Planning a trip is almost as awesome as being on a trip. Or is that just me? As we work to raise 3 little adventurers with a respect and appreciation for global travel, we try to involve our kids in all of our trip planning (as best as we can). We have found that engaging our kids in planning our travels helps not only broaden their understanding of where we are going, but also deepens their appreciation of what we are about to do. It also helps get them super excited about the entire trip. Our fingers are crossed that this is still the case when they are teenagers.
While we don’t claim to be experts at all things travel, we have learned a few things along the way about planning trips with our kids. We spend a lot of time talking about travel, dreaming about travel, debating travel destinations…and our kids have just as strong of a voice in the process.
At the beginning of each year, we sit down as a family and start our travel dreaming. It’s not a crazy in depth process, but it works for us! Here’s how we fully engage our kids in the travel planning process.
- We all get to write down (or shout out) places we want to go during the upcoming year. This ranges from little trips (“the water park!”) to bigger travels (“Paris!”). This turns into quite the list of places by the end of it. This year’s list has about 175 items on it. Luckily many of them can combine into a few trips.
- Then we focus on experiences we want to have over the course of the next year. Again this ranges from small (“to dip my toes in a new body of water” or “see a sea turtle!”) to big (“to watch a segment of the Tour de France”). We truly believe that travel is enriched by focusing on the experiences we can have while we are in new places and strive to fill our trips with awesome experiences – while not being overly busy. More on that later….
- Lastly, we focus on things we want to learn through our travels over the course of the year. This year’s list focuses a lot on learning new languages and learning how to prepare new foods.
This list is something that we look back to on a regular basis. Our girls, while still young, seem to really enjoy getting to have a say in where we might go over the course of the year. Of course as we then dive into more in depth trip planning we have another process…filled with questions that we take a look at before even considering booking the trip. This part isn’t necessarily as fun for the kids — especially if we talk about more vaccines! Eeeek!
- Is the area safe? We usually start to look into this question by visiting the US Department of State’s website where you can search by destination to learn about the current safety reports, how to contact US Embassies while traveling there, passport requirements and more.
- Are we up to date on vaccines needed to travel here? This is a key question as we’re not big fans of preventable illnesses while traveling, especially for our kids. Our trusted source is the CDC’s Traveler’s Health page. This includes vaccine requirements or recommendations as well as information on the prevalence of current infectious diseases such as Zika. Always good to be in the know!
- Will our insurance be okay there? Just in case. That’s why we have health insurance, right? It is always good to know what will be covered in the event (hopefully it is never needed) that you require medical care while traveling abroad or even out of state. Be sure to look at your own health insurance to look at any information related to travel.
- Will my debit card or credit card work there? Another important step. Call your bank! Let them know you are traveling to ensure that they don’t put a lock on your account due to suspicious activity in another country or even another state. It’s also great to ask them if they know if you will have any troubles accessing your funds through an ATM while abroad.
Then it is time to plan the actual trip! This is the part the kids love. Once we have our travel booked, we dive into a basic yet very flexible itinerary. We have found the best travels seem to happen when we have a very loose agenda — one that includes just play days at local parks, swimming pools, beaches or exploring with no plan every other day. Our kids are still not at an age when a museum is a big highlight, unless it is a children’s museum, so we still tend to steer clear of museums in an effort to keep them engaged and excited. Instead, we involve them in learning about our destination, foods to try, key phrases in the local language and any cultural differences we should be aware and respectful of. The library is a great resource! We bring home piles of books and dive into learning all about where we are going.
Of all of the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport. -unknown