As parents, we often take it upon ourselves to come up with our family vacation plans. Then we share with our children where we will be going. What would happen if you let the kids help plan vacation? You might be surprised. Maybe they will come up with a new destination or some fun family travel activities. Maybe they will even inspire adventures you never dreamed of. Check out how and why you should involve kids in vacation planning.
I love to plan vacations for my family. I think I come up with pretty good destinations and family travel activities. Normally I have a vacation completely planned out before even mentioning it to my kids. At least I used to. This year, we decided it would be fun for to let our oldest help plan a vacation.
Why We Decided To Involve Kids In Vacation Planning
The idea to involve my oldest son first came when we were reading a book called Amazing Places To Take Your Kids. The book has fun activities across the entire United States broken down by region, and includes other North America locations as well. While reading it, The Goof started saying how he would love to try different adventures or visit different places in the book. I kind of pushed the idea out of my mind.
Then we started watching some great YouTube channels about families that travel. Again, my son started saying how he would love to visit some of these places.
When I decided it would be fun to add on some other activities to our Disneyland vacation over spring break, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to get him involved. After all, I want my kids to feel like they have a say in the family vacation activities. I also decided this would be a good way to get to know what my kids are interested in. So, I talked it over with my husband, and we decided to try it out and see how it went.
What Happened When I Let My Kids Help Plan Vacation
It was a surprising experience. I thought my son would always choose a Disney vacation over anywhere else. I was wrong. The vacation destinations and family travel activities he has come up with are inspiring our vacations for the next several years. When we asked him if he wanted to do anything along with our planned Disneyland vacation, he came up with an amazing idea.
The Goof, almost seven at the time, came to us with an “Epic West Coast Road Trip” idea. After Disneyland, he had us driving up through California to spend some time in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and then exploring the Redwoods. It is our favorite family vacation to date.
Our experience had me wondering if other TravelingMoms had any tips on how to involve kids in planning vacation. They had some great ideas that I can’t wait to implement in the future.
Ways To Involve Kids In Vacation Planning
Something that might be hard to figure out is exactly how to involve kids in vacation planning. As adults, we know there are budgets to think about, time restraints, and more to consider. Kids don’t always seem to understand all of the details that go into vacation planning. Check out these great ways to let the kids help plan vacation.
1. Give them materials on family travel activities you have pre-approved
One of the ways we involved the Goof in vacation planning was having him look through some of the choices in our family travel activities. We would sit him down with a bunch of brochures, pictures, or even with a tablet to watch YouTube videos. Then we would talk about the different options we could afford both monetarily and timewise. I love that this helped him feel like he was making some of the decisions.
Jamie Bartosch, Suburban TravelingMom, uses a similar idea.
“I let the kids help prioritize our activities. I’ll say, “Here are four things we can do today. Which do you want to do most?” We discuss pros and cons of each thing, and they like helping make the decision rather than being told “You’re doing this!” I sometimes try to steer them toward certain things, but anything involving a pool always seems to rank number one.”
Giving the Goof several brochures of different activities was so much fun. I was kind of shocked how much he studied each brochure. The family travel activities he picked sometimes surprised me. Like when he chose visiting a lighthouse over going to the aquarium in Crescent City, CA.
This or That?
Check out what Empty Nest TravelingMom, Cindy Richards, had to say about how she let her kids help plan vacation.
“The best advice I ever got was to let kids plan one day of the trip.When they were younger, I gave them choices (do you want to do this or this?) When they were older, they got a budget (so they didn’t always pick a helicopter ride!). Then, as former TravelingMom Tonya Prater said, not only is that one day you don’t have to plan, if it doesn’t go well, it’s not your fault!”
I love that Cindy has advice for both when kids are younger and when they get older. And I love the idea of being able to blame a vacation fail on someone else.
2. Give them a map
The Goof is just a bit obsessed with maps. He collects them from everywhere we go. He even collected one from the mall we visited in Salt Lake City recently. Handing him a map is a great way to get him involved, either before the trip or during. When we visit a zoo, we will give him a map and let him lead the way.
Maps were another popular method the TravelingMoms use to involve kids in vacation planning. Cindy says,
“When my kids were younger and we were on road trips, I gave them old fashioned paper maps to follow along on the journey. While it wasn’t exactly planning, they were supposed to find the next “big enough dot” on the map that would be a town where we could likely find a decent restaurant. (This was before there was an app for that!) It kept them from asking, “Are we there yet?” and taught them to read a map.”
3. Split the days between your plans and their plans
I love the idea of letting my kids have some free time each day. I think it is very important. But when I am on vacation, I feel like each moment needs to be spent enjoying your time. I often have us on the go 24/7. It is a bad habit of mine. Because of this, my kids rarely get to plan anything out as part of the day. I would love to change that.
The TravelingMoms mentioned a lot about letting kids help prioritize activities or choose one thing every day. World TravelingMom Sarah Ricks says,
“When our kids were little, we rented vacation houses with another family – in London, Spain, Mexico, Italy. Adults chose the morning activity – like a museum or tourist destination. Kids chose the afternoon, which usually was splashing in the pool at the house or playing hide and seek in a park. Kids got to play, and everyone was happy.”
What a great idea! This would help kids feel like they have a choice each day, and not just one or two days of vacation. We may try this on future trips. I imagine we will have a lot of pool time as well. This would also be a great way to involve kids when planning a multi-generational trip.
4. Play into their interests when planning family travel activities
Does your child love rides? Let her research different theme parks and report to you about them. Maybe your child loves to hike. Buy him a guide book and have them figure out what trails your family could physically do. Whatever your child’s interests, try and include those interests in the planning process.
Garden Greek TravelingMom, Julie Thompson-Adolf has a beautiful story about doing just that.
“One of the best outings we did in Switzerland was when our daughter, a huge Sherlock fan, planned our outing to Reichenbach Falls, the site of his supposed battle/demise at the hand of Moriarty. She loved it–and I have the best photos of her gazing sadly down the falls, hand over heart, for the fall of Sherlock.”
Will We Continue Letting Our Kids Help Plan Vacation?
The big question after all of this is will we keep letting our kids help plan vacation? I believe we will. We had a wonderful experience involving the Goof. With the tips the other TravelingMoms have given, I definitely see us continuing to involve our children.
Have you let you let your kids help plan vacation? What tips do you have on how to involve kids in vacation planning?