You Don’t Need to Spend A Lot of Money on Vacation to Make Great Memories


I recently came across a startling statistic: 45% of parents who visit Disney with young children go into debt to take the trip.

That number is a 50% increase from just two years ago. And it’s not just parents going into debt for the trip—24% of ALL visitors to the theme park take on debt for the experience.

And so this might be a helpful time to remind ourselves:

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on your vacation to make great memories.

The extravagance of summer vacationing isn’t limited to Disney (although the percentages are significantly higher). Statistics show that 1 in 5 of all summer travelers will pay for their travel on a credit card and not be able to pay it off in one billing cycle.

I assume some of the increase in vacation debt in recent years has to do with the prevalence of social media. When our friends and parent-peers brag on social media about the extravagance of their summer adventures, we naturally feel inclined to desire the same for our kids.

We want our kids to have amazing memories and stories, and experiences to brag about with their friends. Add in our own pride and desire to prove to our friends that we’re doing well financially, and you have a recipe for disaster.

But here’s the reality: You don’t need to spend a lot of money on your vacation to make great memories with your family. In fact, in the long-run, you’ll be better off not going into debt to fund your trips.

I mentioned previously that my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary earlier this month. But that’s just the tip of the family blessings I’ve received. I grew up in one of the most amazing families on the planet.

My parents have been married for over 51 years. Both sets of my grandparents remained married their entire lives. And I am still in contact with every aunt and uncle, cousin, niece and nephew in my family. We go back home to the Midwest to visit twice every year (Summer and Christmas) and we all look forward to games and food and laughter and conversation deep into the night every evening.

The closeness of my family is a blessing to me and my children. But growing up, our summer vacations were anything but extravagant. And yet, they were incredibly memorable, meaningful, and helped us develop and enrich these relationships I am so thankful for today.

The most common summer vacation I remember taking as a child was a 6-hour drive to my cousin’s house in Minneapolis. We would stay at their house, grill out in the evening, go to a Twin’s baseball game one night, and visit Valleyfair another of the days.

The cousins and us would try to stay up all night in the basement, eating potato chips, sneaking soda from the fridge, and playing Atari. The parents would play cards and talk upstairs in the kitchen.

And those memories are just as precious to me as any character I would have met at Disneyland. In fact, now that I am older and able to look back with the advantage of life experience, they are even sweeter to me. I am grateful my parents didn’t go into debt to take us on extravagant summer vacations.

Sure, the experience would have been fun. But going into debt each summer would have added stress to our family and their relationship all year long. Even more, I learned from those experiences that bonding moments don’t require a lot of money and I learned the joys of keeping my tastes simple. These are lessons that served me well as a young parent and brought more joy and stability into my family life than a fancy, expensive trip ever could.

I know the temptation to keep up with the Joneses’ and their summer trip itinerary is great, but it is not necessary. In fact, there is a wiser route to take.

What Makes a Trip Great

Your greatest memories don’t need to cost a lot of money. In fact, the most meaningful elements of a summer trip, don’t have to cost anything. This is what makes any summer trip memorable for kids:

Time with Family: The most precious gift we can give our loved ones is our time. Focus on being present and engaged, creating moments of connection.

Something Out of the Ordinary: It doesn’t have to be elaborate. A day trip to a nearby park, a hike, or even camping in the backyard can create lasting memories.

Kids Receiving Our Full Attention: Put away the distractions and give your kids your undivided attention. Engage in activities they love and create shared experiences.

Simple Joys: Sometimes the simplest activities, like playing board games, staying up late, having a picnic, or sneaking an extra soda late at night, can be the most memorable.

New Experiences: Try something new together as a family. It could be as simple as visiting a local museum, trying a new park, or a day-trip to a place you’ve never been.

These are the elements that will create the experience you want for your family. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to accomplish that. And I’m guessing someone needs to hear that and be reminded of that today.


To further drive home this point and encourage all the moms and dads out there without the financial means to travel the world the summer: Can we fill this comment section with encouraging stories?

If you grew up taking simple summer vacations that you now look back upon as amazingly sweet, memorable, and meaningful, can you add that story below as a comment? Where did you go? What did you do? And how precious to you now are those memories of your simple vacations growing up?

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