stepbrother, stepsister and her family — decided we should all take a family vacation to a popular resort location. I thought it sounded like a fun idea — I don’t know my stepfamily well since my mother just got married to their father a year ago, but they’re very nice and I’d like to get to know them better. I did make it clear during early planning that my family would not be able to afford the hotel they picked, but that shouldn’t stop the others since we’re all going to be at the beach during the day anyway and we’d be staying a three-minute walk away.

My stepsister and parents have decided everyone should stay at the more expensive hotel because it keeps the family in one place. When I reminded them of our budget, my stepsister offered to pay the difference. This is no small offer — almost $2,000 — considering that $2,200, excluding airfare, is about what we’re planning on paying for the entire week. I know they’re well off, but we couldn’t possibly accept that big a gift from someone we barely know.

My mother is hounding me to let my stepsister do this and said I was ruining everyone’s vacation and should be ashamed of myself. My husband is wavering, but I think it’s totally unnecessary and I don’t want to spend my vacation feeling like a mooch.

I feel strongly about this, but I seem to be the only one. What am I not seeing? Who is being unreasonable here?

On a Budget: Your mom. Your stepsister sounds lovely, and your commitment to your principles is unimpeachable. Stay in the cheaper hotel and give all a chance to enjoy the unruined vacation.

Re: Vacation: Or just let her pay it. My husband and I are in a better financial situation than a lot of our family through no fault of our own. Sharing the wealth to make family vacations easier for everyone is literally one of our favorite ways to spend money.

Sharing the Wealth: Fair point. (And funny: “Through no fault of our own.”) You’re more than welcome to pay for my vacation. However, once the letter-writer declined the stepsister’s offer, then the stepsister could have reasonably re-offered exactly once — after which the whole family owed this family enough respect to drop it.

If the trip proves they made a mistake to refuse, then they can file that away for a next time — when they also know the other family better, which matters.

· My sister makes a lot more money than I do. I once let her pay for me. Never again. We had to do everything she wanted even though I wasn’t always physically able. When I wanted something different, she’d say, “I paid for this trip.” I hated being owned and obligated to someone else.

· My brother makes a lot more money than I do and he and my sister-in-law have paid for some vacation expenses for us, and it is lovely. They always ask respectfully and never throw it in our faces. We gratefully accept. The way I see it, he and I both work hard at our jobs, but it so happens that his profession is more richly rewarded in our society than mine.

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