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Blended Family Finances: Planning your blended family staycation

Sarah Kinbar
by Sarah Kinbar, Dimespring 30 (@bigblendedfam)

It’s almost spring, and many families are looking forward to summer already. While it may seem early, it’s time to plan your family vacation. For blended families with time-sharing agreements in place, this requires cooperation from former partners.

For one of our vacation weeks this summer (we take two), we're going to have a staycation. It's so rare that we have all four children with us for a week straight, so budget considerations aside, we're totally enthusiastic about enjoying seven days together in our own house.

READ: What to do when child-support struggles arise

And then there's the money: Bottom line, we will break our budget if we take two trips. Like I said, spending one of our weeks at home doesn't have to be viewed as a concession. When we talked to our children about it, we presented it as an opportunity to explore Central Florida's many offerings: without driving far, we can kayak in the springs, hit up an IMAX movie, visit a theme park for a day, bike a trail. There's so much fun to be had, and much of it for free.

If you have a friendly and reasonable relationship with your ex, a simple phone call or email naming your preferred staycation dates should suffice, so long as you are giving plenty of advance notice and not springing it on them. If your relationship is strained, look to your parenting plan for guidance on how to plan. Wording about vacation time can vary considerably. Here’s an example of a flexible plan:

  • Each parent may have up to 14 additional overnights with the children each year with 30 days notification. These days may be taken individually, or up to seven contiguous overnights.

Here’s one that’s more constraining, because vacation time can only be used during June, July and August and the days can’t be used individually:

  • During the summer months, each parent shall be entitled to have the children for two uninterrupted one-week periods, upon thirty days advance notice to the other parent.

Another word of advice: Speaking to your ex BEFORE telling the kids any details about your summer plans is considerate and fair, and a great way to show respect for your co-parenting relationship. Deciding on a family vacation and home or away is a parenting decision and should be made in consultation with the other co-parent. If you get your children all jazzed about vacation plans, and check with your ex after the fact, it can cause conflict. There’s potential for your ex to get framed as the bad guy if he or she already had plans for the kids during that week. You never want the other parent to be perceived by the children as ruining plans. That’s playing dirty, so stay mum until you’ve shared your plans with your ex.

READ: How to teach your kids about credit cards

Now that your dates are set, consider these things:

All the kids’ favorite summer activities: Are there clever ways you can incorporate different kinds of activities into your week to meet all of the children’s needs for inclusion?

Extended family on both sides: Do you want to include relatives in your plans? Remember the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in your family and your current partner’s family. Are you able to use your time to be with both sides of the family each summer or every other summer?

Family bonding: Do you need a week for you, your partner and the kids–and no one else? Don’t feel pressured into including family if you need bonding time. Most blended families don’t get many uninterrupted weeks together, so take advantage of them when you need to.

Sarah Kinbar of Blended Family Finances is a mother of two and stepmother of two who writes about the extra-complicated financial situations that blended families face. Sarah is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.