Inviting Kids' Friends on Outings & Trips

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Taking a child's friend on a family trip

Oct 2006

How do people handle taking a son or daughter's friend with them when they go on a family vacation? I'd love to hear what the protocol is--ie who pays for what--as well as the general pluses and minues of doing this. Many thanks. Jane

We have frequently over the years brought a friend on a family trip, ranging in time from a local day trip to a whole week out of the area. I always assume that I am responsible for all the child's expenses, since I issued the invitation. Often the other family will offer to contribute & I gladly accept, but if they don't offer I don't ask. Having the extra child can create extra work, but it is usually well worth it for the extra fun. mg
When my big kids were younger, we often invited friends to come along on day trips (Great America, Renaissance Faire) and a couple of times on longer trips, like a few days at Camp Tuolumne. My kids really enjoyed having the friend along. I think it really makes family trips a lot more fun for kids.

I always assume that when I invite another kid (or grown-up), I am planning to foot the bill. Very often, the other parent will offer to pay for their child, or give the child spending money, but I don't assume they will unless I know the parent well and we've done this before. Talk to the parents first, before you suggest it to your kid, so that way everyone is clear on what the plan is. As time goes by, you get to know the other parents better, and know what they are comfortable with, and most of the time (not always) these trips are reciprocated, so everyone has fun.

But be prepared for things to go wrong. I learned the hard way that not everyone who invited my kids on *their* family trips had the same philosophy that I do. Once, my son was invited to go to Camp Tuolumne with a family who goes every year for a two week stay. I got the message back (via the kids) that I would be expected to pay for his stay, and 2 weeks was a much larger sum than I could afford at the time. My choice was to disappoint my kid by saying no, or let him go for just a few days and then drive out to pick him up. Ugh. If only this mom had talked to me about it first. (I could have said no to her instead of no to my son.) Another time, we arranged with another family that I would pay for their son to come to Tuolumne with us, and they'd pay for my son to go with them. This worked great for a few years. But as they got older, we got to a summer when their kid decided, after they'd already made their trip with my son along, that he didn't want to go with us after all. Just a few days before we were leaving, he cancelled the plan we'd made months before. So ... I ended up trying to get a refund for somebody else's kid! (If it had been *my* kid, I would have made him go anyway! but it wasn't my kid!)

So, I say go for it, it's a great thing to do for the kids, but just be aware that it may not work out perfectly every time. G

When do you pay for their child and when do they?

April 1999

What is the etiquette around money when a family invites their child's friend to an event, activity, trip?

Currently, when we invite one of our daughter's friends to a movie, we cover the cost of the movie,popcorn, lunch/dinner. We can afford to do this every now and then. However, if we invite a friend to Marine World, the cost is obviously much higher--should we ask the parent to send some money?

Last year our daughter was invited to Marine World. (Entire phone conversation was: Would your daughter like to go with us to Marine World? Sure.) When we dropped her off, the mother said, We have discount tickets for $7.50. We figured this meant she wanted some money, so we handed her a ten dollar bill. She quickly pocketed the money and said, Oh good, she might want a coke or something. We found this entire interaction quite jarring. Perhaps if she had mentioned the money piece during the conversation, we wouldn't have been so surprised.

A friend's teenage daughter was invited on ski trip last Christmas. The hosts told my friend that they would cover the cost of the room and meals, but to send money for the ski lesson, lift tickets,etc. Is this a reasonable approach? We have a single child and anticipate inviting her friends to many future activities. I would appreciate some guidance on how to navigate this world of money and social invitations. Thanks.

I think the general rule about money and invitations is still the old fashioned one. If you're invited, the inviting party pays. That's still the expection (albeit not uncommonly breached) in the adult world and we should teach our kids (who are watching) the same conventions.

