4 Money Lessons Kids Can Learn on Vacation

Even as you put your feet up and relax, you can also teach your kids valuable lessons in money – what it takes to save and stick to a budget.

When you imagine your next family vacation you probably picture yourself lounging on a beach as the kids play in the sand, or taking in the culture and sights of a new city, or simply riding the Big Loop roller coaster after a generous serving of fried dough.

Wherever you go on vacation this summer, you’re hoping the experience will be relaxing and fun and a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

But even as you put your feet up and relax a little, you can also teach your kids some valuable lessons in money – what it takes to save for something big and stick to a budget.

Since only 17 U.S. states require students to take a class in personal finance, it’s up to parents to teach kids how money works. A family vacation can be a great way to get started.

Here are four ways you can teach kids about money on your next vacation.

1 | Involve kids in planning the trip – including the budget

Start by letting your kids know how much you have to spend on the trip and which destinations reasonably fit within that amount (Hawaii’s out but the California coast is in). Once you decide on a destination, let older kids research what the family can do and see at the destination. Next, look over the cost of each activity and determine what’s affordable within your family budget. It could be eye-opening for kids to realize that going hiking is free while spending the afternoon at the aquarium is over $100.

2 | Set up savings goals for the trip

While researching the trip your kids might discover that going whale watching and visiting Disneyland would stretch the budget too far – this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how spending goals can be reached by cutting back on other expenses and earning extra money.

Ask your kids if there are ways the family could afford to pay for both activities, and then offer a few suggestions. Maybe you’ll agree to seek out less expensive dining options at your destination or decide to cut back on movie theater visits before the trip. Kids could also flex their entrepreneurial muscle to earn money toward the goal by mowing neighbors’ lawns, pet sitting, or setting up a lemonade stand at the local farmers market.

3 | Get kids involved in booking airfare and hotels

Not all kids will have the patience to sit down and pore over airfare and hotel fares, but as much as possible, getting kids involved in booking airfare and hotels will be a good lesson in comparison shopping. Is the family willing to take a 6 a.m. flight to save $400? And while the resort with the cool pool might be appealing, is it worth it to splurge on accommodations instead of spending that money on attractions?

4 | Designate a daily spending budget for kids

The temptations are endless on vacations. First there’s the cotton candy, then the glow-in-the-dark souvenir magnet, and let’s not forget the tie dye t-shirt. Kids will understandably want it ALL. But if given a budget of say, $20 or less a day, kids will have to make decisions about what’s worth spending money on and what’s not.

And if your kid sees something for more than $20 that they can’t live without, encourage them to either bring along allowance money or earn extra spending cash before the trip.

5 | Real Memories

Family vacations provide a host of lasting memories, like the time the whole family parasailed over the Caribbean or got lost in the back trails of Yellowstone. That’s part of why we take vacations – to bond as a family.

But with very little effort, kids can (often unknowingly!) also gain valuable financial skills. These lessons will serve them well as they enter adulthood when they need to save and budget for bigger purchases  – ones that go beyond the amusement park fried dough.

Making the Case For Vacationing With Another Family

Everyone knows that vacationing with kids is all the work of home, away from home. Here’s how to make it relaxing: bring more kids (and their parents).

Everyone knows that vacationing with kids isn’t restful. It’s the work of home, away from home.

So might I suggest a way to make it more relaxing: Bring more kids (and their parents).
We’ve camped with friends and last summer we rented a beach house with another family. While adding more people means more opportunities for things to go wrong, it also means increasing the odds that everything will be just right. Here’s what we’ve learned from vacationing with other families:

The Work Load Is Divided

Our friends are more seasoned campers, so we struck a deal. If they’d bring the fancy gear and the know-how, we’d bring the tin-foil dinners and the smores. Because we’d divided up the To Bring list, one of the most arduous parts of any trip – the packing – wasn’t nearly as laborious usual.

Likewise anything that typically gets categorized as a chore was far more tenable because there was someone to share it with. Doing dishes, even dishes that must be washed in the great outdoors, is enjoyable when it’s done with friends.

