Can You Afford To Travel Once You Have A Family?

For some time now, I’ve wanted to take my kids to Disney. I managed to get invited to the first Disney Social Media Moms Summit back in 2009 and took my then three-year-old daughter with me. Meeting Minnie at Disney

I feel guilty that I didn’t bring my son (then only 17 months old). Since it was too expensive for all of us to fly, my husband agreed to stay home with our son, I put our flights on my credit card and off we went for three days in Florida.

It took me 18 months to pay off that flight. Shudder. That was the first trip I took as a mom and until this year, it was the last.

I recently read this Huffington Post article about why it’s important to travel when you’re young:

One lifetime is not enough to experience all cultures. But travel, especially while young, is an essential step to becoming more aware of other cultures and people (it’s also an opportunity to see the beauty of the world around us.)

I’ve heard countless excuses as to why people do not or cannot travel.

Many of my young friends believe that it’s too expensive. Others argue that they can always travel later in life. Some suggest that it hinders career advancement.

Let’s immediately take the expense question out of the equation.

I have a good friend who traveled the world — from hikes out in the western United States to South American trips to an adventure on the Siberian rail — on a grad school budget. I have friends who have financed travel while traveling (they worked remotely or found local jobs.)

I’ve crossed the Vietnamese/Laotian border by van, driving over a road that was literally being built as we traveled.

Did it feel cheap? Yes. Was it scary? A bit. Could I have paid for it with the proceeds of a lemonade stand? Definitely.

Simply put: Finances are rarely a prohibiting factor to travel.

When I hear people say, “Oh, you must travel when you’re young,” I cringe a little inside. Not because I think they are wrong—travel is wonderful for all the reasons the author listed above.

But for me, right now, it seems like travel is a bit cost-prohibitive. I work as hard as I can to be able to put a roof over my family’s head every month, and to pay for groceries, utilities, medical bills and our car note. There’s not much left over and to simply suggest that I use my savings to travel to Europe seems a bit reckless. My savings is just that—savings.

We did take a small family trip to Washington, D.C. this summer. Even though it was hardly the trip I wanted to take, it was what we could afford. I found a cheap hotel, we took my husband’s Cruze (better on gas), and loaded up on the free museums and attractions.


I had to be intentional about this trip and putting aside money for it. Because stuff always comes up. I’d get a flat tire and need to buy a new one. My daughter’s new allergy medication suddenly wouldn’t be covered by insurance and we’d have to pay $200 out of pocket. It’s back to school time and the kids need full wardrobes. It’s always something. 

When I was younger, my family traveled a lot. I’ve been all over the country, spending time marveling at nature and giggling at theme parks. I want my kids to experience the same, but I also need to realistic about my budget and financial constraints. That’s responsible, no?

In the meantime, we’ll continue to travel, but on our scale and on our type of budget. I do not regret not having “seen the world” before I settled down and had kids, because ultimately, I believe I can still see and do all the things I wanted to see and do in this lifetime. As I said in my recent radio show appearance, I will be 40 by the time my youngest has graduated high school. There is still plenty of time to see the world.

How often does your family travel?  Do you feel like you missed out on having more plentiful vacations by having kids early?


  1. We try to take a family trip at least once a year. As you wrote, it’s “on our scale and on our budget”. It’s funny, but our vacation this year also included a stop in DC. We chose DC because they have a lot of free attractions!! I think it is important to introduce travel to kids. It doesn’t matter if it’s three hours away to the beach or a trip to Europe. As a kid we traveled, not on a grand scale, but we took family trips. As an adult I appreciate being exposed to places other than our small town and it sparked my love of travel.

  2. We travel every year. When I first got married I saw that travelling back home was a priority for my husband, and I learned that when something is important you find ways to make it happen. Its always costly, but what the children and us have gotten from it is priceless. My college age daughter now has the travel bug and wants to travel all over the world.
    At least make sure you have passports so that when its time to travel its one less hassle to deal with.

  3. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on traveling because I had kids early. I wasn’t traveling much before I had kids because of I was in school full time and had just started a job where I needed to work up my vacation days. However, I do think we’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to travel as a family and that for me is more important than experiencing seeing the world solo.

    I’m definitely looking into ways to make a family vacation possible for next year. We need to get away and make new memories in a new place. And even if it’s just spending a few nights two or three hours away in a different city and visiting a few museums or parks, we’re getting out of our city next year without going for broke!

  4. We need to start to take family trips. It’s been ages since we went anywhere with the kids, and Sesame Place was the last place we went before our son was born. I want our kids to experience it all, but like you said, on our budget.

  5. I guess it depends on the family size/budget but I think one family trip a year is doable for the most part as long as one saves and plans ahead of time.

    It would be nice to have both a family trip and couples trips yearly though.