Use Family Vacations to Build Money Skills

Have you ever thought about using a family vacation as a way to help build important financial skills?

There is huge value to coming together as a family to plan, budget, research, and save for a vacation. It’s a process that gives everyone a clear view of the possibilities and parameters, and it’s your best opportunity to get everyone engaged in the experience.

You can start this process by reflecting on past vacations.

  • What vacations have you most enjoyed?
  • What memories are most meaningful?
  • Did you spend a lot for that fun—or were the best moments relatively inexpensive or even free?  
  • With all those memories in mind, what matters most to you for your next trip?
  • Are you looking for more of the same—or something different?

Schedule time together as a family to brainstorm ideas of where you want to go. Choose one or two possible destinations for your trip. Then go to work:

Make a list of all the plans that need to be completed for a vacation to happen: transportation, lodging, food, and entertainment options to name a few. What will everything cost? What can you learn from online reviews?

Assign planning responsibilities to all family members, including the youngest members. Set a due date for completing the research and come back together to share what you discovered.

Before you finish your first meeting talk about how you will evaluate your findings.

  • Does everyone get to vote?
  • Do your choices have to be unanimous?
  • How can you take turns doing your favorite things?
  • Explain that you will consider everyone’s input, but the adults will have the final say.

As you evaluate your research and establish a budget, discuss how you will fund the trip.

  • Talk about money you will contribute and which expenses those funds will cover.
  • Discuss extras each person will pay for on their own, like special events or outings, or small items like mementos and souvenirs.
  • Look for creative solutions to stretch your dollar:
    • Search for travel deals and free or low-cost activities.
    • Consider alternatives to eating out.
    • Reduce your spending by camping or staying with family or friends.
    • Do a “staycation” at or near your home.
  • Decide now on your savings goals as a family and as individuals so you have the funds to make the most of your time away.

Researchers say that we find the most lasting satisfaction when we spend money on experiences rather than things.

When your family understands you have a finite amount of money to allocate to your vacation, you can decide together how to maximize your fun. The entire vacation experience can build enjoyment from start to finish:

You plan… you go… you remember… ...and as you form habits of using your time and money wisely, you can leverage the opportunity to maximize your experience.

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