Are We Ruining Travel For Our Kids?

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Are We Ruining Travel For Our Kids

Are We Ruining Travel For Our Kids?

One of my favorite things about the miles and points hobby, probably my most favorite, is sharing my love of travel with my kids. It is something that my parents shared with me and I am glad to pass it along. I will say that our style of travel is very different from when I was a child.  We did a lot of road trips, and trips “up north”.  We flew, as well, as I got older, but it was a few times a year at most.  My parents did their best to have cool experiences while keeping the costs in check, or the OG balling on a budget.

Sometimes that hunt for the hidden gem resort etc. led to some sketchy places or terrible experiences. I don’t blame my parents, remember that there was no Trip Advisor back then and brochures pictures could be from 10 years ago.  The funny thing is those are our most vivid memories and the stories we still tell to these days.  Even if it wasn’t fun while we were going through it 😂.

With miles and points and current technology we don’t really have that issue though do we?  Our deal hunting may be is that first class seat cheaper using Delta Skymiles or booking with Virgin Atlantic etc. The truth is that our travels are at a another level from what many of us experienced growing up. It is amazing that we get to share it with our kids but is it warping their sense of what travel is?

Tawas MI

Our Upcoming Boys Trip

I have talked a few times here, and on the podcast, about how I connect with my son on a whole different level when traveling.  We have more patience with each other, we bond better and overall it is some of the best experiences we have had together.  That is something I have truly missed during the pandemic. So of course I went all out for our first trip post pandemic. I just couldn’t help myself.

For our trip to Alaska I booked first class flights, a glacier cruise and we are hitting as many spots as we can.  I burned a lot of miles and points but also a lot of real money (thanks Pay Yourself Back!). It is a trip I could never afford without this hobby, as are most of our travels.

But does he get that? Does he understand why we are able to go where we are able to go and stay where we are able to stay? Does he realize it is because of this hobby we love so much?  Or does he think this is just the way everyone travels?

Are We Ruining Travel For Our Kids

Talking About Future Travels

One of my son’s favorite things to do is talk about and imagine future travels.  Let’s go to Paris dad, or I really wanna check out California etc. He lights up like a Christmas tree just talking about it.  It warms my heart for sure, and a lot of kids day dream in this way.

But I find myself falling right into and saying we can go there for sure, do you wanna go for your birthday? That is when I step back and think; whoa, you need to slow down a bit.  It is true though, the world is pretty much wide open to us. As long as you put in the time and effort to accrue the miles and points you can go pretty much anywhere. But does he realize how truly special or lucky that is?

How Do We Ground Them?

So this all leads me to the question of how do we keep them grounded? How do we explain that flying to Orlando for 2 days just because and getting free tickets to Disney isn’t normal. It may not be something he can recreate when he gets older too. They haven’t experienced the rough travel we did as kids to be able to value the way we do it now.  There is nothing to compare it to, the floor is simply the best of the best right now.

I also worry, will he overlook fun experiences when he gets older because it isn’t as exciting as what he did as a kid? Will we ruin him travel wise essentially.  I think it is a question we have to ask ourselves.

Lastly, will my kids miss out on those crazy stories I enjoy from my childhood? The times when nothing seemed to go right and the place was a dump but we made it work. Those experiences help build appreciation for when everything does come together.  Will he think this is the way it will always be?

Port Huron MI

My Plans Going Forward

I guess I need to book some dumpy hotels to mix it up on him 😂.  I really don’t have an answer for this question of how we ground our kids, maybe you all can help me.  I plan on trying to explain how everything works as he gets older. This should help him understand that it isn’t because of wealth or money that we are able to do this.  And maybe he will learn the steps along the way and get involved in the hobby as well. There will be the, you don’t know how lucky you are phrase muttered most trips too.

I do think the way we act while traveling will play a big role in how our kids perceive things. If we act entitled and ask for that giraffe parking all of the time they may think this is how you need to be to get things done. Or if I booked him always in first class he may think that flying in economy is unacceptable (this is his first non Spirit first class flight by the way). I think being wary of the issue may just be enough to stop it from happening, or at least I hope so.

