DEAR MISS MANNERS: Every other year, my husband and I travel to spend holidays with his side of the family. His father has a large home that is now an "empty nest" since all of the siblings are grown and have moved out. My FIL insists we stay at his home during these visits instead of a hotel.
The problem is, his home has become a museum to my husband's and his brothers' childhoods. Their bedrooms have been left untouched. My husband's childhood bedroom is in the basement and has naught but a twin bed, cobwebs and a thick layer of dust. The sheets are never washed when we arrive, and the room is cold, dirty and far from the nearest bathroom (as in across-the-basement, up-the-stairs, across-the-house-again far).
We have tried claiming we aren't paying for our hotel room (it's free with our credit card points!) but my FIL is a shrewd man and seems offended when we decline, insisting on knowing why we won't stay with him.
How can we explain without hurting his feelings? We've considered spending a few days on our next visit deep-cleaning the room and bringing a queen-sized inflatable bed and nice sheets, but it doesn't solve the problem of the room being in the cold basement, full of spiders and far from the bathroom.
GENTLE READER: Being among family does not mean suspending normal manners. As your host, your father-in-law should expect to provide what comfort he can when you visit.
But Miss Manners recognizes that there are times when even an impersonal chain hotel might seem like luxury compared to a room adorned with reminders of, and last cleaned during, the mid-1980s -- spiders or not.
Your husband may remember from those years that there was some parental tolerance for not always keeping his room tidy. It is time to reciprocate that tolerance and care, a burden that you assumed when you married into the family. (Your husband will reciprocate when you visit your family.)
Talk to your father-in-law (or, better, have your husband talk to him) about what minimum upgrades are required, and, if necessary, assist him in making them. It will avoid the implied rudeness of not staying with him and give you something to talk about.