We love to travel as a family and take family vacations. Of course, who doesn’t like to take a vacation and a break from work?
One thing that we love to do as we plan our family vacation is to involve the children in the planning. Of course, this gets a little bit easier as your twins and your children get older. Nevertheless, if they can talk and communicate with you, they can be involved in some aspect of the planning of your vacation. This way, the vacation becomes something they look forward to and are excited about.
In this article, I’m going to share seven things that we have done to help make vacation planning fun with our children’s involvement.
1. Remember Past Vacations and Experiences
We remind the children of past vacations, past trips and the fun memories that we had with those experiences. It can be as simple as talking about them around the dinner table or sharing the stories of the things that we saw or the things that we did or the things that we experienced. Or those funny things that always happen when you’re on a vacation. Those kinds of stories can help solidify those memories in you’re children’s minds so that they look forward to and are excited about the next opportunity to travel as a family and discover new places together.
Share Stories and Memories
One of our favorite vacation stories is when we went to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico where we went on a tour of the caverns. So we’re at the very bottom of this cavern, 45 minutes into an hour and a half tour, and one of our kids has to go to the bathroom and there is no bathroom. And so that same child ending up having wet pants all the way out of the caverns. We think this is hilarious in retrospect but unfortunately, he was a little bit uncomfortable for that hike out of the caverns.
Share stories, funny things that happened on your trips, videos, and pictures. One thing that we love to do is make little photo books. We take the pictures from trips and turn those into a little coffee table book that the kids can just pick up and flip through. They love looking through these books and it helps them be excited about the things that they saw before.
The premise of reminding the kids of the things that they’ve done in the past is they remember discovering those new places and they remember what they did there. The children often remember things that my wife or I we have forgotten, like little nuances or details of experiences that they held onto as precious memories. They share those with the family and it reminds all of us of the fun experience that we had. Building on the base of past fun family experiences makes it a lot easier to involve your children in planning the next vacation.
2. Make a Map
Make a map of where you’ll be going. We have a map of the United States on our fridge in the kitchen. Over the years, we’ve colored in each of the states that we’ve been visiting one by one along with the year that we first visited that state as an entire family.
If you’re taking a trip anywhere in the country, or maybe it’s international trip, print out a map. Put your map on the fridge or in a prominent location where your children can see that map and they can see how you’re going to get there.
The map could show your travel path or the destination that you’re going to be visiting. This map will enable the children to visualize the places that they’re going to see and how far away that is from your home and how long it’s going to take to get there.
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Your younger children may not fully understand maps yet. But they may just be fascinated by the style of the map or the colors of the map. Or can ask them, “Where are we? And where are we going?” Even a small toddler should be able to identify those on the map with some guidance.
3. Align Destinations with Kids’ Interests
Identify things that your children are interested in and then find a destination for that interest.
A couple years we took a family road trip vacation from Texas to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. As we drove through Arkansas, we went to visit the Crater of Diamonds State Park which is a place where you can dig for diamonds and gems in a big field.
At the time our oldest son was really interested in geology and rock collecting and everything related to that aspect of science. So when we discovered this opportunity in Arkansas we said, “Okay we’re going to go dig for diamonds in the Diamond State Park.”
The kids had a blast. It was like a giant sandbox (but with soil) that’s like the size of a couple football fields. The kids got to take their shovels out there and make a huge mess digging and looking for diamonds and gems. We didn’t find any diamonds but we did find several other gemstones and interesting rocks which were fascinating to the children.
We had this great experience all because we had included a destination around an interest that our son had. This gave him something to look forward to before the trip. My kids still talk about that experience today. Anytime we’re planning a trip anywhere near Arkansas, they want to go back to the Crater of Diamonds State Park to dig for diamonds.
You know your children best. Even your twins may have common interests. Perhaps both your twins are interested in rock collecting but odds are maybe one twin is interested in one thing and the other twin is interested in something else. Find destinations that each of your twins and each of your children individually can look forward to visiting.
4. Have Children Do the Research
Involve your children in the research of where you’ll be going, what you’ll be doing, and have them share what they find.
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One thing we’ve been doing this year is that we made a huge list of all the things we’re going to go see or the places we’re going to visit and then we had the children pick items to prepare a little presentation on that destination.