That said, when costs get very high per person (and I emphasize, per person, because the person extending the invitation obviously controls how many people are invited), some discussion about money is appropriate and I was taught that the polite thing is for the invitee to bring it up (i.e. to say That's a very generous invitation. I know XX is likely to be expensive, would it be useful if I covered some share of my kid's costs?). The person inviting can then gracefully decline or accept. Similarly, the friends who offered room and board for a ski trip but asked the parent to cover lift tickets and ski lessons were quite reasonable. (I'm assuming they raised money *before* the child had accepted the invitation -- asking for money after the child is preparing to go is extortionate).

I think the best way to go is to be clear to the other parent. If they're inviting your daughter and don't mention the cost, then you should ask before you say yes. At least, this is what I find that's worked the best for my 11 (almost 12) son. I usually don't agree to the trip at the first conversation on it. I get all the info I need, then call them back the next day or later the same day and tell them whether or not it's ok. I find this has worked very well. Also, I like to have my son pay for part of the cost so this gives me time to discuss with him if he wants to go to the event enough to spare part of his own money. (They always want to go when it's your money...and sometimes they decide they don't want to go that badly when they have to spend part of their money.)

When you invite other kids, make sure you tell the parent what you expect the their child to pay when you first invite them. Usually, it's kind of nice to cover part of the for a trip to Marine World, I would probably cover either the ticket or the meals. I think it's important to know what you would be happy to pay and communicate that with the other parents in advance. That way everyone can have a good time and not feel tricked into something. One final note, I always send a little extra money with my son even though I know exactly what will be covered by the other parents. You never know if he might want an extra coke or something... I also tell the other parents when they pick up that I've sent an additional few dollars with him so they won't be surprised when he comes back with a coke and her child doesn't have one... Hope this helps.

I always pay for my daughter's expenses when she is invited by her friends. I also give extra money for food, gift shop etc.
this issue comes up a lot in our family. here's how we deal with it: directly. when we are doing an activity and we can afford to cover the cost of another child we say so when we invite them it's on us, etc. or we'll pay for admission and lunch, s/he may want to bring some spending money for souvenirs. etc. if not we sayi'd be happy to take the kids to the movies, s/he'll need to cover his/her own ticket or some such thing. many families send the child with money to cover admission prices, etc. this issue comes up more frequently as children get older and do more activities with other families, and i usually find that the straightforward approach works the best--so that no one is surprised without money at the gate. when my children are invited to an activity, i ask how much it will cost or how much money i should send with them, and let the other family take it from there.
When I invite another child to go somewhere with us, I plan to pay. If the parent offers to pay, I might accept if it is something kind of expensive like Great America or Marine World. When my daughter is invited somewhere, I offer to pay when I drop her off. Now that she is a teenager and I might just be dropping her and friends off somewhere, they often have their own money with them. But I do ask her friends if they have money, just to make sure.

I don't think we can expect all other parents to handle things the same way we do. It would be nice if they would say something at the time the invitation was extended if they wanted you to pay for your own child, but you really can't control that. So it seems like you're either going to have to ask at the time of the invitation, or just be prepared to offer to pay, or pay if asked.

My kids are older now and are usually expected to use their own money to pay for entertainment. But here is how I did it when they were younger and another parent invited them to an event: I always offered to pay. When the invitation was extended, I would say: Thanks. How much should I give him? If the parent said Oh, don't worry about it - we'll take care of it. then I would give him a few bucks for a snack. (I'd give this to parent when he was too young to handle money himself. I never had a parent refuse this!) If the parent named an amount, I'd say OK, and I'll give him a couple of extra bucks for a snack.

When I invited another kid somewhere, I would assume that I was paying unless the event was expensive, say over $10. In that case, I would say something like I think tickets will be about $15, but I'm going to pack lunches so he doesn't need any food money. In my experience, most parents expected to pay for their own kid to go to expensive places and would protest if I tried to foot the bill. Birthdays are a different story. At your child's birthday party, you always foot the bill for every invited guest including parents when the kids are young. The assumption is that you pick an event that you can afford to pay for. You never ask the other parents to pitch in.