MY WIFE AND I JUST returned from our annual Thanksgiving vacation on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. This is a yearly outing for our immediate family, my wife’s four siblings and their families. This year we numbered 43, representing three generations of siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, along with significant others.
I wrote an article about this family tradition three years ago. It started in 1995, and has been held 25 times since. We’ve only missed two years—one because of a family wedding in California and another due to COVID-19.
For the first several years, we rented a seven-bedroom house on the beach for the week. As the family has grown, so has the size of the house we rent. These past two years, we’ve rented a 27-bedroom beachfront home in Kill Devil Hills, N.C.
It’s called an “event house” because it can sleep around 50 and hold a wedding or other special event with up to 100 guests. It has a heated pool, hot tub, kiddie pool, sports bar, theater room, exercise room and a catering-ready kitchen.
The house is three years old and is rented about 50 weeks a year. Prime summer weeks rent for about $40,000—if you can reserve one. The Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s weeks cost about $18,000 each.
These figures may seem pretty pricey, but remember we’re housing 16 families for a week in a luxurious beachfront home. When you consider the number of bedrooms used and for how many nights, it works out to about $100 to $110 per night per bedroom. This compares favorably with a beachfront hotel, plus our rental includes far more amenities.
In the early years, we split the cost six ways among our family, my wife’s parents and my wife’s four siblings. Since my wife’s parents died, we’ve split the costs among what I call the five families—my wife, her three brothers and one sister. The five siblings range in age from the late-50s into the 70s.
Each family has at least two children, most of whom are married or have a significant other. There are also 12 grandchildren spread among the five families.
Our children and their spouses, as well as their nine cousins and their families, represent the next generation of the family. They span Gen-X and millennials, ranging in age from the mid-20s to mid-40s. I know I’m biased, but this group is exceptional. Whenever I hear disparaging remarks about the younger generation, I shake my head in disagreement.
They have strong, stable marriages. They have successful careers, own homes and contribute to their communities. Their personalities, professions and interests are quite varied. Yet all share something precious—a commitment to family.
I give my in-laws tremendous credit for this. They set the tone by always making the effort to show up, and that ethic has been passed down to successive generations. The next generation has been taking on more responsibility each year for cooking, cleaning and event planning. They’ve also volunteered to contribute financially to the future funding of the event.
For the past decade or so, I’ve handled the finances for family week. I take care of the leases, collect family contributions and make the scheduled payments. I have an online savings account to hold the funds until needed, and to try to earn a little interest in the meantime. The process is pretty simple, and it’s something I enjoy.
This year we had a family meeting with the two adult generations to discuss plans. It was heartening to see everybody’s interest and willingness to contribute. They also have some ideas on how to create a more formal structure to accumulate funds for future years.
While we’ve discussed some ideas, we have some work to do to put something in place. I’d be interested to hear from the HumbleDollar community about any ideas or experiences they may have had in structuring a family enterprise.
Money is a challenging subject among families. We have a large and diverse family. The group of adults I’m discussing ranges from five years into their career to five years into retirement. It’s only natural that an individual’s financial circumstances would vary with age and employment.
One of the most important tenets of the family is not to let finances prevent a family member from attending. This has worked well for the past 28 years, and it will guide any funding structure that we put in place.
Richard Connor is a semi-retired aerospace engineer with a keen interest in finance. He enjoys a wide variety of other interests, including chasing grandkids, space, sports, travel, winemaking and reading. Follow Rick on Twitter @RConnor609 and check out his earlier articles.
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Sounds like a great time. My wife and I have taken our 4 grown kids and their spouses on a couple of Caribbean cruises. Recently we rented a house for a week in Park City in a January for about $13,000. This year we rented a suite with food and beverages included for a Celtics game just before Xmas, for about 20 adult family members. We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to pay for these events, and everyone appreciates it. As Richard said about his family, all our kids have good jobs, own homes and have families of their own, so we enjoy doing this for them.
Your family sounds wonderful. We recently had a similar get-together for a group of old friends. One of them, who lives close to the venue, went to a whole string of restaurants and diners and sampled the menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner over three months. After his feedback, we decided on where we were going to eat/order in during that week.
We collected the funds (lodging and food) about six months in advance. A couple of people who paid could not show up. With their consent we used the money to sponsor other friends who didn’t have the financial means. Any money that was left over was donated to charity. Or, it can be rolled over to the next year.
Wow! I arranged a three-night beach house stay for my mom’s 80th birthday last year in Sonoma County (CA). The house had six bedrooms, and there were 12 of us (13 for one night, but my 20-something daughter slept on a couch for that night). It cost $400 per person for the three nights (total). I used Vrbo to find the house.
It worked out well, and the money part was fine. I booked it and everyone paid me promptly. I’m wondering how you manage the meals for so many people. Do you hire a cooking staff? Take shifts?
For our three days, we signed up for different meals and brought groceries in with us because there wasn’t a major grocery store around. We didn’t run out of food, but my brother-in-law and another guest almost came to blows over cooking steaks one night—the gas BBQ didn’t work and we had to pivot to the stove/oven.
Meals are a big deal. Each family takes a night to cook. We have Keto, vegetarian, gluten free, young children, and picky eaters to take into account. Over the years we have moved to simpler meals, especially things that can be made ahead of time. The OBX grocery stores have improved over the years so there is no issue with shopping for anything we need.
I have suggested hiring a cook/clean-up crew but so far no takers.
Thanksgiving dinner is a collaboration. We rotate the turkey responsibility among the 5 families. Everyone else contributes their favorite side dish. I make my grandmother’s cranberry sauce, the stuffing, and usually provide some nice wines.
We love Sonoma and Napa. Every time we visit my wife looks at me and says “tell me again why we don’t live here?”. We’ve also become big fans of the whole Central coast region, and Paso especially.
Rick, thanks for sharing this story about your family. You are right, it is a great testament to the leadership of your wife’s parents in instilling the value of family in their children. And your generation appears to be carrying and passing the torch along to the next.
Sounds like a great tradition, and nice that everyone wants to contribute. Interesting perspective on cost per night. We’re in the Outer Banks right now. In an Airbnb that sleeps two 🙂
Thanks Michael1.If you drive along the beach in KDH, around MP 7 to 10 you will the number of existing and under-construction large houses available for rent. Enjoy the OBX.