I strongly feel that you should travel with your children as early and often as possible. You can read all of my reasons for this affirmation here, but one of the main reasons why I believe this is because it is such a great teaching tool. Not only should you take trips with your children, you should also let them help plan your trips. I know what you are thinking: “That’s crazy talk! I don’t trust my kids to plan vacations!” In this article, I will lay out my top five reasons you should include your children in planning your vacations.
1. Broaden Their Horizons
Of course, the very act of traveling with your kids will broaden their horizons. However, letting them take an active role in planning those trips can also help with that process. My friend, Anna, makes it a point to plan trips to places that her 6-year-old son shows an interest in. For her, going somewhere that he wants to go makes it easy to broaden his view of the world beyond his little day-to-day bubble. If their destination is one he chose, he is more apt to learn about that location before and during the trip. He is also more inclined to remember the details of the trip because it is somewhere that he wanted to go.
When you are brainstorming where to go on your next vacation, ask your children what their thoughts are. If they have an idea that is doable for the family, try to make it happen. If you have multiple kids with differing ideas, take turns. Let Little Johnny decide this trip, and then Susie gets to pick the next destination. Or, put all the ideas in a hat and draw one out. Once you decide on the location, have the child who chose that destination help plan lodging, meals, and activities for the trip. This is a great way to get them to research and learn more about that place before you ever arrive.
2. Foster Their Interests
Not only can you use travel to foster your children’s interest in other places, but you can also use it to nurture their interests in other things as well. Mary, another good friend of mine, lets her 10-year-old son choose where they go on their summer vacation each year. Her reason: to support his interests. A few years ago, they went to San Diego because he was really into animals and would look at the San Diego Zoo’s website. Mary’s thought is that if his passion is animals, then she is going to do what she can to harbor that interest. It’s a way to engage him in his excitement for this topic in a way that can’t be done at home or school.
When planning your next trip, think about what your kids are really into. Brainstorm places you can go to cultivate those obsessions. If your son is fascinated with marine animals, think about a trip to Sea World or to the coast where you can take him on a dolphin or whale watching tour. Then explore these possible vacation ideas with your child. I’ll bet you will see the light shine bright in their eyes when you bring it up! If you have more than one child and they have different interests, you may have to think harder to find a place that will engage all of them. But trust me, it will be worth the extra effort!
3. Teach Them Life Skills
For me, it’s not just about letting my son help decide the location of our next trip. On each trip, I give him one day to plan. He decides where we eat, what we do, what time we get up, what time we leave the hotel, everything about that day. I do this because it teaches him life skills like time management, budget, and how to use public transportation. He has to figure out the logistics of getting the family from one place to another and to adapt when his plans go awry. Now, his dad and I make suggestions along the way to guide him, but on his day, he is in charge. This also gives him confidence in his abilities to function in this world on his own.
We started this last year when we went to Disney World for my son’s 6th birthday. He has now had 2 trips to Disney World in which he had a day to plan. He completely embraces this challenge. On just two trips, he has learned so much. Traveling allows us to teach him these skills in a very hands on way. He doesn’t realize that he is learning skills that he will need as he grows up, he just thinks it is fun getting to be in charge for a day. Disney World is a great place to start this process, especially if you are staying on property. It allows your child to practice these skills on a smaller scale than being in a big city, and it limits the choices he has to make.
You can either give your child a full day or maybe a part of a day, depending on where you will be and your child’s age. Give your child a budget to stick to for the day’s meals and activities. Give them maps if you are driving so they can help navigate. Explain how public transportation works. Let them research activities and restaurants before hand. Make sure they know hours of operation and admission prices. I would suggest that you designate in advance of your trip which day your child will be in charge of. This way, they can start planning in the weeks leading up to your trip. It won’t be as overwhelming for them that way.
4. Sneaky Way to Learn the Basics
My son was just learning to read when I first told him that he would be in charge of planning one of our Disney days. He hated reading. He realized, though, that he would need to be able to read the names on the buses at Disney World. This motivated him to practice his reading skills in the months before our trip. He also was eager to read signs and maps once we arrived in preparation of his day. Calculating how much time would be needed to get from place to place also made him practice his math and time-telling skills.
Putting your child in charge of planning a day will force them to use those basic reading and math skills. This will answer that age-old question of “when will I ever need to know this?” It is also a sneaky way to teach them geography, a foreign language, history, and any number of other subjects.
5. Earn Their Cooperation
By involving your children in the planning of your vacations, you will naturally earn their cooperation in the process. If they feel they have an opinion in where you go and what you do, they will be more interested and more excited about the whole trip. They may be more willing to walk longer distances, ride in the car longer, or get up early if it was partly their idea. It is an easy way to end the whines and grumbles that come when kids feel forced into something. It makes them feel important, which in turn makes them more cooperative with you while on your trip. And who knows, maybe your child will come to appreciate all the work you put into planning the family vacations!
Traveling with kids is a very worthwhile adventure because it is such a great teaching tool. Involving them in the planning process also brings with it multiple ways to teach them. It builds their confidence, broadens their horizons, and fosters their interests. It prepares them for adulthood by teaching practical life skills. While it may seem crazy at first, try it. I think you will find that getting your kids involved actually makes for happier trips for everyone in the family. These are my top 5 reasons you should include your children in planning your vacations. Put it to the test and then come back and leave me a comment with the results. I hope you find it to be a positive experience for your family. Happy travels!