Who wants to go through the time and expense of planning a trip that no one enjoys? I suspect all of us can recall a moment on vacation when we thought, “This is not why I am here.” Time is our most precious resource. We use vacation for quality time with family, and as a way to recuperate from daily stress and create highlights that provide distinction from year to year. Vacations are important. Here are five ways to make them the best experiences possible for each family member.
Preparing yourself and your children before a holiday helps ensure a successful trip. Although it’s difficult to find time, there are several ways to make travel preparation fun, or even lucrative. Am I suggesting you bribe your kids? In a way, yes. Let me explain.
When my father-in-law’s children were young, he worked in Japan. Thanks to his efforts, connections and a few military perks, he was able to take the whole family on a series of trips to nearby countries and islands. Before these adventures, he would challenge the kids to learn as much as they could about their destinations. Then, he paid them for their knowledge! Everything they earned could be spent on local handicrafts, special treats or experiences during the trip. This incentive motivated his kids to write reports, learn foreign phrases and study maps. As a result, the kids felt invested in the trip and retained more from the experience.
Children love to feel like their opinions matter. Allow them to recommend destinations, ask them about the things that interest them most and then include an activity chosen by each family member. It’s a lot easier for an older child to support the desire of a younger sibling when they know they get a turn as well.
Turn everything you can into a game.
Above all others, kindness is the trait I hope to instill in my daughters. Travel has a way of condensing life lessons. I do not want them to be naïve or docile, or even sweet. No. Sweet people, especially women, can be taken advantage of. What I want is true compassion — for them to be mindful of others and to understand a wide range of life circumstances. I want them to barter fiercely for something, but leave a little more behind than what was agreed upon. I want them to see the beauty in different ways of life, compare it to the life they have and then create something new based on their own ideals. I want them to reach out to others and make a difference, and then allow people to reciprocate. The best way to learn kindness is by example. And when we are kind to ourselves, our traveling companions and strangers, the trip is better.
Traveling with children provides a unique opportunity to shape the way they recall their childhood. They are more likely to remember things that occur away from the day-to-day of life. Time spent on vacation has a way of expanding in retrospect. Each day at the beach, on a hike or exploring a city can be recalled with special detail. We remember fun family meals from trips five year ago, but I often struggle to remember what we ate last week. These powerful, family-bonding memories can be brought even more vividly to mind through associated objects, tastes or images.
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