Our kids are all in elementary school or middle school and so they’ve been getting used to doing this at school where they do research and reports. However, even if your children are younger you can sit with them and help them research a destination and find things to share like videos, pictures, and information about where you’ll be going.
This year, our kids have put together little Google Slides presentations with images or videos. We’ll project them up on the big TV and the whole family can watch while they can share what they learned about this destination. why it’s important, why they’re excited to go there, and things that we’re going to see.
Having the children share what they’ve learned helps build excitement around our destination. Plus they’re vested in that location now. They are looking forward to it and they know more about it than simply what mom and dad told them. They can now say, “Oh yeah, we’re going to go visit that city and these are the three things that we should do there because they look pretty cool.”
5. Talk About Your Trip All the Time
Talk about the trip, the vacation, and the adventure all the time.
Your children are always going to distract you as you talk about things. We have this happen to us all the time. You’re talking about one thing and all of sudden the kids take that and go off on a completely different tangent. And you never make it back to the original thing that you’re talking about.
If you want to talk about your vacation where you’re going to go visit these five different cool places, you’re not going to be able to sit down and talk about those five things at once. Your kids are going to distract you or something’s going to happen and you’re not going to finish that conversation.
So talk about vacation all the time. For example, “Hey, it’s just a month away from today we’re going to leave on our vacation.” Or, “Hey remember we’re going to go to this city? Do you remember your aunt lives in that city? Do you remember the last time you were there? What are we going to do when we get there?” This gives you an opportunity to have discussions about your upcoming family vacation and planning.
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6. Involve the Children in Travel Decisions
Involve your children in the choices that you’re making with travel plans. When you plan a trip there’s going to be a lot of decisions that you have to make. For example, where are you going to stay? Are you going to stay in a hotel? Are you going to stay in an Airbnb? Do you need a rental car? Are you going to drive, do a road trip? Are you flying? When should you fly? Which airline should you fly with? What time should you fly? What activities are you going to do in the city? And how are you going to budget and pay for all of these different things?
There are a lot of choices that you make or are considering as you go along in making vacation plans. You may even have a short list of, for example, two different hotels. Show those to your children. Say, “Hey, I’m looking at these two different hotels, want to look at them with me? Which of these two looks better to you?” It’s amazing whenever I involve the kids in that decision. They have a fresh perspective. They’re like, “Ooo, I really like that one since it has a better swimming pool.” Or, “That one has a cooler looking room.” Or, “That one has a better view of the beach (or the cityscape or whatever that may be).”
It will give you some additional perspective because you may be viewing the decision simply through one lens of how much does this cost? Or is it available? And your kids are looking at it through more of an experiential view of what is it going to be like when I get there? How fun is it going to be? Am I going to like it? And of course, you want your kids to have fun and enjoy once you get there.
Ultimately, you have to make the decision on what’s best for you and your family. However, you can show them those choices and you’ll start to see that some of your kids really care about those different choices and the details of those choices. And other kids are like, “Yeah whatever. I don’t care.” One or two of your kids will be really fascinated by the planning process of a vacation and they’ll want to be more and more involved.
7. Have Fun!
Make sure that you have fun with this whole process. Often vacation planning or the vacation travel itself can be extremely stressful because you’re trying to cram in all this stuff in a limited amount of time. Nevertheless, you want there to be an aura of fun and excitement around your vacation and your planning otherwise what’s the point? Your kids are going to see right through that and not want to participate if they just view it as a stressful experience.
When you think about your vacation there are three phases of the vacation: before, during, and after the vacation.
First is the anticipation of the event. You anticipate this vacation for significantly longer than you’re actually going to be on the vacation. And so you want something that’s fun to look forward to, think about, and plan. Don’t underplay that anticipation and excitement as part of the vacation.
When you’re on the vacation that is fun and you’re building memories and having fun experiences together. However, that’s a relatively short period of time that’s sandwiched between the anticipation before and the memory of it afterward.
After you get home, relive those experiences through the stories and the video and the pictures that you’ve taken. Relive those memories and savor the experiences that you had together as a family. That’ll springboard you the next time that you’re able to travel somewhere as a family.
What are some things that you have done to help your kids get involved in vacation planning for your family vacation? Go ahead and share those in the comments below.