Dear Readers,

Two of you ask questions about summer vacation issues. The first answer today deals with multi-generational beach trips. The second question takes Garcon the French cat on a sailing vessel.



Dear Carolyn,

I just turned in the dates for my summer vacation weeks with my sons (ages 6 and 9) to my ex. In even years I pick first by May 1. I get three total summer weeks split as two weeks and one week. Week isn’t defined, but that is another story for another day and a source of arguments. I picked Saturday to Saturday because of my beach rental for the one-week session. My two boys and I are camping in the Rockies the two-week time. Now for my questions regarding the one-week time, which I would like to do with my parents, the paternal grandparents of my children:

We have had some problems before on these trips with my parents and the kids. When and where do we eat? How do we keep everything clean and sanitary? We don’t want sand in the cereal?

They love their grandkids, and they are paying for the beach house. I am focused upon making this enjoyable for all concerned. Do you have some “Ask Carolyn” ground rules for these multi-generational beach trips?


Carolyn Answers …

There are 18 summers in a child’s life. These summers need to be memorable. The two underlying issues to me are planning vs. flexibility and individual needs vs. group needs.

Be considerate. Don’t be a slob. Clean up after yourself and your children. Encourage and teach your children to clean up after themselves.

Keep noise levels reasonable for all concerned.

Limit screen time. This is the beach after all.

Plan some fun activities for everyone, both together and in separate groups. Include everyone in a planning session the first day, even if the plan is a loose one. If someone says, “I don’t care what we do,” don’t believe them. Everyone will care at some point. Make a list of activities, restaurants and downtime with input from all.

Don’t expect your parents to take care of the children full time.

Have backup plans for beach rainy days. A children’s museum is a good place to start.

Interject humor when the family dynamic starts to unravel.

Practice water safety. Remember, the ocean can be a dangerous master.

Have some professional photos made on the beach in the evening. This will be the best part in the years to come.



Dear Carolyn,

My ex told our young daughters that my cat Garcon should not go on vacation with the girls and me. I’m not going to have her bad mouth my cat and ruin the fun we have with our cat on vacation. She told the girls I act like a Griswold from National Lampoon’s Vacation. In fact, she played one of the old Vacation movies and told the girls “that is vacation with dad.”

We are going to Morehead City to stay on my 42-foot sailboat, which sleeps three and the cat just fine. My ex reads your column. Please tell her the cat Garcon goes on vacation whether she likes it or not. Tell her to stop taking badly to my girls about this trip and the cat Garcon – a French cat.


Carolyn Answers …

Cats have been hardy mousers on sailing vessels throughout history. Cats have also been revered good luck charms on ships. Kids tend to love cats more than cats love kids.

Lots of people consider pets a family member, and it appears you do with Garcon. Your ex should respect your wishes; after all, it is your vacation. I have a sense from reading your letter that your girls love Garcon and think mother is either funny or ridiculous with her comments on Garcon. Ask your girls whether they want Garcon to go on vacation. I think the answer will be that they would not dream of leaving Garcon at home. I would not worry too much about what your ex is saying about Garcon, and I would treat the ex’s comments as “humor.”

There are some things you can teach your girls about taking care of pets on the trip. Of course, they should help take care of Garcon.

Make sure Garcon has some space of his own. He needs his own food and water place. There are now wonderful disposable “pop-up” litter boxes.

Garcon needs a PDF – personal flotation device. If you cannot find one for a cat, a PDF for a small dog will work. Advise your girls not to hang Garcon over the edge of the boat. Have a net to rescue Garcon if he falls over the edge.

It is certainly better that your cat is on your boat than United Airlines. Does Garcon kayak? Just a thought.




Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC 27427. “Like” Ask Carolyn on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter at Ask_Carolyn. Post questions for consideration for this column. Please do not put identifying information in your questions. Note that the answers in Ask Carolyn are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your individual case. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.