Should you let your kids invite friends on vacation?

Image Gallery: Beaches Friends are fun, right? But is it always OK to bring them along on vacation? See more pictures of beaches.

When we were kids, my parents occasionally let my brother and me take friends on vacations. I suspect the reasoning was twofold: more fun for us and less hassle for them. My brother and I were different. He'd want to go fishing; I'd want to read. He'd want to go hiking; I'd want to read. He'd want to go to the arcade; I'd want to read. Bringing along friends got me off the couch and into the world and provided my brother with like-minded company. It was a win-win situation.

But now I'm the parent, and, recently, while planning a weeklong trip, my 8-year-old daughter asked to bring along a companion. This stunned me. Weren't my husband and I enough company for her? We're fun, right?

Well, yes and no. We get along, but three is an odd number. Someone always sits alone on one side of the restaurant booth. And it's not like she's ignored, but as adults, we don't always want to play pretend or tell gross-out jokes (OK, my husband does favor the latter, so I'm the odd one out.) So, for the first time, we considered taking a companion. Our decision making process included pros and cons, the selection procedure, financial issues, and behavioral management. From this experience, I'll share two rules and many recommendations -- not all may apply to your family and your vacation, but they may help you think through any concerns you have.