Budgeting for a trip with kids can be stressful. They tend to want everything they see! Reduce your stress by using this strategy to help your children (and you) with money during your trip.
Memorable trips and experiences are one of the many benefits of my boys' school. They take their first trip to Williamsburg in fourth grade. So, Jax and I traveled back to my old home state for the same field trip I did in fourth grade!
As you can imagine, this trip for two costs a pretty penny. Most is included with that expense, but lunches, souvenirs, and other extras are our responsibility. I know Jax will want to get things while we're there, and I don't constantly want to tell him "no."
My first priority was knowing exactly how much we could comfortably spend. I use Everydollar.com to make my monthly budget. To make it easier for me, I created a budget category just for the trip. Lunches and anything he chooses to buy are included in this amount. I also put a little extra just in case I wanted to buy anything. Remember, you can balance your categories by adjusting others accordingly. If you add money to the trip category for your food, you won't need to spend as much on groceries.
Explaining the Budget to the Kids
In this case, it was only Jax and I on the trip, but for anything else, you could have this conversation in a family meeting or create an opportunity before you leave. It's highly likely that if you wait until you've arrived, complete excitement has set in, and they won't hear a word!
I explained to Jax that we have $100 total to spend. (I estimated $20 for meals in Williamsburg, $15 for our fast food meal on the way home, and $25 left for souvenirs.) This was an easy number for him to handle, so I didn't let him know there was a little wiggle room.
He has the choice while we're on our trip to allocate the money where he wants. If he wants to find cheaper dining options to buy more things, he can do that. Or if he wants to go with a friend to a higher-priced restaurant for lunch, we can do that but will have less to spend on other meals and/or souvenirs.
The End Result
Jax was very conscious of our budget as we began our trip. The first day allowed time for us to go to Merchant Square where all the shops are. As I suspected, he HAD to have something! He found a hat very early on in our day that he "really" wanted. I reminded him of our budget and that we still have two more days to look around. This helped convince him to at least wait and think about it.
At lunch, he concluded that he HAD to have this hat. As much as it went against everything I wanted to do or say, I followed through with our initial conversation and let him get the hat. He did enjoy it, until he found a toy gun he wanted instead. The life lesson was learned: he realized he should have waited to buy something.
Here's the thing, though. If I had insisted on telling him "no," the trip would have been a continuous argument. But because the decision was up to him, it fell back on him when he changed his mind. Since the trip, Jax and I have had quite a few meaningful conversations about budgeting, making choices, and how difficult it can be to make those choices. He also seems to have a better understanding of what we, as parents, go through as we decide how to spend our money.
He does still wear the hat 🙂
Setting a budget for trips and including your children in part of that process makes it possible to successfully stay on track throughout your travels. When your children know exactly what their budget is, they are able to feel that they have more control over the choices being made. In the long run, it will also teach them how to budget as an adult.
What strategies do you use with your children to help stay within your budget?