Final Thoughts

As I watch people walk by us on our Alaska flight, giving my 9 year old a dirty look thinking he must be an entitled child, I will thinking of ways to make sure that doesn’t happen.  I don’t have a lot of the answers on how to do that. But, what I am going to try to do is keep him involved in the conversation about it.  I think that making an effort is the most important thing along with sharing knowledge of the situation. Plus I get to say, this is why we go to all of those stores for gift cards so don’t whine next time, okay? 🤣

Do you worry that we are ruining travel for our kids too?  Do you think creating all of these amazing trips warps their sense of reality of what travel should be?  Or does the good (amazing experiences together) outweigh the bad (warped sense of what travel is)? Let me know in the comments below.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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28 COMMENTS

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28 COMMENTS

  1. If you make 6-figures, you can afford first class tickets, fancy resorts, etc… without jumping through hoops. That’s what I tell my kids – be successful, get 6-figure salary and enjoy! That’s the main goal for them.

  2. Isn’t it a working vacation too? Booking first class flights and staying at nicer hotels on a trip is part of work as I’m sure you will do a write up based on the experience 🙂

  3. Growing up my father was an airline pilot and took my mom and I on vacation ALOT. We usually stayed in the nice hotels (Hilton, Marriott…etc) and did the lux experiences, but also mixed in economy ones too. I got into this hobby after I graduated college (my parents never counted points/miles). But they always impressed upon me that the way we lived was not simply a “given” and that if I wanted to live like that as an adult, I had to get a job that paid me well in order to do it. It was a lesson I learned very well. Perhaps, rather than teach our kids that we have it so good and that this is not a “normal” life, we should use it as an example to motivate them to do well for themselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with living lavishly. I think it is wrong to teach kids that they should be almost “apologetic” for having things others don’t. However, they should also be taught that if they want this kind of lifestyle, then they will undoubtedly have to earn it (go to college, learn a trade, start a business…etc). It was plenty of motivation for me!

  4. The fact that you are concerned and thinking about it is a great sign. I have a relative whose kids have never not flown first class and stayed in the best hotels. Let me tell you, it has not ended well. What I do know is that your kids will learn from you and your attitude, so I think they’ll be fine. Just don’t ever take that for granted, being a parent is constant work!!

  5. When I was a single working mom, my daughter and I were able to cruise Alaska, take a hot air balloon trip over Albuquerque, and visit 46 states together-always flying economy and staying in budget hotels or B&Bs. Now that life has changed, I enjoy flying in first and staying in much nicer hotels but she prefers to avoid my “pretentiousness” and is perfectly happy to continue economy travel. Cause? Effect? Or are we just individuals who value different things (cheap travel v. luxury) in different stages of our lives? Regardless, I treasure the memories we made together and I’m happy I planted the seeds of love for traveling. I think if you’re appreciating the time you’re spending with them your children will remember that much more than the airplane seats, hotel amenities, etc.

    • Thanks for sharing and you are probably right. They will focus on the experiences together most of all.

  6. Mark,
    My hubby and I really enjoyed this article and related to it deeply as we had similar experiences to you growing up. Like you, we love travel and the miles/points and it’s afforded us some standout experiences. Our son is 18 months old and this is our first summer we’re taking him places and starting to introduce him to travel. We’ve thought about many of these things as well, and while there are no clear answers, we seem to be drifting towards a variety of experiences–international, resort, hotel, Air BnB, camping, visiting relatives, etc–as our way to not keep him grounded. It will probably be a case by case basis that will definitely change depending on what the future holds. Our biggest hope is that travel will inspire curiosity, wonder, and empathy and if we model that he will (fingers crossed) follow suit.
    Thanks again for the wonderful post. Enjoy your trip to Alaska!

  7. I guess one way to avoid the sense of entitlement and make the best of a stumpy place would be to not check out of the Hyatt Bali because the swimming pool has a broken tile.

