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How Summer Travel Can Teach Kids About Money

Don't forget to pack these teachable money moments for your next family vacation!

How Summer Travel Can Teach Kids About Money

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Summer is the most popular travel season for families, and this year's forecast is no exception. Parents can take some time off to enjoy a family vacation when school is out.

Travel is an opportunity to create fun and lasting memories with loved ones, but there is a cost. Increasing travel prices have raised concerns about affordability for many parents, according to a survey by the Family Travel Association. While most don't plan to travel less, many are reviewing their plans and adjusting their spending, such as searching for lower-cost options. 36 percent said they'd choose more affordable accommodations than they did in the past.

A Forbes survey also found that inflation was impacting travel plans. Nearly half of the travellers they surveyed (46 percent) said they were somewhat or very likely to modify their plans in one way or another. They planned to save by driving instead of flying (18 percent) or travelling to a cheaper destination (14 percent).

Making budget-friendly choices helps ensure families can still enjoy precious time together while making the most of their money. Talking about trade-off decisions is a great way for kids and teens to learn about responsibly managing money.

Here are five ways parents can use summer vacation as a time to teach kids about money, from before the bags are packed until you arrive back home.

Talk dollars about your family's plan  

If you already have a vacation booked, review the trip together. This can get your kids excited about the itinerary and help them learn about travel expenses. When they know the cost of plane tickets, hotels, and even a tank of gas, they can start to understand the importance of planning, budgeting and saving.

How Summer Travel Can Teach Kids About Money iStock

If you're still deciding on the trip, exchange ideas about where you'd want to go and what activities you'd like to do. When the suggestions are narrowed down, make a list of all the estimated expenses. You can compare how location and the length of time you stay can make a big difference in the total cost.

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According to the Family Travel Association survey, beach vacations are the most common type of travel for families (54 percent), with California and Florida topping the list of states overall. Other popular trips are visiting family and friends (49 percent) and museums and cultural attractions (41 percent), which may be across the country or close to home.

You can even plan a staycation! Last year, Greenlight kids and teens spent $20.6 million on seasonal entertainment, such as amusement parks, carnivals, sporting events, and more. More than $1 million was spent at Six Flags alone.

Establish the budget together

Once your trip is decided, it's time to create a budget. Avoid introducing it as a negative concept because a budget is just the plan for your money.

Start by listing expenses for the higher-cost items, like transportation and accommodations, if you aren't staying with relatives. Be sure to include all planned spending, including food, activities, entertainment, and souvenirs. Remember an emergency fund for the unexpected.

With the total trip budget in mind, demonstrate how money can be shifted across different categories of expenses. If you spend more in one area, you'll have less to spend in another. This helps kids visualize that money isn't unlimited, so decisions must be made about how best to use it for the family's enjoyment.

Make saving a family effort

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Remind your kids that the money you save today is money you can spend in the future. Brainstorm ways to save together as a family. Ask your kids to identify areas where you may be able to spend less so that you can save more for the vacation and other things you value.

The discipline of saving is fundamental to financial success, and parents can help their kids build a positive mindset toward saving — and get plenty of practice — from a young age. This will make saving easier and more natural as they grow.

You can also encourage your kids to set aside some of their own money for the trip.

Enjoy your vacation — as you planned 

When vacation time arrives, it's time to put the budget into action. Let the kids be in charge of their souvenir budget or other personal spending. Encourage them to think through their decisions carefully and avoid impulse spending because when the money's gone, it's gone. Learning how to stick to a budget will enable them to delay gratification and stay on course for financial goals.

How Summer Travel Can Teach Kids About Money iStock

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Explain how budget tracking as you go helps you see where the money is going and identify if you need to make any adjustments to your plan. For example, there may have been an unexpected expense, or something might have cost more than you anticipated. Find ways to balance the budget so you can maximize the fun!

Don't stop the money lessons when your trip ends 

By incorporating practical money lessons into your summer plans, you're helping your kids build important life skills while you create lasting memories. Reflect on the trip with your kids when you're home. Ask what they learned about money and how they can use that knowledge now, such as by setting a new saving goal. These money lessons aren't just preparing them for next summer's vacation — but a healthy financial future as they grow.

This article was originally published on Jun 28, 2024

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Jennifer Seitz is the Director of Education at Greenlight, the family finance company on a mission to help parents raise financially smart kids. A Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) and a mom of three, Jennifer uses her expertise to teach kids and parents alike about smart money management. She led the educational development of Level Up, a gamified financial literacy experience in the Greenlight app, and recently launched Greenlight for Classrooms, a free library of personal finance resources for K-12 teachers in all 50 states. Prior to Greenlight, Jennifer spent more than 15 years with CNN where she held several content roles.

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