Why you should always involve your kids in planning your family trip

Oct 2, 2019

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Before becoming a mom, I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants traveler. I went wherever the next cheap flight would take me. Even with a toddler in tow, I’m still not great at planning too far in advance. But deliberate travel planning is more important now that I’m responsible for a tiny human. And although travel looks a bit different these days (packing has taken on a new dimension, for example), there’s nothing better than experiencing new places with my daughter.
Because she’s only 3.5 years old, I haven’t gotten to the point of including her in the trip-planning process quite yet. But I take steps to prepare her for trips now that she’s more aware of schedules. She absolutely loves airplanes (a future AvGeek, no doubt) and enjoys marking off days on the calendar when we’re counting down to a trip.
Regardless of age, finding a way to include your kids in the vacation-planning process can be a win for everyone. It builds excitement for a trip and maybe even teaches them a valuable lesson in budgeting both time and money along the way.
Here are some tips for involving your children in planning your next family trip:

Research destinations together

Look to the internet or your local library to research your next family-trip destination. One of the best ways to get a child excited about travel is through reading. Whether they’re only old enough for picture books or able dive into a nonfiction piece about a country or city, they’ll be inspired to help plan their own adventure. If your children have exhausted all the possibilities at the library, try a subscription service like Little Passports.

Girl reading book on her bed
Picture books can take you to faraway places before you get on a plane. (Photo by MoMo Productions/Getty Images.)

Have them save up for the trip

Planning a trip is an excellent way to introduce your child to the concept of saving and budgeting. Sure, they won’t be able to pay for the entire trip, but kids of a certain age could be held responsible for saving money to buy their own souvenirs. Opening a savings account to put aside money for the vacation or using a savings app to help manage the money they earn or have been gifted are also ways to teach them about saving.
I actually had an allowance spreadsheet ready to go before my daughter was born. I’m a personal finance nerd — it’s one of the reasons I dove into the miles and points hobby. So, I’m really looking forward to employing this tip once my daughter is old enough.

Consider your child’s favorite activities

For older kids, keeping your child’s favorite sport or activity in mind can help guide your trip planning.
If your child loves the water, head to a tropical destination and choose a hotel with a pool. Some kids might prefer a children’s museum or a science center, so a trip to a city might be a better choice.
Taking this idea a bit further, you could plan a trip around a special event. For example, if your child is a soccer fanatic, take a trip to the World Cup. Or if they love gymnastics, plan a trip to the Olympics. (Here’s everything you need to know to visit the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.) I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to experience these sorts of thing. Talk about a way to inspire your child!

Pick a location that ties in with a school subject

When I was in middle school, I was obsessed with all things Egypt. I loved learning about the history of Cleopatra, reading about the construction of the pyramids and imagining what life was like in this ancient world. When I finally had the chance to visit Egypt as an adult, I was blown away.
Wandering around the Great Pyramids of Giza, taking a boat ride across the Nile and walking through the Valley of the Kings were some of the most meaningful tourist experiences of my life. I can only imagine what it would have been like to visit these places as a kid. Exposing kids to history through travel is a great way to bring to life subjects that might otherwise be hard to comprehend. I can tell you from experience that it’s nearly impossible to grasp the magnitude and beauty of many of the Egyptian structures unless you’re there seeing them in person.
Once they’re are older, you’ll need to think about the pros and cons of taking your kids out of school to travel.

Egypt Giza pyramids
Structures from an ancient world are even more magnificent in person. (Photo by CasarsaGuru/Getty Images.)

Watch a movie

If only Moana’s Motunui Island actually existed … oh wait … it (sort of ) does!
Unbeknownst to my daughter, Moana’s island was inspired by the director’s travels to islands in the South Pacific, including spots like Fiji and Bora Bora. I’m sure she’d be ecstatic to hear we were heading to Moana’s island (wink, wink) and, to be honest, a trip to either location wouldn’t be that bad for me, either.
Along with using Disney for inspiration, older kids might benefit from watching a documentary or educational series. For example, I love watching the Discovery Channel’s “Planet Earth,” which you can stream on Netflix. I can almost guarantee it will make you want to get out and explore.

Bottom line

Your kids’ ability to participate in planning your next family trip will depend on their age, of course. Involving them will help build excitement for and engagement in the trip. They might even learn a thing or two along the way. And, as my daughter gets older, I’ll definitely do what my TPG colleague Jasmin Baron is doing with her family: teaching her kids about miles and points.
Looking for more tips on traveling with kids? Be sure to check out these resources:

Featured image by macondo/Shutterstock

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