How To Go Broke Traveling With Small Children

Got some extra dough burning a hole in your pocket? Time to pack up the fam and take a vacation; there’s no better way to go from rich to poor than traveling with small children!

1. Make sure you go somewhere with lots of designated kids activities. Activities specifically designed to appeal to children are really expensive, e.g. any amusement or water park. Insider tip: Make sure you are completely honest about all of your children’s ages. Only money hoarding Scrooges try to get an under-three discount for a child whose third birthday was last week!

2. Call ahead to be sure these meccas of excitement do not allow you to bring any food or drink of your own onto the premises. Extra points if they physically check bags to be sure you’re not smuggling anything in. Stay long enough that you have to purchase at least 2 meals and 2 snacks for each family member (45 minutes should do nicely). Remember: If you hide even a granola bar for yourself in your purse, you’re cheating the system and your kids will silently observe you and end up becoming criminals in later life.

3. If you stay at a hotel, make sure you are right on the beach. What price can you put on convenience? In reality, this coup will save you about negative 20 minutes, because it takes small kids approximately 40 minutes to walk 50 feet to the beach and 20 minutes to be loaded into a car and driven there.

4. Consult your husband about what to bring. Listen respectfully every time he tells you that you’re overpacking and to just chill out. Assiduously remove each and every item that he says you don’t need. This way you can be sure to buy extra sunscreen, infant Tylenol, antacid, bandaids, beach toys, and sweatshirts for the children at a 500% markup in the hotel lobby when you have 15 of each of those things sitting at home. Extra points for re-purchasing items you have at home because you bought them during the last vacation.

5. Only go places that have gift shops. Make sure your kids see the gift shop when both they and you are particularly hungry, tired, and hot. The odds you can resist their demands at this point are close to zero, so thankfully you have another way to drop some cash.

6. Go somewhere with special kids’ meals. It does not matter that all three of your kids together weigh less than 80 pounds. It does not matter that they only eat one bite of chicken and one carrot each during dinner normally. They cannot possibly be entreated to just have some of your food, even if you order something they would usually want. Instead, to fully embrace the spirit of massive financial waste, spend at least $8.99 plus tax and tip for every “kid’s meal” for every kid, every goddamn day of your vacation. No doggie bags either because it’s vacation and you don’t want to be a real buzzkill. When the children eat nothing on their plates except the fries, benevolently laugh and dab the grease off their faces with another $10 bill.

7. Get a vacation sitter. For this luxury, an agency can hook you up with an elderly non-English speaker who puts your 5 month old down for nap in a pack and play that she filled with soft pillows because “she would be more comfortable.” This happened to “my friend.” This one really kills two birds with one stone because you also get to throw out cash on a dinner and some drinks that you are too consumed with anxiety to enjoy, at jacked-up prices befitting a vacation destination. Expert level: prior to vacation, buy a new outfit and get a mani/pedi in anticipation of this dinner out with your husband.

8. Get two connecting rooms so you can spread out and the kids can nap and sleep easier. It will be a real knee-slapper when the kids refuse to sleep at all and you all end up in one room with your suitcases in the other for the majority of the time. But, hey, it’s only money!

9. Go on a cruise. Not only are you completely trapped on the ocean with your children for days straight with no respite (I am trembling even typing that) but you get to pay hand over fist for the privilege. Hopefully, you can spend some more money out of pocket for the top level psychiatrist you’ll need to prescribe you Xanax after you dock, more for the psychologist to treat your Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

10. If you still for some strange reason have a positive balance in your bank account, you have been slacking on the job. Stay focused, it is still within your power to drain every cent you have. You know what you have to do. One word, at a thousand bucks per syllable: Disney.

About the writer

Samantha Rodman PhD is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Maryland and a mom of three kids under 5.  Visit her at Dr. Psych Mom, on Facebook, or on Twitter. You can order her new book, How to Talk to Your Kids About Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family, on Amazon.


Danielle 1 year ago

I laughed to tears at “If you hide even a granola bar for yourself in your purse, you’re cheating the system and your kids will silently observe you and end up becoming criminals in later life.” This was informative and entertaining, thank you!

Rachel Achmad 2 years ago

Love #4!!

jessa 2 years ago

I totally agree on the end of number 10 … we went to Disneyland this summer and spent about 4 grand…. ugggh

Karen Ebner Litwin 2 years ago

So true!! My husband has been resisting Disney for years because of the expense- we are finally planning because a frIend friend is letting us use their condo for free. And yes, children will be bringing their allowance savings!!

Jamie Fortier 2 years ago

We vacation on Disney cruises. A bit expensive, yes. BUT, who can put a price on a kids club that entices your children to be there from when they open until they close?? Not me! They love it, we love it!

