I don’t know about you, but when I was in college spring break consisted of two alternatives. One, I could go back home to visit my family and friends at home (and if my dad had his way, I could work at the local restaurant for 2 weeks.) And two, I could spend a few days with my friends who attended a different college, as long as it was within driving distance. The idea of going to Mexico or even Florida was somewhat remote. But that started to change, even for me, when I was in graduate school. During spring break after my first year of law school we climbed into an old station wagon and drove from Chicago to Colorado to ski. I remember it being very crowded in the car and we were all huddled under blankets because the heat didn’t work. We stayed in a “youth hostel” in Breckinridge, where we all stayed on bunks with other unknown students in a big room with a shared bathroom. Yuck! It is something I would never wish on my children and my parents paid “$0”. I paid for it with Christmas money from my grandparents and my part time job.
But since that time (shhhh....the 1980’s) the concept of spring break has become more common and much more elaborate than my youth hostel experience. My kids asked to go on their first spring break experience (without the family, of course!) their senior year of high school. There were, however, some brave parents going with the kids to this event to chaperone. And then, throughout college, my kids did not think twice about going away with friends to places like Mexico or Jamaica or other Caribbean destinations. In some instances they did go on school-sponsored events to live with a family in Spain or similar “cultural” experiences. In most cases the trips were fairly low budget and were at “all-inclusive” destinations. They didn’t always go on every break and sometimes they still did car trips, but the concept of asking mom and dad to pay for their adventures seemed commonplace among their group of friends. Sometimes they would even accompany mom and dad on our spring break trip as long as they could bring friends along.
So, what about you? Did you go on spring break trips? Did you subsidize your children’s spring break trips?
In research recently completed by Spectrem Group about Parenting and Financial Issues, households with $100,000 to $25 million of net worth were asked if they paid for their children to go on spring break trips (outside of family trips) during their high school and college years. As you can see below, 39% of parents or soon-to-be parents provided “no assistance” for their kids spring break trips. Slightly more than a quarter provided “little assistance” and more than 30% provided “some assistance” or “extensive assistance”. When we look at the chart by those currently with dependent children or those who plan to have children, it appears that these groups are more likely to pay for spring break in the future. Those whose children are grown are the most likely to not have paid for spring break.
There are differences in these answers based on income and net worth, however, they are not as significant as might be expected.
While spring break might be pricey for parents, it should be noted that the Spectrem report also shows that 27% of parents indicate they spend up to $2,000 per child per family vacation each year, 24% spend $2,000-5,000 per child annually, and 29% spend even more.
The role of vacations, from spring break to family vacations, has changed dramatically in the last thirty years. As investors think about their family expenses, whether they currently have children, plan to have children or even if they are grandparents, the importance of vacations and the expense related to those trips needs to be part of their overall financial planning.