“Please, can I have it? Pleeeeaaassee!”
“I love this so much. I have to have it!”
Ah, the pleas of children as they see all sorts of lovely items that they want. These pleas can only get worse on vacation unless you take steps to limit begging before it even starts, which is what we recently did on our family vacation.
We now live in Arizona, but all of our family live in Michigan. We had not seen them for 18 months, so we decided that when we went to Ohio for a business conference for my husband, we’d also go to Michigan. All told, we were traveling for 15 days and got to spend time sightseeing in Columbus, Ohio and Springfield, Missouri.
Surprisingly, there was only a little begging from our youngest, who is five. Overall, using our system, the begging for souvenirs was minimal, thankfully.
Here’s what we did:
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Set Up A Reward Jar
In the two weeks before we left on vacation, my husband and I started to get a bit tense as we tried to pack and wrap up all of our work in addition to doing our regular work. The kids always sense this tension and then start misbehaving. (Sound familiar?) To combat this, I set up a reward jar. Any time a child was being helpful or being kind to his/her sibling, they got a dime, with the intention that the money would be theirs to use on the trip.
I’d like to say that using this reward jar worked wonders, which it didn’t, but it did give them motivation to behave a bit better. By the end of the two weeks right before we left, they had $18.
Give Them A Reward For The Long Ride
Driving so many hours can be taxing on kids. Our first day, due to schedule constraints before leaving, we were on the road for 22 hours. That’s tough for adults, let alone kids, yet the kids did beautifully with minimal complaining. Only the 5 year old had a meltdown when it was way well beyond her bedtime and she wasn’t yet in the hotel.
We gave them each $10 for a good job throughout the many hours riding in the car.
Let Them Choose
By the time we got to go sightseeing, we divided the money so that each kid had $16. My kids are all history buffs and also love the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which we’ve read. So, in Missouri, we visited Laura and Almanzo’s Rocky Ridge Farm. You should have seen my kids in the gift shop! They had so much to choose from.
My 11 year old picked two items that fit within his $16 budget. My 7.5 year old immediately chose a craft book and then found a smaller item with the money she had left.
My 5 year old had three items she wanted, and they were over the $16 limit. I helped her by showing her which different items she could get with the money she had—“You can get the covered wagon kit and the doll,” or “You can get the covered wagon kit and the bonnet.”
I’ll be honest. She struggled. She really did. For a minute or two she begged for all three, but when I reminded her she could only buy something for $16, she stopped begging. She knew I wasn’t going to give in. (And it was a bit hard not to give in and buy her all three items, but I knew that I wouldn’t really be teaching her how to manage money some day.) She took a few more minutes, but in the end, she choose the wagon kit and the doll, and she stayed in budget, nearly beg free.
Part of why this strategy worked for us is that we never really spoiled our kids on vacations. They’re used to getting small souvenirs like postcards and magnets along with one bigger item. However, the strategy we used this trip, making the kids be responsible for their own money and decisions, worked great. We’ll definitely do it again.
How do you handle buying souvenirs and dealing with children’s begging when on vacation?