Last time, we introduced the first in a 3-part blog series sharing ways to teach your kids money skills while you travel together. That post focused on your children between the ages of 5 and 8. Today, we’ll investigate how to build on these early money lessons for your preadolescent (or tween) from 9 to 13 years old. 

Traveling is a great time to reinforce money skills. First, we’ll recap a few key items to keep in mind as  you plan your money-reinforcing travel adventures.


First thing’s first

When teaching your kids money skills through travel, don’t forget:

Memories are Most Important. Life’s busy. Enjoying your travel time and creating memories is top priority. Any learning opportunities should fit naturally into your vacation and not take away from this bonding time. After all, years from now, you’ll be talking about the colorful fish you saw snorkeling, and not how much money was spent on a t-shirt at the souvenir shop.

Kids learn by doing. Kids are naturally curious. They like to engage directly with the world. So provide situations in which they can wrestle with choices, make independent decisions, and experience the natural consequences. As much as you can, don’t “rescue” them from what you think is a poor decision. They’ll weigh their satisfaction and adjust their decision-making the next time. 

Money skills involve more than dollars and cents. Situations that require your child to plan, organize, and weigh different choices all increase their budgeting skills. Time and money are both limited resources that we budget; so when you travel, use concepts of time and money to teach decision-making skills. Deciding how to allocate each generally involves a similar process. And both are a natural part of travel.

Know Your Tween

As you teach your kids money skills through travel, keep in mind how your kids have grown.

At this stage, your children are able to think more abstractly. They are capable of more advanced planning and understand cause and effect. Keeping this in mind, they can play a bigger role in your vacation planning. They can also more fully understand the results of the financial decisions that they make. This opens the door for deeper conversations about thinking ahead and determining the possible outcomes of various options.

Your preadolescent child is more independent than in early childhood. You’ll notice your child increasingly developing their own identity and self expression. They want to make their own decisions and might even develop a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit. Along with this increased understanding of self comes a developing sense of personal values and a moral compass.

Despite increased independence, their peer group is important.  Peer pressure develops at this age, and your child will want to fit in with their friends. They will increasingly need their friends’ validation, and feelings of embarrassment are particularly difficult. You can support positive image by reinforcing their confidence and self esteem in natural and genuine ways.

Your child will be more outwardly focused than during early childhood. They will begin to see others’ point of view and develop empathy. As we discussed, others’ opinions are increasingly important and they are beginning to develop personal values. This is a good opportunity to reinforce philanthropic concepts.

Your preadolescent is developing a better sense of time and money. As they transition from complete dependence to independence, this is a good time to give them authority over their decisions with fewer preset parameters. Read on to see how you can expand their independence in the planning, preparing and traveling phases of family travel.


Putting It Together–Teach Kids Money Skills at Each Travel Step

Planning the Trip  

Support your child’s strong, budding passions and desire for responsibility. When you’ve chosen a travel destination, let them research that place and suggest activities. For example, if they want to visit a excavation site, they can research the cost for the family to go–ticket prices, parking, etc. They can also help you determine the best day to fit their destination into the itinerary and logistics of getting there.

As they begin to develop a deeper sense of empathy and awareness of others’ needs, incorporate philanthropy into their research. Nonprofit travel destinations like museums, zoos, and aquariums often ask for donations through the website or onsite. Sometimes you can contribute to a particular project. As you research with your child, point out these opportunities to give and allow them to make a decision, without pressure, of whether they want to support a cause.

If they’re on the upper end of this age range, they can help you create a daily itinerary based on the activities the family has chosen taking into account location, transportation, weather, etc. This is a great lesson in coordination and organization. You can assign them a day and ask them to determine the total cost of that day’s activities.

Preparing for the Trip  

By upper elementary school, kids can make their own packing list. Provide them with an itinerary of the trip and talk through the thought process. For example, how many sets of clothes will they need for  for five days away? If a hike will be on the itinerary, they’ll need to pack sturdy shoes. After you review and approve their list, allow them to find their items and pack their suitcase checking off each item to confirm it’s accounted for.

If something on the list needs to be purchased (hiking boots, for example), they can help with the research. Children on the younger end of the preadolescent years can research the item with you. If they are on the upper end, they might be ready to do their own research and come to you with 3 options.

Financial Decision While Traveling  

When she was in late elementary school, I always let my daughter know that I’d give her a certain amount of money, like $50, to spend on our vacation.  Since she knew the our travel itinerary, she could start thinking ahead of time where she might want to spend her money. This allowed her to plan. She didn’t have a debit card at that age, so I kept the cash and gave it to her as she wanted it for purchases. 

In late middle school, she began spending more time out with friends and had developed better abstract thinking skills. So that she wasn’t carrying cash, I opened a checking account for her with a debit card.  I deposited the vacation allowance to her account. Then she could make fairly independent spending and saving decisions with her total funds. 

Empowering Your Child

In this stage, as your child grows in independence, has an increased desire for control over their decisions, and values belonging, they will feel empowered if you include them in all the stages of a family vacation. They will benefit from the ability to contribute ideas, conduct higher level research and present the pros and cons of various choices. And, you’ll reinforce your kids’ planning and organization skills which are key when teaching money skills.

Look for our next post about reinforcing money skills as  you travel with your teenager between the ages of 14 and 18. Through the years, with patience and practice, you’ll raise a financially-independent child.