How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel… at Any Age!

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel… at Any Age!

Most kids, if we’re being honest, don’t really get the concept of travel. To them, a great vacation could be anywhere, as long as they get to stay in a hotel with a pool and cable television. So how do you get them to think about the world that awaits them outside of the hotel? How do you make them look forward to more than just surfing channels and swimming in an over-chlorinated pool? How do you get your kids to love travel?

Tip #1: Start Early

The sooner you start traveling with your children, the better. Whether it’s a trip to visit grandparents who live an hour or two away from you, or a week long vacation in another state or country, take your kids away from home as often as you can.

First time parents and/or those with very young children may find the thought of doing so overwhelming, scary, or just plain crazy. But trust me, the sooner you expose your children to the concept of sleeping someplace other than your own house, the better.

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #1 - Start taking them on trips as early as possible.

Yes, you will have to bring all kinds of gear with you. Car seat! Stroller! Diaper bag! Diapers! Blankets! Wipes! Bottles! Toys! Portable crib!

How on earth can such a tiny human need

So.

Much.

Stuff!??!?!?

Well, the truth is, they don’t. Resist the temptation to over-pack. Only pack what is necessary and leave the “just in case” items at home. If you aren’t going on a mountain hike in a remote part of the world, you will probably be able to buy any incidentals that you need while away from home.

Tip #2: Model a Positive Attitude

Enthusiasm is contagious, and our offspring are always looking to us for cues on how they should feel about something. If you’re excited about going on vacation, they will be excited too.

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #2 - Model a Positive Attitude and Show Some Excitement

If, on the other hand, you’re grumbling about how to make everything fit in the car, or having a near anxiety attack because you’re worried that you’ve forgotten something, all your kids will process is that going on vacation makes their parent(s) stressed and grumpy. Most parents, even the most loving ones, will be more likely to snap at, scold, or otherwise lack patience with their children when they are stressed or grumpy. So be uber-aware of your demeanor when planning for and embarking on your journey to avoid having your kids think of family travel with a negative connotation.

Tip #3: Involve Your Kids in the Planning Process

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #3 - Involve them in the planning process.

Regardless of whether you are a Type A vacation over-planner (like me) or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants vacationer, you need to at least talk to your kids about where you’re going and what they would like to do there. Give them a list of three or four child-friendly activities and ask what they would be most interested in. Show them some photos or videos online so they can fully imagine what it would be like. Don’t assume that you know what they would like to do most… you might be surprised by their answers! If your kids feel like they helped plan the trip, they will be more inclined to enjoy it because they will have a vested interest in it.

A side benefit of approaching them about what they would like to do on the trip is that they may be more patient when doing things that aren’t as interesting to them. “Today we are doing something that Dad wanted to do, and tomorrow we will do what you wanted to do.” Kids will learn that a family vacation is just that – a vacation for the whole family to enjoy… not just them.

Tip #4: Have Them Document Their Travels

This is my absolute favorite tip for how to get your kids to love travel! Encourage your children to document their travel experiences in an age appropriate way. This could be as simple as videotaping an “interview” with your kids telling you at the end of each day what they enjoyed most. Again, their answers may surprise you! (My daughter’s favorite memory of our trip to Cornwall when she was 8 was leaving grapes along the fence rail for the seagulls, of all things. She is now 16 and she still talks about it. Would I have guessed that feeding the seagulls would be such a happy memory for her? Certainly not.)

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #4 - Have them document their travel with photos, artwork, or journaling.

If your kids are older, you can go a step further and have them keep a journal. Encourage them to illustrate their notes with drawings of what they saw/did. Alternatively, have them complete postcards to send to family and friends.

If they’re old enough, you could consider giving them a camera to take their own pictures as a way of documenting the journey. These little mementos of a trip – as seen through the eyes of your children – are priceless and they make the best souvenirs, in my opinion.

BONUS: writing and drawing are activities that they can work on in transit, which will keep them busy. It might keep you from having to hear “Are we there yet?”

Tip #5: Bring a Little Bit of Home with You

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #5 - Bring a little piece of home with you.

Let your kids bring one small thing from home that they really love. For younger children, this might be a stuffed animal that they sleep with. For older kids, a favorite toy. If you can’t take your pets with you, consider bringing a photo of them for your children to have on the table next to their bed. These pieces of home serve as small reminders that vacation is temporary, and they will soon return to the places, people, and things they know and love.

You could also make a game with their favorite object. For instance, take a photograph of their favorite toy/stuffed animal at every location you visit and let them make a scrapbook or story about it (see Tip #4 above).

Tip #6: Resist the Temptation to Use Screens as Diversions

Look, I get it. Traveling (especially by car or plane) for more than a few hours with kids in tow can be tedious at best. It can be hard even when you’re traveling without kids! But I beg of you, please resist the temptation to just hand them a phone or tablet and let them play games or watch videos as you travel.

The more engaged they are with their surroundings, the more they will enjoy travel. The more they are engaged with their family members, the more fun memories and traditions you will build on the trip. So let them look out the windows of the car or observe people at the baggage carousel in the airport. Let them see what makes a place different from home, and what makes it similar.

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #6 - Don't give them a video pacifier, but rather have them look out the window as they travel through unfamiliar areas.

And if not handing your kids an electronic device to placate them while traveling seems unrealistic, think about what you did when you were a kid going places with your parents. There was life before we all adopted video pacifiers… there can be life after the fact too!

My own daughter, at age three and a half years, traveled by car from Maryland to Florida (that’s 14 hours not counting stops). She did so without a portable TV/DVD player and without playing games on anyone’s phone/tablet. We talked about things we saw while we drove, talked about how excited we were to be going on vacation (see Tip #2 above), made up games to play, and so on. There were no meltdowns. There was no whining. It was incredible, not to mention enjoyable!

Tip #7: Let Them Choose a Souvenir

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #7 - Let them choose a souvenir to take home (no matter how tacky)

If your kids are traveling with you, allow them to select a reasonably priced souvenir to bring home as a memento of their trip. If it’s something that they can start a collection with, even better, because then you’ll be on a quest to find one of those items at every destination.

One of my favorite things to have my children collect were the pressed pennies that have the name and an image for the place you visited. They are cheap – typically $.50 – $1.00 each – and fairly ubiquitous at tourist destinations. What’s more, most Penny Presses have an assortment of designs to choose from, so if you have multiple kids with you they can each get a different design.

Regardless of the souvenir they choose, though, it will prove a tangible reminder of the time they spent away from home and the fun things that they saw and did. The key is to let them choose what the souvenir will be. It doesn’t matter if they want a souvenir water bottle and you already have an entire drawer full of them at home. it doesn’t matter if they want a keychain, but they have no keys. Let them pick what they find meaningful and the chances are good that they will enjoy it for years to come.

Tip #8: Slow Down!

No one likes to be rushed. Especially young ones who are seeing new places, people, and things for the first time. So make sure that in your day to day travels on vacation, you are moving at a pace slightly slower than you normally would. Give them time to walk beside you without rushing to keep up, to ask questions about what they’re seeing, and to just stop for a moment to take it all in.

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #8 - Slow down and give them a chance to take it all in.

Along those same lines, make sure you leave some wiggle room in your travel itinerary for the little ones. Build in some time for a nap, if needed. Time for a visit to a local playground at your destination. Time for relaxing. And yes, even time to enjoy the hotel pool and/or cable television.

Tip #9: Be as Hands On as Possible

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I love museums. I am a history geek through and through, and nothing excites me more than being able to see items that have witnessed hundreds of years of history and survived.

But history is kind of a weird concept to a child, and they aren’t likely to appreciate a museum with as much gusto as I would. For children to be engaged, and to get your kids to love travel, you have to give them opportunities to be as hands on as possible.

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #9 - Visit places with hands-on children's activities, or come up with your own

That doesn’t mean you have to forego the museums… but it may mean coming up with a scavenger hunt-style game for them to play while you’re going through the museum. Many tourist attractions these days will offer young visitors a way to stay entertained, whether it’s a touch tank at an aquarium or a craft activity at a museum. Exhibits with buttons to push are always popular with young ones, too. Check at the visitor’s desk wherever you go and ask if they have any children’s activities/exhibits.

Tip #10: Break the Rules… or at Least Bend Them

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #10 - Break the rules (or at least bend them) while you're on vacation.

Kids love to think that they’re getting away with doing something that they wouldn’t normally be able to do. And there’s no better time or place to let them experience that joy than on vacation. You’re away from home for a fixed period of time… why not let them enjoy a bit of special rule-breaking?

A few caveats, though. First, YOU should be the one to decide which rules are okay to break. Then make sure that the kids know they are only allowed to break those rules and no others. For instance, an 8:00 PM bedtime rule does not need to be enforced on vacation, but they absolutely must still follow the rule about brushing their teeth before bed.

Second, remind them (often, if need be) that this bit of rule-breaking is only happening because you are on vacation. Once you return home and to your normal routine of work and school, the rules will once again be in full effect.

Third, be prepared to reinstate the rules if behavior gets out of control. Sticking with the example above, relaxing the bedtime rule will need to be re-evaluated if it results in cranky, overtired children.

In Conclusion

Travel is something that everyone can enjoy – and children can come to love – if approached with a bit of creativity and enthusiasm. Your family vacations will be full of laughter, love, and memories to cherish for years to come if you get your kids to love travel.

Summary
How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel
Article Name
How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel
Description
A guide for cultivating a love of travel in your children.
Author
Publisher Name
Travel As Much
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