Parents needn’t do all the travel planning, especially when the youngest members of the family could serve as assistant travel agents.
Involving your kids in planning the next family vacation can prove a rewarding experience on multiple levels. It can enhance the trip and the positive memories made, as when kids have a say in the planning process, they’re less likely to become bored or irritated when they have a say in what’s next. It also promotes family bonding. After all, what can spark more fun and excitement than dreaming up the next big vacation?
Among the greatest benefits, however: It builds a love for travel and understanding of what it takes to travel. Vacation planning is a life skill, after all, and one that hones and harnesses a variety of other skills such as researching, organizing, and budgeting. Including your kids in this process will benefit them into adulthood, shaping the youngest members of your family into thoughtful, self-sufficient travelers that will more confidently explore the world.
Here are some ways to include your kids in the vacation planning.
INVOLVE THEM EARLY ON
Let your kids help decide where to go. Depending on the age of your children, you might give them pre-approved options or perhaps invite a “formal” family brainstorm. Build excitement and curiosity about the possibilities.
LEARN ABOUT THE DESTINATION TOGETHER
Research the destination as a family by leveraging online and offline resources. This might involve combination of travel books, blogs, television documentaries or travel programs. While younger children might require more hand-holding, they will appreciate being engaged and invested in the discovery—a process that can inspire answers to the next suggestion.
ASK THEM WHAT THEY’D LIKE TO DO IN THE DESTINATION
Gage their interests to begin building an itinerary that meets the needs of the entire family, and gives them a sense of empowerment with their contribution. Based on the research, invite your children to list out aspects about the destination such as activities and attractions that excite them as well as those that might bore them.
TALK ABOUT THE BUDGET
For the older children especially, it’s valuable to shine a light on the financial considerations that come with travel planning. At your discretion, provide insight into the budget for accommodation, activities, etc., when selecting these components of the trip. For instance, you might give them a budget for hotel accommodations and ask them to come up with five options within the vacation destination that meet that budget.
INVITE THEM TO CRAFT PART OF THE VACATION ITINERARY
Designate a day, or part of a day, that’s theirs to plan. Encourage them to organize an afternoon that takes into consideration family interests, budget, and geographical feasibility—meaning, can what they recommend get accomplished realistically in an entire day or the span of an afternoon? (This teaches them valuable organization skills.) For the younger family members, you might offer up pre-approved options for the itinerary and ask them to select what to do.
HAVE A PACKING PARTY
Pack those bags! Once the vacation destination is decided, ask your kids what they think they’ll need. What will the temperature be? How many days will you be away? What toiletries are essential? What gear is essential for potential in-destination activities such as swimming, hiking, etc.? What is a “need” versus a “nice to have” when it comes to packing their bags? What travel packing hacks have they uncovered in their research? Depending on their ages, they might draw up a list first; they might pack their bags independently and then await your review; or they might watch as you pack their bag for them and explain why each item is necessary (ideal for the littlest assistant travel agents).
MODEL FLEXIBILITY ON THE FLY
Some of the most memorable travel experiences aren’t scripted, they happen when physically in the destination. So, take a cue from your kids while you’re on vacation: If they see something that excites them, whether it be an excursion that didn’t come up in your research or some other opportunity, consider scrapping the “plans” and indulging in some spontaneity. You’d be modeling flexibility and teaching them a valuable life skill that can prove rewarding—not to mention, creating a great memory while doing so.