Children and Money

4 Family Vacation Money Lessons for Kids

4 Family Vacation Money Lessons for Kids | www.TheHeavyPurse.comJune is here and many families are busy prepping for their annual summer family vacation. While the main purpose of a family vacation may be to have fun, they also offer ample opportunities to teach your kids some valuable money lessons. We love to travel and utilize that passion to help teach Lauren and Taylor how to make smart choices with their money.

These money lessons are applicable to kids of all ages and I encourage you to invite your kids to participate in the family vacation planning from start to finish. Don’t worry if your vacation is imminent, the most important thing is to start talking to your kids now. You can start from the beginning on your next vacation.

1. Understand Why Family Vacations Matter

Family vacations are practically a rite of passage from arguing with siblings in the backseat to car sickness to making treasured memories. They also don’t just happen. We have to plan and pay for them. Don’t keep that fact a secret from your kids.

Vacations Give Our Money Purpose

I am a firm believer that every dollar should have a purpose, so that you utilize it on what matters most (and also save/invest your money properly too). Our girls know we set aside a portion of our family discretionary income for travel and plan our trips from there, including where we go and how many trips we take per year.

Vacations Are Part of Our Family Money Values

In my video, Teaching Kids Your Family Money Values, I shared why kids need to learn how you decide what to spend your money on, also known as your family money values. The girls know travel is something we value highly as a family. Vacations give us a chance to relax, to explore, to learn and to have fun. All things that matter to us.

2. Demonstrate Making Value-Based Decisions

Vacations are often our family save goal. We talk about our planned vacation frequently to keep it top-of-mind and the girls excited. I also use it to help guide money decisions when I or the girls get the “I wants”. We are always going to find things we want and goals help us make good decisions with our money.

This is a concept we drill into the girls because making value-based decisions is part of being Financially Real. We want the girls to understand that the choices we make with our money can either help us achieve what we want (like our family vacation) or take us further away from our ideal life, if we spend mindlessly. To demonstrate this, I’ll ask myself, “Does this bring me closer or further from my goal?” when I find things I like at the store and let the girls see me choose to honor our family save goal.

3. Help Choose How We Use Our Vacation Budget

One easy way to get your kids to engage and learn how to make good decisions with their money is to get their input on how you utilize your vacation dollars. Kids love to be heard and make a difference, so let them have a voice on how you spend family money.

Money is Finite So Use It On What Brings the Most Joy

Most of us are fortunate enough to have some discretionary money left after we pay our bills and fund our goals. Some of us have big piles of discretionary income and others have small piles. But we all get to choose how we spend our discretionary money. Many spend mindlessly until their money is gone and not necessarily on things that truly bring happiness or fulfillment. I want my girls to use their discretionary income mindfully and on what brings the greatest joy to their lives.

To help drive home this concept, we give the girls a bunch of activities that we can do during our travels with some being more expensive and others inexpensive. They understand that once the money is gone, it’s gone. This is important, so don’t add extra money to budget. Make them decide based on the money available. The girls take this very seriously and spend time thinking about what activities appeal the most to them.

Quantity Versus Quality

The girls have become quite thoughtful about how we spend our family money, which makes me so proud. Even better, they have also begun to weigh quantity versus quality. Neither is universally better than the other because the proper answer is dependent on what you value, which differs from person-to-person. They recognize there are certain things that are worth the day’s budget and other times they would rather spread the budget into multiple activities.

4. Learn How To Spend Their Own Money Wisely

Thus far, we’ve been focused on spending the family money and showing our kids how we decide to use it. Now it’s time to give them some control and empower them to make good decisions with their own money too.

Help Them Set Aside Earned Money to Spend

It’s absolutely okay to buy your kids a memento or two during your vacation, but don’t buy them everything. Instead encourage them to save some money to spend as they please during vacation. This should be money they either earn through chores or work or receive as gifts. You may want to suggest they set aside a portion of their save or spend goal money for vacations.

Identify Buying Opportunities

Kids have a tendency to spend money pretty quickly and will likely want to buy the first thing they see, especially if they are very young and/or new to making value-based decisions. Help kids see the big picture by outlining your various stops and what souvenirs they may want to purchase to help temper their spending and leave money for other things they find later.

Set Guidelines, If Necessary

This is also the time to set some rules on what they can and cannot buy too. While I like to give the girls a fair amount of latitude on how they use their personal money, I also don’t want to set them up for disappointment either by choosing something that I or their Dad will veto.

Let Them Make Mistakes

This is also so hard to do, but we do learn from our mistakes, so it is important that we allow kids to make mistakes and experience the satisfaction of learning and overcoming them too. Sometimes your kids will chose to spend their money on something you know they will regret later. It’s okay to remind them of their other goals and encourage them to make a value-based decision, but respect their decision too. Later, when they recognize their mistake, talk it over with them and gently help them understand their mistake.

Summer Fun While Learning about Money

Family vacations offer a great opportunity for you to create unforgettable memories with your family. And I also hope that amid your summer travels, you weave in a valuable money lesson or two. There are plenty of teachable moments, waiting for you take advantage of them. Hopefully, I’ve been able to give you some suggestions to help you do so.

