Jet-setting childhood expectations: are parents setting their kids up for disappointment?

I was at the airport a few weeks ago and got to see hoards of school kids jetting off for their Easter holidays. Some were with full school club regalia. What happened to uncomfortable coach trips to local educational history parks? Nowadays school trips tend to be to anywhere. I saw one school group with matching hoodies going on a water polo trip to Norway, a Danish school trip to play hockey in Scotland and of course, lots of ski trips from the UK to the Alps.

Come on kids – it’s not like there’s skiing in Scotland?

You might think that this is all sour grapes and you’d be right!

GFF never got on a plane as part of a school trip and the furthest I went was Birmingham and that was a bloody nightmare with Coolio’s “C U When U Get There” played ad nauseum on the long drive back to the ferry. I thought we’d never get there!

Growing up we did go on a few foreign holidays – the best being by long car journey to not even the South of France. But it was not until I was older that I got a travel myself and I really appreciated having waited. I love to travel as seems to be a feature of the FI community. It’s in general very expensive (except for some) and it falls between the discretionary and essential spending categories in our family budget.

But for school groups to just jet-off to fancy places; I think that if you expose your kids to extravagant travel that you spoil them for later on in life. The main reasons for it not being great are (in no particular order):

  1. The children haven’t earned that trip, it’s their parents paying for it.
  2. They must cost a fortune for the poor parents
  3. The actually poor kids with poorer parents/schools can’t afford it and it sets about a sense of exclusivity
  4. When these kids leave the education system they’ll be up to their eyeballs in debt. Then they’ll have a taste for travel but not the budget.
  5. Whilst being fun for the kids, you don’t really need to go to a South of Spain tennis camp when all of the tennis courts I ever see are empty 80% of the time.
  6. The trip is not as educational or as culturally enriching as they let on – I sometimes see school groups on holiday in Edinburgh and London and they stick to their own in massive congestive groups
  7. If the holiday is during school time, their education is impaired
  8. It sets an ever ratcheting up bar of what’s considered a good school trip and sets unrealistic expectations (possibly for life)
  9. The CO2 impact of the air travel is high

Sadly, my concerns are not likely to be shared by many and the trend will get worse. I’ve heard young university graduates saying that a gap year with time spent building houses or digging wells in Africa or orphanages in Thailand or somewhere else where you can be a white saviour is de rigueur to achieving the full well-rounded, culturally sensitive experience that is needed to secure top graduate positions. You could just stay in the UK, donate your flight ticket and travel costs to charity and wipe bums in an old-folks home – but let’s face it, that sounds a lot less fun.

Call me cynical, but I do have a point.

From the point of view of a parent with two kids who may be pestering me in the future to go on the school ski trip to Austria – I don’t know what I’ll do in the same position. On the one hand, if you have kids you want to do whatever it takes to make them happy. That’s an instinct. But as a tight-wad I don’t want to spend too much money doing it. The only solution that I can think of is that they go on the ski trip or week in Paris or Rome and I’m one of the freeloading parents that come along too – so long as it’s for free (including ski pass).

Hey – if the kids are having fun, I might as well get in on the action.


  1. My only overseas school trip was to Normandy and we travelled by ferry. My other ‘exotic’ trip was to London….

    It’s a lot of pressure on parents to fork out for such trips but also a lot of pressure on the schools to be seen to be providing such holidays. Ridiculous expectations set, for definite.

    Reminds me of a time when I was travelling with my then 7 year old niece. Her mum used to travel a lot for work so she clocked up lots of airmiles, which were used for family holidays. The airmiles ran out after she switched jobs. She was exceedingly embarrassed as my niece piped up loudly on the plane that she didn’t want to sit in Economy because it was rubbish and why couldn’t they sit in Business Class as usual?!

    Like you say, expectations were set!

    Good luck with deciding on whether to pay for your kids’ exotic school trips in the future and hopefully, you can latch on as a freeloader, haha!


      1. That’s just too much, even for charity. My sister has been forewarned about a school trip for my nephew – am fairly certain she was quoted something just under £2k.


  2. I remember a primary school trip by train so that we could wave flags at the Queen Mum. They were ancient carriages without a corridor: each compartment was a world to itself. One lad tried to teach the rest of us to set farts on fire.

    The regular bus trips to the schoolboy seats at Murrayfield were good; cheap too I imagine.

    A school holiday by bus to the Rhine had the advantage that we’d had after-school classes in German. V educational. And I have swum in the Rhine.

    However, I think your point that school outings should aim at being cheap enough for everyone is good.


  3. I think as a parent you must determine your own values and try and keep to them. Being careful with spending is a value we are encouraging. Being extravagant in order to keep up with others is not one of our values. We have, however, not yet been tested by the peak years of school trips.


  4. When our kid’s came home from school with details of a China trip for £2.5k each they were told in no uncertain terms that if there were any holidays abroad to be had the whole family would be going with me first on the plane. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Or a slow boat perhaps? 😉
        Blimey things have changed. I’m 38 and
        I never went on any overseas trips with school despite going to private school but did go abroad regularly to both my grandparents who were early spanish ex pats and other increasingly nice hotels as dad’s career took off. Also nice restaurants as I got older. It definitely gave me a taste for both though I have traveled alot more frugally now I’m paying until again my net worth went up and I’m still pretty frugal( I rarely spend more than 1000 on holidays and mostly less than 500 for two) and the posh restaurants are definitely the odd treat not the norm. I was always taught the value of money though as for most of dad’s career my schooling was not easily afforded. I think he earned similar to me and I certainly don’t feel like I could afford private school now even on high 5 figures
        This will be tricky as an expectant parent as I want to instill a wonder for the world in my children and encourage them to explore. A potential benefit of being an older parent is i hope to be in a position to afford to give them some of these opportunities as they get older


  5. Wow, children’s expectations have really risen over the years. We only had coach trips when I was on school, and I had to pay some of the cost if I wanted to go. Not to mention it wasn’t exactly a wealthy area, so lots of families could not afford expensive trips.


    1. one thing I remember from school trips was the compulsory trip to the gift shop. My parents never or seldom gave me any money – and if they did it was not enough to buy much anyway – but the other kids would be buying the crap that they had for sale.
      Not being able to buy it is a horrible feeling – a mixture of envy and shame (for being poor).
      God knows what souvenirs you can pick up on modern school trips.


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