I pay my kids to travel. You should too. How many of us have bought our kids souvenirs, and other trinkets on a trip? Most of us probably. I don’t anymore. Instead I’m teaching my kids to budget money they earn through travel.
My boys were ages 4 and 7 when they started working for money. Yes, this is all part of budget travel. They are learning how to save their money, right?
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Earning Money as a Kid
Many children in the United States earn an allowance for doing chores around the house. My kids don’t get an allowance. They do chores in our house because everyone chips in. We all live in our house and we all make a mess.
My kids still have desires and want things though. They only get presents on their birthday or Christmas. If they want something, they add it to their Amazon Wishlist.
Travel Jobs for Kids
Travel is my job. My kids travel with me for my job and they know it. Every trip we take I let them know if I’ll be working and what we will have to do.
Often times they have to sit around while I talk to hotel managers, take endless photographs in national parks, and many times, I need their help on a trip. They are in photos or I need their opinion on an attraction, kids club or meal. My boys are in videos and it isn’t always fun to be stuck in a car on a long road trip.
So, I pay them for their help, and here’s why.
Bribing Kids Doesn’t Work
When my kids first started traveling with me, I would bribe them for good behavior. Mommy has to do something boring, fine, you can have that lollipop, toy, whatever.
It quickly spiraled out of control.
We were bringing home so much junk my kids didn’t care about. The whining would go up more and more each trip. They needed more ice cream, more candy and more toys just to behave.
Check out 5 ways to save at the airport
Kids Can Learn How to Budget Travel
When my youngest turned four, and his big brother was seven, I called it quits on the bribing. It wasn’t working for any of us. I decided I would pay them each $10.
This seemed like a large enough amount to buy a toy or a few extra treats, but not so much that I was going to be bringing home a jumbo toy we didn’t need. It could cover a souvenir, but nothing outrageous, like high-priced mega toys.
Ten dollars was also enough to show my boys what would happen if they saved up that $10 to combine with other trip money to buy something bigger. Think about it– $10 can add up pretty quick to buy an awesome LEGO set when you are taking five trips per summer with your mom.
Budget Travel Learning Process
The “Bank of Mommy” was officially open. My youngest had a hard time navigating budget travel at first.
Every shop we went into he was convinced he had to buy something. He has always had this problem. Even grocery stores he is convinced he has to pick out something we really don’t need or already have at home. Convincing him that a “scouting” mission was necessary to find something he really wanted was tough.
He still struggles, but it is getting better.
My oldest figured out that his money could add up pretty quick. He saved money from two trips to buy a board game he’d had his eye on for a while. What? He could buy things he had put on his Amazon Wishlist with his trip money. Yup! He could use that $10 for anything he wanted. It was his money.
Lending Money to Your Kids for Travel
If the boys had money at home from grandparents but forgot to bring it, they could borrow from the “Bank of Mommy” and pay me back when they got home. Yes, there is a “Bank of Daddy” too, but you can’t borrow the same amount from both parents.
There is no lending with interest in this family… yet.
Money Saving Tips with Kids
Is this system perfect? No. Are they learning? Yes.
The whining has gone down significantly. Anytime one of my kids asks me to buy them something, I remind them that they have $10 to spend. If we are staying in the same place, I tell them we will scout out the shops and go shopping the last day so they don’t miss anything.
If we are visiting multiple locations, it is up to them to decide if they really, REALLY have to have that plastic ninja sword, comic book or dragon toy within the first few days or at the end of our two week trip.
Do I still buy my kids things when we travel?
Of course! I’m not a monster. It is my choice now to bless my children, not because they are whining nonstop, but because I saw something that I think they would love.
Plus, sometimes I want a second gelato on any given day during our travels. I’ve been told it is cruel to eat gelato in front of your kids. It also makes me less guilty if I buy them gelato, forsaking my own, but eating half of theirs anyway. Those calories don’t count, right? The same goes for tacos and other street food. I just can’t help myself, so I should probably share with my kids.
A Note About International Exchange Rates
What happens when we go international? Do I make my kids figure out the currency exchange for $10? No, I’m not that mean yet.
Getting them to figure out what $10 can buy across multiple destinations in the world has been hard enough. Getting a six year old to understand that his $10 doesn’t buy as much somewhere else may just break the poor boy. That lesson will come later. Baby steps.
For now, I give them $10, 10 Euros, 10 pounds, although countries with a lower exchange rate, for instance in Southeast Asia or Mexico, or where 10 Yen in Japan doesn’t equate to much, we are a bit more flexible. The Bank of Mommy is a fluid beast, kind of like the stock market.
Travel Tip: Paying Your Kids to Travel
Many friends have asked me about the $10 I pay my kids to travel with me. At first, they are appalled that I pay my kids to travel. Let’s get one thing clear- “pay” is in quotes.
My boys love to travel. They enjoy it… as much as kids like doing anything at any stage of their lives. We now have a game within our travels. How much can $10 get and what can they get with $10 in any country we visit? Can they find the cheapest, high-quality item to bring home? They are learning, and best of all, they don’t even know it.
Let me ask you, how are you teaching your kids to budget money when they travel?
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