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Jet Setter: Budgeting Your Dream Vacation




4 (You can adapt it for higher grades)

Lesson Objective:

To teach students how to budget effectively in real-world situations. 

Common Core Standard:


Materials Needed:

Access to the internet via desktop, laptop, or tablet.

Instructor Background

  • Working together to plan a vacation allows students to make decisions, reach compromises, and practice practical math as they plan their dream break and decide what they will spend their money on.
  • Students of this age will naturally think of vacations in terms of ice cream, hot dogs, and rides. This lesson will show them that a vacation requires planning and decisions about priorities.
  • You might prefer to have your students work individually, but splitting your class into pairs or small groups will let students share their ideas and argue about priorities. This plan assumes that your students will work in groups, but the plan will work for individuals.
  • This lesson plan allows students a generous $1,000 dollars to spend on a vacation for two. If you would like to make the task more challenging, you could reduce the amount to $500 for two. 
  • In the Feedback section, you will ask your students to think about their expenses in terms of fractions of the whole sum. For a higher-grade class, you might like to have your students think in terms of percentages. 
  • You might like to run this class over two sessions. This will allow students time to analyze and fully discuss their results.

Lesson Starter:


“Where would you like to go on vacation?”

Listen to their suggestions and let your class comment on them.


“What’s important for a great vacation?”


Are vacations expensive? Why?


“You are going to plan a great break with a friend. You will be on vacation for a week.”


 “What do they need to spend money on?”

Explain the main areas of expense:

  • Transportation - plane, bus, train, or car
  • Food - eating out, cooking, and snacks
  • Accommodation - hotel, guest house, campsite, or apartment
  • Souvenirs and presents
  • Tickets for attractions

Write all their relevant suggestions on the board.

Divide your class into pairs or small groups

Tell your class:

“You have exactly $1,000 to spend for your group. You have to decide how you are going to spend the money. For example, how much will you spend on food?”

Check that they understand the instructions and answer any questions that they have.

Main Lesson/Activity:

Let your students work out:

  • Where they are going. (Put a time limit on this so that they reach a quick decision)
  • How they are going to get there.
  • Where they will stay and how much they are going to spend.
  • How much they will spend on food, entrance tickets, presents, and other purchases?

Keep moving around the class. Help students to search for the right information. Offer suggestions if necessary and comment on their budgets.


When your students have finished, ask some pairs to report back to the class. Invite general comments. 


“Did they find it difficult to keep to their budget?”

“What did they spend most of their money on?”


“What fraction of your $1,000 was spent on -

  • Travel
  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • Souvenirs and presents
  • Entrance tickets
  • Other items

Ask the class:

"Could you have saved money in one area? What would you have spent the savings on?"

“Which is your favorite plan and why?”

Alternative Plans

Change the Budget Amounts

Sticking to the essential point that students must keep to their budgets, you could give different groups different amounts of money. For example,

  • Groups A and B have $1,000
  • Groups C and D have $750
  • Groups E and F have $500 

This might bring out some interesting results that you can explore in the post-activity feedback.

Create a Pie Chart

This basic lesson plan is an exercise in simple math and touches on fractions when students are thinking about how they have budgeted their money. If you decide to use the plan for higher grade levels, you could ask students to draw a pie chart that shows how they spent their cash. 

Name a different color for each area of expense: blue for transportation, red for accommodation, etc. Comparing different pie charts will allow students to see different spending priorities amongst the different groups easily.

Written by Stephen Tomkinson
Education World Contributor
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