Planning for fun, educational vacations that engage the kids!
Traveling with kids can be a challenge. We all know how tricky life can be with babies, toddlers, and even young elementary school-aged children. But as your kids age, the challenges don’t go away – they just change.
Tweens can be a ton of fun to be with. Now that your kids are older, you can have real conversations with them, teach them about the world around them at a more grown-up level, and do activities together that might be what you would choose yourself instead of activities chosen to please little ones. But tweens can be challenging. CHALLENGING. They can be moody, self-centered, easily bored, and obsessed with their phones, social media, and other technology.
Traveling with tweens and teens is just another chance in your busy life to face those challenges! When you are
Here are some tips for vacation success:
- Get your kids excited about the places you’ll visit BEFORE you go. I get some books about the destination and we spend some time learning about what we’ll see. Non-fiction is informative, of course, but fiction can make it all so much fun! If there are stories that are set in the places you are visiting, read them together or give them to the kids to read (and you read them on your own, so you’ll have a shared experience). Having stories in your mind as you visit places can really bring things to life. Movies and documentaries are great for drumming up excitement, too. Seeing images of the places you’ll soon
be getseveryone excited as they anticipate the fun. And of course, you can check out the internet for resources, too.
- Research where you are going. As a parent, I find it is so much easier to handle anything if I know what I’m getting into and I have the wisdom of those that have been there before me. I use TripAdvisor a lot, and I’ve found Viator has super helpful reviews of tours and activities. Our family has to vacation on a budget since we are a one-income household, so I spend a lot of time researching what are the best deals and how we can stretch our dollars. I will share more about how I do that in a future post.
- Prioritize what matters to your family. What is your family into? Art museums? Other museums, like tech museums, or places like zoos and aquariums? Outdoor activities like hiking, sports, or water activities? Amusement parks? Trying new foods? Do you like to see historical sites like churches and castles, or natural sites like waterfalls? Or are you like my husband, and your favorite is seeing the “big stuff”- monuments like the Colosseum in Rome or Big Ben in London. Think ahead of time about what each person in your family might enjoy. Talk to the kids (and your partner) about what they are most looking forward to and then make sure you work everyone’s needs into the plan. It will be easier to get their buy-in if they feel like you care about their opinions and feelings. Plus, don’t forget to absorb the local vibe. You’re on vacation to experience something new – experience it! Spend some time in the town square having a hot chocolate or sitting on the edge of the canyon gazing at the view.
- Schedule downtime. Most kids don’t want to go go go and learn learn learn without a break. Know your kids and think about their needs. Give them some time, either at the hotel or at a cafe or in a park to just relax, text their friends, or look at social media (if you allow it). Or maybe your kids need some time to read or draw. Keep in mind that your kids need plenty of sleep. Most teens and some tweens need to sleep in late. Make sure you build that into your plan. Don’t expect constant enthusiasm (meaning, don’t set yourself up for disappointment). Respect what your kids need – make some compromises for them, and then you can expect compromises from them. Try looking at things another way: maybe you head back to the hotel early and let the kids play on their phones while you and your partner sit on the terrace and have a glass of wine.
- Think about how you’re going to get around once you reach your destination. When my husband and I traveled to Europe before kids, we enjoyed seeing the sites on foot. We’d get up early and walk for hours, stopping in at all the sites, shops, and restaurants. That museum across town? Let’s walk there! Once we get there, let’s stand and look at stuff! Okay, now let’s walk a mile to that restaurant and eat food we’ve never tried before! All of that is my JAM. I LOVE IT. Luckily, it occurred to me before taking the kids to Europe that my children do not like walking for the sake of walking. I realized that if I didn’t want grumpy tweens whining about their feet, I’d better figure out the public transportation/cab/Uber choices at our destination before we needed it. When you’re traveling with tweens and teens, some walking is great to pick up the vibe of the city, but don’t overdo it.
When you are planning your trip, you need to think about how to draw out the fun, engaged side of your tween or teen and minimize the difficult side.
Traveling with tweens and teens can be SO much fun. The key is to think ahead, make a plan, and make the kids feel included in that plan. I have more posts planned on this topic. Comment below and tell me about your experiences traveling with tweens and teens, or let me know what topics you’d like for me to cover in future posts
Click below to check out my articles on fun places to travel with tweens: