It seems talking to people over the past couple of years that taking a memorable fancy vacation is important thing on the minds of many parents. When I was just five years old, my parent's packed the family car and we set off on a Griswold type vacation to Walt Disney World. This was back in the 70's, so making an overnight stay at South of the Border was world famous at the time. I can't really remember what was at South of the Border with the exception of an awful bumper sticker my parent's had on their Impala. Since we didn't have a lot of money, the Magic Kingdom for us was a local Holiday Inn on the outskirts of Walt Disney World. I can remember how scared people were of Space Mountain as that was the crazy scary roller coaster in the 70's. Outside of that, the only real memories I have are the pictures my mom has stocked away in the Jenkin family photo album. Most of those look like a family tired of waiting in lines to get on their favorite rides.
I share this story with you because I see more and more families with young kids setting up these fancy expensive vacations to far away destinations or at the best hotel and resorts within the United States. Vacations at fancy resorts, overseas trips, or luxurious cruise lines, can run $5,000 or more to make your memories come true. I'm here to tell you that your young kids won't remember a thing from these vacations down the road.
I'm telling you this because the real question is the vacation destination really for you . . . or are you taking the vacation because you want your kids to have great memories? Do you think if they have a suite at the Magic Kingdom, eat breakfast with Mickey Mouse, and get a Fast Pass for the park that they will have better memories of the vacation they took when they were four years old? Do you think your kids will appreciate you more for what you did for them? Do you really like what the vacation will or is it that you like the idea of what you think the vacation will be?
I've been down this road as a parent thinking about what will really make family memories and the cost associated with a great family vacation. It dawned on me after a handful of vacations that no matter where we were when my kids were young, all they really wanted to do was to be by the pool. In fact, my kids were telling me the other day how much they loved the trip they took to Pittsburgh. Yes! Pittsburgh. Now, I'm not saying Pittsburgh isn't a good city because it is a pretty cool city. But, when I asked them why they loved the trip they told me about how much they liked the pool at the hotel. Oddly enough, the hotel was a Marriott in Mars, PA which isn't even close to downtown Pittsburgh. In that same year, they were able to go to Marco Island, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Yet, the best thing they can remember is a pool in Pittsburgh?
When your kids are young, it's important to be making smart money moves with your income. Spending lots of money on a high dollar birthday party or a fancy vacation because you think your kids will be happier or you will have better family memories is a Polaroid picture that will just be out of focus. If you spent $5,000 to $10,000 on vacations last year, take half that money and put it away in a 529, a UGMA/UTMA account, or a Coverdell account. While you can't take a picture of those financial accounts, your kids will remember you when you give them a head start on college or some other way in life. A day at the hotel pool, a takeout pizza, and a family movie may be all you need for a great memory on your next family vacation!
Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®
Co-CEO and Founder of oXYGen Financial, Inc - The Leaders in Gen X & Y Financial Advice and Services
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