What money lessons have you taught your kids during a family vacation?


Leave a Comment


  1. Monday, June 1st, 2015
    This was one of the things we talked about with our 3 children on a recent vacation. They commented on what a great time they were having, what a nice hotel we had, etc. We talked about it, because we planned properly with our money, saved, travel at an off-peak time we could enjoy it. I explained they could too if they have purpose with their money as they get older.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      Love it, Brian! It's exactly what we do with the girls too. They understand that we make choices so we can have nice vacations because travel is one of our family's favorite passions. Love that you're showing your kids the value of giving their money purpose. It makes a huge difference!
  2. Monday, June 1st, 2015
    I really like teaching kids how to use their own money and vacation is a perfect time for that. They can learn first-hand that they have to make choices for their money, ultimately not getting everything they want but getting what they want most.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      Exactly, Natalie. It's so important for kids to realize that while they may not be able to buy everything they want, if they make smart choices, they can get what matters most.
  3. Monday, June 1st, 2015
    I think vacations are a great way to make real the lessons and talks you've been having with your kids about money. We've seen that the kids really enjoy simply getting out of the norm and doing something we normally might not (I suppose some of that is probably due to their age) as opposed to something that might cost a lot of money, so we try to work towards that. With our oldest, she's at the point now where we can work with her to set aside some of her money and help her think through how she may want to use it while on vacation.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      When I started giving the girls options, I assumed they would always want to do the most expensive option, but thankfully, they are smarter than that. :) They do a great job of really thinking about what they want to do. Sometimes it is the more expensive choice and other times, they want to do lots of little things. Best of all, they learn when the money is spent; the money is spent, which just makes them take more time to decide how to use family money because they want to get their money's worth too!
  4. Monday, June 1st, 2015
    We have actually started discussing our family vacation budget with Will and he not only loves to be a part of the conversation, but it really helps with deciding where to go and what to do. It also gives him a great perspective on the cost and value of a vacation which gives him a better appreciation for the fact that we take them.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      It does give kids such a great perspective and they LOVE having their opinions be heard. I also find that kids understanding that vacations cost money, they put up much less of a fuss when we choose to honor our vacation goal over buying them a toy.
  5. Monday, June 1st, 2015
    My kids learned a lesson this past weekend when we chose King's Island over expensive Disney World. They learned that you can still have fun when you choose the cheaper option!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      Absolutely, Holly! Fun definitely does not have to cost a fortune and it's a great lesson for kids to learn.
  6. Monday, June 1st, 2015
    I really like the idea of giving your money purpose. It makes sense to create memories rather than just buying physical things that you probably don't need. Maybe I'll add a vacation fund soon.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      I am a big believer that you have to give every dollar you have a purpose to help guide your decisions. Otherwise, we just tend to spend mindlessly.
  7. Monday, June 1st, 2015
    Demonstrating making value-based decisions are so important to do with kids. I feel like I would have become a responsible spender a lot sooner had my parents chosen to be more transparent with our family's financial goals.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      It's so unfortunate that money remains a taboo topic in homes. I'm hoping we're helping break that cycle because money transparency between couples and families is so important. Kids are always observing their parents and teaching my daughters to make value-based decisions was one of the first lessons I taught them.
  8. Monday, June 1st, 2015
    I think a lot of kids would be better off if they realized the thought process and sacrifice that went into family vacations. If we ever go to Disney World (which will probably be $250/day/person by the time I have kids and they are old enough to go...) I will be sure the kids realize what a sacrifice it was for us to go there!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      I agree, DC. Kids need to understand that vacations cost money and because they matter to you as family - you worked hard and saved to go on vacations together. It's more important than ever for kids to understand this because otherwise all they see you do is swipe your credit card. They don't realize you saved money to pay for the trip and are using your CC out of convenience if you don't tell them.
  9. Monday, June 1st, 2015
    It's a hard balance between wanting kids to know how much sacrifice goes into vacation savings vs not wanting them to feel guilty for spending money. I struggle with this myself, but your tip about giving kids a budget to plan and work around is brilliant. I think when kids have a say they value the experience much more than if you were making all the choices for them.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      Absolutely, Kim. You want them to recognize vacations aren't free but not feel guilty either. It can be a delicate balance! Kids really love helping plan vacations and having their opinions matter. Giving Lauren and Taylor a say has really been a positive experience and they do place higher value the experience too. I'm sure your daughter would love to help you plan your next vacation! :)
  10. Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
    My kids ask so many questions about family vacation. I and my wife just explain to them clearly why we have such and such and reasons behind it. We just assure that before ending the conversation, they understand it really well and can apply it to real-life situation.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      That's great that your helping your kids understand the decisions you and your wife make. It's important for kids to realize the thought process that went behind your decisions.
  11. Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
    I think kids just want memories. It seems when I talk to adults now, their fondest memories are of something as simple as camping when they were younger, or just making smores on a fire. I probably hated those long car trips with the family when I was younger, but now they make me laugh and make for good stories.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, June 4th, 2015
      It's funny because when we are little we want to do or have "stuff" but what we remember later is the memories. I have two younger sisters and car rides were always an adventure. :)
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan