Family Travel Hacks: Let Your Kids DIY Your Next Trip
Involving kids in your travel planning means they will be engaged and excited about your trip. Trust us: It’s hard to roll your eyes or complain if you’re the person who has created the itinerary. And even the youngest among us has opinions about what’s fun. You may also find that you’re surprised by what excites or interests your kids. This is an opportunity to get to know them even better and to explore something new together.
Start with a Conversation
A great place to start collaborating is simply by making some time to sit down together and talk about where you are going and when. Let your children ask questions about the trip, and take the time to answer them. Give your kids a concrete sense of where you’re going by investing in some maps or an atlas or looking up the destination online. Take a trip to the library or the bookstore to pick up some age-appropriate books about your destination. You can also contact the local visitors bureau for brochures or visit the online version. Let your kids explore these both with you and on their own.
Going abroad? Talk about local customs and foods and ask your kids what they think. If the language is different from your own, introduce some simple phrases — “please” and “thank you” are good places to begin. Your specific approach to travel planning will of course change as your kids grow up. If you start young, your kids will continue to bring enthusiasm to your family vacations even once they’ve reached an age where they’d rather hang out with their friends. That’s because they know your vacations are truly shared experiences.
Here are some tips for trip planning with kids at different ages and stages:
Make a list
Give young children a list of fun things to do in the place you are going (for kids who can’t read, use pictures). Let them choose one thing for each day of your trip, and then have them check the items off the list as you do them.
Seeing art=Making art
Find an art museum at your destination. Look online at some of the paintings, sculptures or drawings. Help your child pack a backpack with supplies to make their own version.
Map out some fun
Go online and print a map for the zoo, aquarium, amusement park or animal preserve you plan to visit at your destination. Let your child use it to make a plan of what order you’ll see the animals, what rides you’ll go on and where they’ll buy an ice cream cone.
Dive into their interests
Is your child’s favorite activity playing a sport, helping out in the kitchen, going to dance class, or building towers in the basement? Help them find similar activities on the road that reflect the things they love, whether that’s a cooking class at a restaurant, a behind-the-scenes tour of a sports stadium, or a maker space where they can do crafts.
Live some history
Revolutionary War? Civil Rights era? Or has your child been studying the swinging ’60s? Give them the assignment of researching what monuments, museums, battlegrounds or buildings you can visit together.
Create a camping plan
Even a simple family camping trip can be a opportunity to involve your kids.Let your child make a meal plan, and shop for groceries together. Have them make gear lists, and then check them off as you load the car.
Teens and Tweens
Ask their friends
Adolescents crowd-source everything else with their friends, so encourage them to talk to their peers about your trip and ask for suggestions (you might even think about bringing one along).
Find your own adventure
Teens like to feel grown-up, so help yours find something a little challenging to do — whether that’s riding a scary roller coaster, hiking a steep trail or trying spicy food. Or make a “family vacation challenge” list, and then see who gets the most points.
Music to your ears
Got a kid who loves music? Have him or her check out the local newspaper online to see if there are any all-ages shows they might enjoy. When you involve your kids in your travel planning, you’re doing more than just letting them choose what they like to do. You’re teaching them valuable planning and research skills that will serve them when they are adults. You’re getting to know what their likes and dislikes are. And perhaps most importantly: You’re showing them that you value their thoughts and opinions about travel — and everything else.