How to Avoid Disaster When You Take Someone Else’s Kid on Your Family Vacation

Judy Antell Avatar

A vacation can be a time to reconnect with family. But if you think your child would have a better time with a friend or cousin, you might want to consider taking them on your family vacation. (Along with your own child, of course!) This can be a great bonding time for them, and also lessen the pressure on all family members. But first, read our tips for bringing a kid on your family vacation.

1. Should you bring your child’s friend on a family vacation?

Consider the pros and cons of bringing your child’s friend on your family vacation. If it’s so she has a better time, then having a friend is a great idea. But if you’re bringing the child so YOU can have a better vacation, remember that you will be parenting another child for the length of time he is with you. At times it might feel like chaperoning a field trip but at other times it’ll give you some space to unwind. Even the most well behaved child can have a meltdown, need something at an inconvenient time, or just generally disrupt what was supposed to be your me time. If you are bringing a friend for your kid so you can have a kid-free vacation, rethink.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Get a letter authorizing you to travel with someone else’s child.

2. Discuss money with the other family, if they bring it up.

If you are staying in a house, the parents may assume the costs of an extra guest are minimal. But if you are planning trips to an amusement park, or ski resort, plus frequent dinners out, an extra person can raise costs substantially. If you are inviting someone, she is your guest. But if the parents offer to pay some costs, discuss those costs in advance.

3. Know the kid you are bringing. Well.  

If you’re taking a young kid on your family vacation who doesn’t like to sleep alone, you might have a nightly visitor. If you’re bringing a tween who encourages bad behavior in your child, you might want to reconsider the friend. A non-skier might not have fun if your child is a black diamond skier.

For example, we took a girl who didn’t ski with us on a ski vacation because she was a superb athlete. But she tried so hard to keep up with my daughter that she tore her ACL. This was not a fun conversation with the parents, whom we didn’t know well.

Another time, I was on a cruise with my daughter and her cousin. The cousin announced two miles into a bike ride on a shore excursion that she hated riding bicycles. We had to walk all the way back.

4. Let the parents know more about your parenting style.

If you let your 10-year-old walk to the corner store and the other child has never crossed a street alone, there can be confusion on vacation. And if the kids are younger than high school age and you plan to leave them alone one evening while you and your spouse have an evening out, make that clear.

5. Discuss bedtimes.

Taking another kid on your family vacation means paying attention to nighttime routines. If the friend is a night owl, or an early riser, and your child is not, they can get grumpy sharing a bed, or just a room, for more than one night. Have a plan in place. Books are a quiet activity that one can do while the other sleeps.

6. Get the skinny on food.

Some kids get shy around adults, and don’t express their likes and dislikes –while others are too vocal. If you find out in advance that your future guest hates shellfish, have an alternative at a clambake.

When taking someone else’s kid on your family vacation it’s important to know about any food allergies and aversions. That includes respecting the vegan preferences of a guest, or having enough for her to eat. Even if you don’t think her gluten intolerance is medically warranted. If the child you are bringing keeps Kosher, make sure you know how to help him make food choices that respect his religion.

One of our kids went on a soccer trip in middle school where the adult chaperones took the team to a fast food restaurant with choices that none of the girls would eat. Most of the team was vegetarian and a couple were Kosher. So bringing them to a restaurant that only served chicken was a strange option. But the girls felt uncomfortable complaining. We made sure in the future to talk in advance about vegetarian options.

7. Respect the bladder.

A child who isn’t vocal about her food preferences might not speak up about needing the restroom. Be sure to ask parents about their kids’ bathroom habits and offer ample opportunity for everyone to make a pit stop.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you are traveling with teen girls, always have extra mini pads and slim tampons just in case.

8. Make sure the kid calls home.

Have a plan for how often your child’s friend should call home. But just enough to stay in touch. Otherwise they might get homesick. However, if the parents request a daily call, respect their wishes, of course.

9. Provide a packing list.

If you are going to a beach resort, make sure the other child brings at least two swimsuits (that fit), a cover up, and beach shoes. If you are planning to take the kids with you to a fancy restaurant or two, make sure she has the right outfit. And if you are taking a winter adventure, give the friend’s parents an extensive list of the cold weather gear he will need.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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3 responses


  1. Very helpful…having three boys and a much younger girl, I often invite a buddy for my daughter. These guidelines will certainly come in handy when choosing who to invite.

  2. Great post. This situation is inevitable when you are a one kid family. Our question is at what age do we start because up until now we felt younger children would have a hard time being away from their parents.

  3. These are great tips! They can make or break a vacation for parents and for children.

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