The Expenses Get Halved

The house we rented was beach-front, making the water easily accessible but adding substantially to the cost. It would have been out of our price range as a solo family, but because we shared that expense, it was affordable. When other beach-going families schlepped past our deck lugging their gear and sighing as their kids whined about the long walk in the hot sand, we nodded to each other sagely.

(Another cost savings: Even if you forgot something, the other family is almost certain to have brought it reducing the number of “we forgot the…” runs to the store.)

The Fun Is Multiplied

While we’re big fans of family meals, we decided to do two dinner times at the beach. The kids, ravenous from playing all day, ate during the first shift. Then they watched a movie or played contentedly while the adults had a leisurely second dinner complete with good wine and easy conversation. It’s amazing how relaxing a meal can be when you don’t have to cleanup any spills or jump up repeatedly for more ketchup.

It wasn’t just meal times that were a treat. Because the kids had friends to play with, they were content to spend more time hanging out in the house swapping toys and trading chuckles instead of clamoring to hit the waves at 7 AM. This meant the big people got to linger over their cups of coffee rather than slurping it while applying sunscreen to moving parts.

More Hands On Deck Equals More Time Off For You

My friend and I called dibs on the beach house hot tub several evenings. We soaked in silence while the sun set. It was delightful.

Similarly, when our husbands went on an extremely protracted taco run, we didn’t begrudge them that time because there were two of us there to hold down the fort.
Had our kids been older, we would have swapped house duties for a night, giving each other a much-needed date night with our spouses.

Here’s to taking a trip that you don’t need a vacation to recover from!

School Vacations – An Exercise in Endurance

We are mere hours away from spring break here in Massachusetts and I’m mentally and emotionally preparing myself.

Not by finishing up some work and working out as I had planned. Of course not. Instead I’m eating a pretzel bagel loaded with as much cream cheese I could pile on top thoroughly enjoying the silence. No one is saying they are hungry or asking me, “Wow that looks good, can I have one too?” or “Can I have just a tiny bite of yours, Mom?” Pretty soon the buses will arrive and end this bagel-eating bliss.

I hear that some parents just can’t wait for the break. I personally do not know these people and I am definitely not one of them – though I do admit that there are some pluses to it. Not having to get everyone up and out of the house every day is super. Not having to deal with one particularly ornery non-morning 14-year-old whom, if you look at sideways, sets off a guaranteed hissy fit. No carpools to drive or homework battles to face.

Yes, these are definitely positives it’s just having everyone home under one roof for 24/7 togetherness combined with the fact that my kids are huge talkers, like incessant and not only talking but talking over everyone else at the same time.

The noise, smells, dirt and insanity that’s what those of us who are not jetting off to Disney are facing next week. I do like having my kids home but it’s a challenge to keep the momentum going with such varied ages and interests.

I try to plan out activities that please all which isn’t an easy trick considering our youngest is three and the oldest is 14 but an attempt is made. And it’s a bonus if the hubs is able to take time off which usually he can’t but that could be a hiding tactic on his part and I don’t blame him at all because I might do the same given the opportunity. Thankfully this week he is joining us so it will be him, me, our four boys and usually a few extra kids thrown in for good measure with a week to fill.

I read my Facebook newsfeed which is full of many non-parent teachers saying, “Yay, only 30 more hours ‘til vaca! Woot!” or “T-minus 20 until Miami!” followed by a few martini and plane emoji’s while my feelings of desperation are starting to kick in because I am four hours away from losing my mind but who wants to read that?

I do love my kids and it’s not all bad but school vacations are events to train for like a marathon or labor. You can’t just wing it. Though I did wing labor once and it was not a good scene.  I survived unmedicated, but my husband still can’t speak of it which is probably how he will be feeling a week from now.

Seriously, you really need to be prepared. A fully stocked fridge is one key component to surviving the week ditto for a fully stocked wine stash and I guess the same for coffee though I think during school vacations wine trumps coffee. Snacks are key as hordes of kids will just descend upon my snack cabinet like buzzards.

No one is interested in fruit so I become like an auctioneer wheeling and dealing snacks, “OK you in the red shirt had a granola bar with the chocolate coating? Next up for you is a banana. One granola bar per customer and water ONLY no one is taking my flavored seltzer! Oh and no one is allowed in my deli drawer or cookie cabinet!!”

