Travel, in general, has become quite expensive in the last few years. Flights and accommodation costs have skyrocketed, not to mention product pricing and dining when you arrive at your destination. Even the most avid travelers are feeling the pinch, making it more useful than ever to heed those money-saving tips and teach our children how to handle the financial burden ahead of them.
Using the time when you travel can be an excellent opportunity to turn your fun family vacation into a learning experience that they don’t even know is happening. Here are three ways to help your kids learn the responsibility of spending while you are on your Disney vacation.
Talk about impulse buying before you leave.
The first step is to start a conversation at home that makes your kids think about what a good spending choice looks like when they aren’t in front of the temptation. When my children were younger, I would talk to them about what sort of purchases sounded like a special item you might treasure when you get home and what might look good at that moment but really be a waste of money.
I would often use examples, such as a plush toy that is special and unique, being something you might bring home and love for a lifetime, versus an overpriced bag of candy that looks super yummy but isn’t something that will remind you of your trip to Disney.
Kids are good at thinking of items to place in both columns, and while they might not realize it when you are all at home, being able to refer back to those examples when they are in the parks can be very effective. When they have their heart set on that expensive lollipop that is the size of their head, you might find reasoning with them a little easier when you can use their own examples of items that are pretty common and won’t last very long.
Give them their own money.
I talk to other parents who travel often and consistently hear them saying they feel like an ATM for their kids, constantly wanting whatever they can get their hands on. I learned this little trick a few years ago, and it works wonders. Give your child their own designated money, even if you keep it safe along the way.
This can come in any form you like, a gift card, a Visa Debit Card, cash, or even just a budget of what money you will allow them to spend that hold on to yourself for safekeeping. But setting that boundary, no matter how small or large the amount, helps them to prioritize what they want rather than just ask for everything they can.
When I started this, I saw my kids make better choices, not wanting to waste their precious money on the same rubbish they would have asked me for. It also allows them to keep track of what they have to spend, learn valuable budgeting skills, and practice impulse control that can get the better of us all at Disney. Review what is left at the end of the day, and take the opportunity to discuss their choices. Whatever you do, please do not give them more when they run out; this will defeat the purpose of setting a limit.
Set aside money to spend on others.
Another strategy that I like to use is to allocate a portion of the money my kids have to spend to be spent on other people, and there are two reasons why. Not only does it give them the opportunity to learn the joy of giving, but it also forces your child to think outside of themselves in those moments of temptation.
If your child has $100 to spend on Disney merchandise while you are away, and $10 of that money must be spent on someone else, they start to see things a little differently. For example, they might offer to purchase an item for a sibling who has run out of money or maybe a close friend back home; either way, it introduces a more considerate shopping experience that promotes generosity.
Years later, my two are still constantly offering to buy things for each other well after the rules have been taken away. They genuinely like the act of giving, which always makes me smile. Another bonus of this approach is that it puts a cap on the spending-for-other-people rabbit hole, which can leave you laying out more money for the people back home than on your family that are with you.
I’m by no means an expert, but these are a few tricks I have picked up through the years that help me not to feel like my primary role is being the bank of Mum whenever they spot something shiny. What tips have you come across and implemented in your time traveling with kids?
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.