Amber Nicole 2 years ago

We just took our 4 kids to vegas for a week and had a blast! Lots of swimming, yummy food and a ton of rides! Going again next year!

Sarah 2 years ago

This is why we do day trips randomly throughout the year instead of long summer vacations.

Trish 2 years ago

#4- my husband ALWAYS says I over pack. I do. For a very good reason.

Jaime Holmes 2 years ago

Oh absolutely. My 7 year old wants to go to Disneyland. I was perusing the costs. Its roughly 360$ per day and that’s just getting in! FML nowadays its like well do you want a vacation or college? Haha

Kathy Binder Turner 2 years ago

Ha ha! I knew there had to be a Disney reference!

Sandy Arvidson Sievers 2 years ago

Traveling with teens isn’t any cheaper! 2 boys and they eat for 4!

Ann-Marie Davis 2 years ago

Exact reason we don’t travel….you also forgot the fact that most places (daycares) still make you pay even though your gone bc its not the daycares fault that you want to take a vacation right…why should they not get paid!

Victoria Adams 2 years ago

We travel quite a bit. Mostly road trips. Worst family vacation EVER was a cruise. Kids were bored in the kid’s camp thing, rooms are tiny, total nightmare. We ended up getting soft serve as a form of entertainment. You can only eat so much ice cream. Pretty cheap but a waste of money.

Jennifer Wolf 2 years ago

Totally my life right now :/

Leslie Beltz 2 years ago

So funny- try flying to and from Europe with four kids 7 and under without daddy… tHAT was an adventure !

Nicolette Robinett 2 years ago

Lol #6 dab the grease off with another $10 bill

Life as a Morticians Wife 2 years ago

We had to bring our allowance, or we got nothin’

Hazel Peterson 2 years ago

That is why we took our holidays at unimproved campgrounds – a tent, a table, a firepit – but no store!

Allison Smith Killins 2 years ago

Bang on! I am laughing out loud and my family thinks I’m crazy.

Kristin Stitt Parrent 2 years ago

I agreed with EVERYTHING, but you must me at the cruise and Disney. Those we have done and it’s actually a fun vacation for ALL 4 of us!

BernaArmel Abalos 2 years ago

Lol HOW to go broke traveling with 3 little kids….. IS to go traveling with 3 little kids for vacation, IT SPEAKS FOR ITSELF. 😉 #I’ve got 3, 4 (including my Husband lol) and it’s no mystery on how to go broke after knowin that. 😉

Nikki 2 years ago

While I completely agree with the majority of your list, I believe that #9 depends on location. We went on a Mediterranean cruise for 12 days with our kiddos and I loved it. (I currently live on that side of the pond) It was way cheaper than traveling to locations by car or train. Hotels in Europe are costly and often only have dual occupancy -i.e. you must rent 2 rooms. $$ Additionally during the day my kids loved the day programs so we could have time to ourselves. At port, your kids can stay or go. Was wonderful to go into Florence with no kiddos. (They came off at the other ports). Just a thought, we would have never been able to afford such a trip otherwise.

Jamie Seibert 2 years ago

Road trips: 4 kids, no a/c, 2 days to Minneapolis every summer. Fast forward 30 yrs and I did it with 1 kid and thought how the hell did my folks do this with 4 of us??

Bethany Usher 2 years ago

Too funny!

Cassidy Murphy Cline 2 years ago

This makes me want to stab my eye with the FREE cocktail stirrer that I get in my $30 margarita.
This, my friend, is the ultimate buzzkill.
Note to self…don’t travel with Scary Mommy.

Jodie Carris 2 years ago

Bahahaaaaaa! So true!

Jennifer Sloan Peck 2 years ago


Annamaria-Guarneri Mckean 2 years ago

Disney. We vowed we’d never go again. Till we became grandparents and went on our kids dime. It was awful

Jen Kavanagh 2 years ago

So funny. Love #6.

Lilly Zavala 2 years ago

Hilarious!!!! This is so true!!!

Anna Wolf 2 years ago

So sarcastically funny and so true! We travel a lot and this rendition speaks volumes. It made me stand firm in my decision to book our cruise next year (childless)!

Kristina Hammer 2 years ago

I want some money to take my kids on a vacation of any kind, so if you know anyone complaining they’ve got money to burn, think of us & have them sponsor our first family trip. LOL

Pam Geiling Watson 2 years ago

5 kids on vacation… I almost always under pack. I do try to make the kids drink water if we get the chance to eat out. Saves $20+

chill 2 years ago

I gotta admit that we are guilty of #8, mostly due to my husband. His rationale is that why should the adults turn off the light and go to bed at 8:30pm along with the kids. Totally worth the money.


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