It’s also important to remind yourself that even though the school system calls it a “vacation” it really isn’t for the parents. It’s a week the teachers and staff have to recharge their batteries after working with our lovelies since the last “vacation” which seemed to be just last week but what do I know? The kids need a break too, well, not really but I try to convince myself of that.

We will make the best of it and have some fun, maybe a few day trips in between the bickering and my constant reminders to pick up the dog poop BEFORE playing in the yard.

If the past 11 years hold true I will be spending most of my time breaking up arguments, talking out hurt feelings between two offending parties, making sure everyone gets a top choice for activity at least once during the week, handing over ice packs, imploring them to wear their bike helmets, restocking my bandage box, doing double loads of laundry, making dozens of grilled cheese sandwiches and trying to remind myself that they won’t always be here. That my solo bagel-eating bliss will return and in the meantime I will embrace the fray.

8 So-Called Life Lessons Learned On “Fun” Family Roadtrips

There’s still time to load up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and hit the holiday road before summer ends. You’ll definitely learn something on this trip.

There’s still time to load up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and hit the holiday road before summer ends. And as anyone who’s ever careened down endless stretches of highway, crammed between a mouth-breathing sibling and far too much luggage can attest, the experience has plenty of life lessons to offer.

1. Nothing worthwhile is easy.

No one actually believes this. In fact, it’s patently untrue. For example, how hard is it to procure an ice cream cone? You dig up a fistful of quarters, walk up to the window and 14 seconds later, ICE CREAM. How easy and worthwhile was that?

However, once you’re a parent, this is the generic bullshit wisdom that tumbles effortlessly from your face.

2. Getting there is half the fun.

It’s also three-quarters of the fighting, two-thirds of the bathroom emergencies, and seven-eighths of the getting lost.

3. Know when NOT to stop and ask directions.

Use discretion here. But if even the stray cats are waving you through stop signs, for godsakes, just keep driving.

4. The only people who are more insufferable than your immediate family members are your extended family members.

Want to appreciate the idiosyncrasies and occasionally infuriating behaviors of those you are required to live with? Spend a week with an uncle who clips his toenails in the living room and a set of nieces and nephews whose only vocal inflections are variations on whining.

5. You’ll pass a gas station every mile until you actually need one.

Rumor has it, this line narrowly missed out to the one about spoons and forks in Alanis Morrisette’s 1996 smash hit “Ironic.” Ok. That’s not true. But don’t even try to tell me it’s not more universally applicable.

6. Secure the luggage properly.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of packing it all, it only makes sense you’d do the best you could to make sure it reaches your destination.

7. Once you’ve put in the hard work, don’t take no for an answer.

You’ve earned this. Come hell or hostages, THIS FAMILY IS GOING TO HAVE FUN, DAMMIT.

8. Park near the exit. 

It doesn’t matter how friendly the folks are at whatever concert/amusement park/sporting event you’ve descended upon. When that joint closes and you’re all attempting to vacate the parking lot at once, NO ONE IS YOUR FRIEND. In fact, if given the right equipment, that same dude who sang every lyric to the cover of the Beatles “All You Need is Love” would straight up DRIVE OVER YOUR CAR to leave first.

So do yourself a favor and get some exercise while you’re at it.

Bonus: Call ahead.


Resources for Keeping Your Sanity Over Winter Break

I’m giving up Facebook for a few, here. No, not for Lent.

Because it’s yet another winter break where my family will not be escaping this icy tundra for the turquoise shores of somewhere that drinks are legally required to have one of those paper umbrellas. Watching my feed flood with snaps of my stupid friends’ toes in white sand and their (annoyingly adorable) kids frolicking in the sunshine is like salt water in my frozen wounds.

I’m not bitter. I swear.

So, whether it’s this week, or another, here’s a list of resources for keeping your sanity. You know, if you’re not jetting off to somewhere that makes your friends jealous. And if you are, consider just how many photos of your tropical gallivanting those of us back home are willing to hide before we unfriend you completely.

The Definitive List of Indoor Activities for Kids

Card Games! That’s almost as fun as sun bathing on an island, right? (Spoiler alert: It’s not. I’m sorry.)

Make Art. That helps.

Winter Activities. Embrace it. It’s almost over, right?