  8. A couple of years ago, my family had the vacation of a lifetime in the South Pacific. We only got to travel there because we could get business class tickets using miles. A few months later, we traveled to Europe using a low cost carrier (Level, a subsidiary of Iberia), in coach. Upon boarding the plane, my son, who was 11 at the time, was asking where are the flat bed seats for us 🙂 He nevertheless had a blast traveling and vacationing.

    A few years before that we traveled to Bali, also using miles. What does my son remember from that vacation (he was 9 at the time)? The elephant ride he took, learning how to dive, at the hotel’s swimming pool and the very very friendly driver we hired for a day. Not the airplane ride (Japan Airlines’ business class “suites” were truly fantastic), nor the expensive hotel we stayed at.

    Your kids will be fine too.

    • Thanks Jaq. I do think how you frame things and what you put the importance on is what they will take away from it so it is something I will stay diligent on.

  9. It speaks very well of you that you realize that you could be doing a disservice to your kids by offering them too much. How much is too much? That’s a lot tougher. My brother, sister, and I traveled a lot when we were young but it wasn’t always fancy, like our summer in Haiti staying with our grandfather. After seeing the poverty there I cleaned my plate without a peep for a year. That illustrates to me that your comment about staying in some dumpy places is pretty accurate. As long as your kids see some of the less nice places and things it should balance out. JMTC.

    • Thanks Christian. Working in my dad’s laundry plant in 120 degree heat for the summers in high school really hammered home a honest day’s work and to never take anything for granted. I just need the travel version of that for my kids 🙂

  10. Maybe? Maybe not? Who knows. Perhaps do a road trip some time? What does his classmates at school do for their vacations? I recall it was easier to bond with other classmates who experienced similar vacations (back in my day it was either summer camp or 20-hour road trip to Disney, etc.)
    Regardless, definitely enjoy these moments with your kids!!!!!

    • It is Michigan so everyone goes to Florida, “up north” or camps for most every trip haha 🙂

      I do need to remember to enjoy it more while we are in it for sure – time goes so fast with them.

  11. I feel from your writing you are booking these trips for “your enjoyment” more than where the kids want to go which should be the correct way to think of this. You lived in a past time where you never could travel like this when you were younger. I lived in a similar past life where I never flew but I would take enjoyable road trips with my parents. Once I knew more about miles and loved flying, I definitely started playing the game to take trips.
    As such, the kids are still young but maybe on your trips you will stop in Cozumel, MX or some other destination that is more desolate and in a more poor situation. You can always incorporate on your trips the important values that you wish to show to him.
    I have friends that had a very rich upbringings and their childhood consisted of flying to lavish hotels and enjoying nice worldwide experiences. They never seemed as excited as me when I mention on the nice hotels and flights that I get to go to. The “travel bug” appears to go away if they get these experiences younger. Either way, these trips are for you, most importantly, and for the kids and family. As long as you are enjoying the experience, secondly, you can make these trips a learning experience for the kids so they can have the same opportunity as you when they get older. The more kids know about all the opportunities in this world, the more goals they can set and achieve big things!

    • I think a lot of our trips have been places I wanted to show them or places we both really wanted to check out (like Alaska). A few Disney trips mixed in for them but I think it has been a good mix.

  12. As long as you explain and set the expectation that first class is a “sometimes” experience and that you explain that you work hard to find occasions when you can do FC for the “same price” or not much more than Economy, you should generally be OK. As a family, we’ve stayed at luxury hotels (taking advantage of Amex FHR where the cost at a 5* Four Seasons was less than a nearby Four Points. Mix the travel styles up (i.e. fly economy to Hawaii, stay at a Ritz-Carlton) you’ll be OK.

  13. I’ve definitely had this thought and worry. And I have to field comments from the kids when we’ve flown economy instead of business. I do my best to explain to them how all this can happen and that we certainly aren’t wealthy. I think it will all be fine as long as we can help them cultivate the right perspective (i.e. gratitude and not entitlement).

    Let me know when you make ” I really wanna check out California” happen. 😉

  14. The kid’s brain determine what happens. With first class travel, the kid could learn the importance to study hard and get a good paying job. Or the kid could learn to to a snob and cruel to others, even to the point of shooting someone in the head. It could go both ways or in between.

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