I must admit the idea of letting my 13-year-old son plan our next vacation makes me a little nervous. I ask myself, what is his criteria for a great vacation? My first instinct says it would include some lavish, overpriced place that had a giant TV, super high-speed internet, WIFI connection and a fridge full of junk food. I can’t forget to include all of his buddies who would plow through every morsel of food they can get their grubby little hands on. The whole thought of him planning this trip just gives my heartburn thinking about it.
I’m a glass half-full kind of guy so I’d like to think he would plan this epic vacation that we all would remember for the rest of our life. The reality is that it probably would fall somewhere in the middle of these two.
Children are creative, enthusiastic and imaginative. They love to be involved and making decisions because it makes them feel important. Giving them free reign to plan whatever may not be the ideal situation but you can certainly give them the framework from which they can build their dream vacation. It also is a great learning experience. They learn to advocate for themselves, they learn to compromise, conduct research, make a plan and put it into action and improve their decision-making skills. In fact, according to Dr Dave Anderson who is the senior director at the Child Mind Institute that kids look to adults to model decision making-choices. Show your child how to go about creating a daily agenda and then let them create their own.
Start by sitting down as a family and make a list of 3-4 destinations which most everyone can agree upon. Not everyone will agree with every destination but collectively come up with at least a couple that you all agree with. Let your kids explain why they want to go to the destinations they chose and ask them what their expectations of this trip are and what they want to get out of it. They may be misinformed about their chosen place so here is a good opportunity to find out what they expect. You might even be pleasantly surprised with some of their reasons why they made the choices they did. Maybe they saw online some cool new theme park that just opened up or they talked in class about a certain type of animal that is only found in one particular place. Pay attention to their body language when they talk about these details. When their face lights up with excitement about these things, make note of it. It means something to them, so it should mean a lot to you.
It’s up to you to decide how involved you want the kids to be in the planning process. Age is an important factor, obviously it will a bigger challenge for a 5-year-old than a 15-year-old. The younger they are the less choices you may want to give them. My son is a teenager, I feel fairly comfortable letting him make the decisions. Choosing the website to order our airline tickets or rental car may not be important to him .so that might be a step that we take care of ourselves.
Once the destination has been chosen then we can start planning the itinerary. Like I said before, I’ll show him how I make it and he can follow suit. I used to be your typical over planner for vacations. “We’ll go here in the morning then here for dinner then after dinner we can do this” My intention was to get in as much as possible in the short time we are there. The problem was that I often got disappointed that we were not able to cram everything into our trip that I wanted. I’ve learned to slow down a little bit, take it as it comes for the most part and enjoy the valuable time I have with my family. After all that’s what it’s really about right? We plan one event per day and then see where or day takes us from there. We went to Washington DC last summer and we found ourselves wiped out by the end of the trip because we wanted to see everything in 4 days. Just not going to happen.
So the itinerary is set, plane tickets and transportation are paid and all the planning is done. Observe how much more excited your kids are about this family vacation since they planned it. I guarantee it will be a trip none of you forget anytime soon.