Sarah Palin in the Dancing with the Stars ballroom
11/09/2010 at 02:05 PM EST
It's a long and expensive flight from Alaska to Los Angeles, but Bristol Palin has had a steady cheering section in the ballroom for Dancing With the Stars
. How? Her parents, Sarah and Todd Palin, have been treating family and friends to plane tickets.
"I'm sending friends and family to L.A. to watch Dancing with the Stars
on Mondays," the former Alaska governor, author and soon-to-be reality star
tells PEOPLE. "And that's been a nice thing to do. Bristol is down there without a team. She doesn't have a publicist, she doesn't have handlers ... We love to be able to do that without anybody else having to worry about it. We'll send 'em down."
Sarah, Todd, their daughters Piper and Willow and even Bristol's grandmother, Sally Heath, have all made the trip to be the ballroom to watch Bristol perform the cha cha, the Viennese waltz, the quickstep and the Argentine tango. Family attorney and friend Tom Van Flein and his daughters also got to go and watch.
"That has been a big gift for so many," says Heath, adding that they stay at a motel across the street from the studio, "so that nobody has to drive us around."
Palin spoke to PEOPLE ahead of the Sunday debut
(9 p.m. ET) of TLC's new series, Sarah Palin's Alaska
, by producer Mark Burnett.
Although Palin won't say how much she's been paid for the show – or how much she's earned for other moneymaking ventures like her bestselling memoir and a new book, America By Heart
, out later this month – she did say she has been able to splurge on a few items for her family. Those include an airport hangar and workshop for Todd, apartments for Bristol and her older brother Track, a home studio for Palin's FOX News appearances – and those plane tickets to Los Angeles.
"So materially speaking, that's about it in terms of luxury," Palin said. "Airplane hangar, and going to watch Dancing With the Stars
. So far."
As for how Piper, 9, and Willow, 16, manage to be in the ballroom on school nights, Palin says, "We work with the school to bring their schoolwork with us."
For more from PEOPLE's at-home interview with Sarah and Todd Palin – including an in-depth look inside their 22-year marriage – pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday