Vacation Trip Planner: 5 Ways to Get Your Kids Involved

Kid-friendly vacation planning


Savvy parents know that kids have plenty of exciting ideas and want a say in where the family goes on vacation. With a little guidance, their youthful creativity can be focused on helping to plan the trip, leading to greater enjoyment for the entire family. Consider these five ways to involve the whole family when planning a vacation.

1. Pick a Date for Your Fun Family Vacation

Find available dates for the upcoming vacation as a family.

Gather school calendars, how much vacation time the adults have and the dates of any special events or camps the kids want to go to. Combine these details into one shared calendar, using colored markers or stickers for each family member. Designate someone to take notes; your tween or teen might feel more engaged and important by doing this.

As a family, vote on the best time to go on vacation.

Summer is a favorite season for families to travel because the kids don’t have school, but other times of the year can be good, too. Going during a fall break, for example, might mean warm, sunny weather for a trip to San Francisco.


2. Find the Best Family Vacation Spots

Next, it’s time to decide where to go. Invite everyone in the family to dream about the best family vacation spots and experiences.

A fun, interactive way to generate ideas is to have each family member complete activity sheets like Mad Libs, Travelopoly, Travelgories and Vacranium or take a “this or that” quiz. Also, make a list of what each family member wants to see and do. Younger children may have simple requests like seeing zebras or going to the location of a favorite movie. Older children can take inspiration from friends, current events or places they’ve learned about in school.

Once all of the ideas are compiled, do a little research and start to connect them with possible destinations. While you can see zebras at nearly any zoo, seeing a giant panda narrows the options to a few U.S. locations, like Washington, D.C., or Atlanta. Look for where ideas might intersect.

Have family members make a case for their choices. To be fair, grant each person a set time to speak uninterrupted and ask the rest of the family to keep an open mind. Your children might enjoy giving a presentation using skills they learned in school. This discussion may help eliminate some ideas and bring out others as front-runners.

Decide as a group how the destination will be picked, such as holding a majority vote or drawing out of a hat.

By listing out everyone’s favorite things to do on vacation, you can start to identify common interests, such as swimming and relaxing in the sun.


3. Look into the Local Scene

Based on your dreaming stage, you might already have some experiences in mind for your vacation. But now that you’ve decided your destination, you’ll want to build out your itinerary.

Kids can look at books or videos and draw pictures of what they’d like to see, or they can cut out pictures from magazines to create a mood board of what they want to do. Older children may wish to create a digital slideshow of experiences and places to visit as itinerary inspiration.

Looking through online destination guides, you can find tips from local experts about everything from food to shopping. Also, try searching for a city and an interest on social media to discover the local scene. (Start with these Instagram and Pinterest pages.) The hashtags #PhillyFoodies and #ChicagoMuseums, for example, will give you plenty of popular not-to-be-missed options or hidden gems that might not even be in guidebooks yet.

Use this information to help your children add to their mood boards or slideshows.

Looking through destination guides of the place you picked, you might find that the aquarium is particularly amazing.


4. Create a Vacation Itinerary

Now, explore specific activities more in depth. Encourage your children to prioritize and rank activities based on what they really want to do.

If your kids are older, ask them to locate their must-dos and how they might fit into the vacation itinerary. A world of valuable information — location, hours of operation, wait times, price — is available online. Have your kids read reviews to find out what recent visitors thought about the place and zoom in on a map of the neighborhood to see whether any other nearby attractions or restaurants might be worth trying.

For younger family members who need help articulating their must-dos, use their favorite things as a way to inspire a sense of fun and adventure: Your animal lover may cherish a day at the zoo, or your budding artist may treasure a trip to the children’s museum. Sitting with your child, search online for pictures of these places that might spark the imagination and look on a map to find appealing things nearby. If you’re going to a spot where a favorite movie was filmed, talk about re-creating some famous scenes with your family members playing the various roles.

Finally, circle back as a family to recap the activities, making sure to point out everyone’s contributions to the vacation plan. When creating the schedule for each day, balance activities chosen by each family member and keep some time unscheduled to allow for spontaneity and downtime.

If your children want to go canoeing on vacation, you could ask them to look up how to rent the boat.


5. Make Plans to Make Memories

Talk about how you will capture your vacation memories. For example: Buy a blank pocket journal for each child and add the family’s schedule to it; leave plenty of room to jot notes, insert ticket stubs and doodle along the way. Include prompts for anyone who might need idea starters. Print out this activity sheet for the kids to note their favorite parts of the vacation. When you return home, bind all of these elements along with printed pictures to create a priceless keepsake of a trip that your children had a pivotal role in putting together.

After you experience something memorable together, encourage your children to write down their impressions or draw pictures in their journals.
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About the Author

Kendra Pierson, an Atlanta-based freelance writer, contributed to this post. Follow her family’s adventures on Instagram @kendra.pierson.