Giving Your Children Control of Your Family Holiday Spending Money


Holidays with our children is something many of us have been lucky to enjoy. Holidays create those memories for our children and ourselves we hope they grow up remembering fondly. Many of also hope that holidays give our children opportunities to do new and exciting things, to learn new things about themselves as well as try new skills and interests. Holidays are something many families look forward to.

When it comes to planning and taking holidays, we the parents, often control every aspect including all the decision making. We decide where to go, where to stay, what activities to do, for how long, how much money to spend and so forth. It is understandable why we do, for many of us we are taking our hard earned annual leave and spending our hard earned money on family holidays and we want to make the most of it. Also there are very often restrictions that play a big part in our decision making such as, when we can take our holidays, children having to attend school and how much cash we have available. We were the same.

She might be on board but she's not relaxed.

What We Did:

Then when our children were around 8, 7 and 6 years old we tried something different – we gave them full control of our summer holiday spending money and it was such a success we did the same for number of other holidays after. (The decisions such as where to go were often determined by our available funds and when we went determined by work, school or other commitments and were still for the most part made by us, the parents.)

Why We Did It:

I can’t say with any great detail why the idea came to me one day, it just did. I think looking back it was for the simple reasons we believe our children should be given opportunities to grow and develop new skills, opportunities to make mistakes and that really our holidays were about our children; we were along for the ride and to hopefully share in some great memories. I spoke to Daryl before putting the idea to the children. They understandably jumped at the idea!

Putting the Idea Into Action:

We didn’t give our children a credit card or a wod of cash and say “go for broke”.  We are not that insane! We made the ground rules and communicated these clearly with them, after these were understood, our children were given free reign to determine how our holiday spending money was allocated to actitivies and things to do.

These are the steps to think about if you would like to try the same or similar with your children:

  1. Determine Your budget

Each holiday our budget varied. Generally though ours was a mix of holiday savings and spending money the kids received from family for Christmas. In total it was enough to do about 4 paid activities of varying expense over a 7 – 10 day holiday.

2. Ground Rules

The ground rules we put in place for the whole idea were:

  • We, the parents pay for the accommodation or campsite, food, petrol or transport.
  • All activities must then be paid for out of the spending money.
  • There is a pre-determined amount of spending money. There is no more. Not a $1 more.
  • All activities have to include everyone.
  • All kids get an equal say in which activities are chosen.
  • Parents stay out of the decision making in regards to what activities are chosen. In fact take yourself away from the conversation.
  • Kids decide the activities and parents are to respect those choices 100%.
  • There will be no additional activities that cost money.

3. Get Ideas

One of the main things we did to help our children get ideas of local activities and the costs was to visit the local Tourist Information Centre on the first day of our holiday. This also gave them the opportunity to ask questions from those in the know and collect brochures on activities that grabbed their interest. If your child/ren are shy or find speaking to people they are not familiar impossibly difficult then it is important they are given your encouragement and support at this time. This whole idea and doing it should excite them.

4. Let Them Decide

Now its up to them deciding what it is that all of you as a family will be doing on your holiday. For some parents this will be easy. I imagine for others it will almost induce hyperventilation or you might try to influence decisions/choices you don’t agree with; try really hard to resist both. This is an opportunity for you as a parent to show trust and support in your children’s choices. There are so many benefits we found to doing this, that it is well worth putting your anxieties and doubts to the back of your mind (if you too follow the ground rules).

2008 to be sorted 038


Our experience of allowing our children to decide what activities our holiday spending money was spent on was hugely positive with many benefits including:

  • Our children immerse themselves in the holiday at greater level; it is the difference between them tagging along and feeling they are fully engaged
  • Our children’s confidence soared
  • Our children learn more about the costs of thing
  • Our children learn to prioritise
  • Our children learn to negotiate and compromise with each other
  • Our children got to do maths (this was probably not such a highlight from their point of view)
  • Our children appreciated what they chose to do
  • Our children were equally excited about their ‘no spend days’ (for us was usually spent at the beach, riding bikes and or playing with others kids)
  • As parents we didn’t get pestered about paying for endless activities
  • Our children thrive on the responsibility
  • Our children learn to plan their chosen activities and to spread them out over the holiday (well for the most part, some were determined by availability or opening days etc)
  • As parents we got to relax. There is something to be said for letting go of power and control
  • Everyone had a fantastic time and priceless memories are made

For us the benefits were so many and our children thrived so much on this idea we continued with it for a number of years. Never once bit us on the butt, in fact I would go as far as to say our children did brilliantly with the responsibility and we have some wonderful holiday memories.


Is this something you would consider doing with your children on your next family holiday? What do you think will be different about your holiday if you did this?

Remember children learn and master skills by having the opportunities to practice them. It is up to us to provide these opportunities.



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