1. Encourage your kids to help decide where to go and what to do once they get there.
The best way to make sure kids are invested in a family trip is to let them feel like participants.
Start by telling your kids you think it’s a great time to take a family trip. Mention the parameters—for instance, you want to travel no farther than three or four hours away, and add that you must find a place that will make everyone happy.
With the ground rules set, encourage your kids to fill in the blanks by floating several reasonable suggestions about where to go and what to do for fun during their vacation. Remind them to think about what they enjoy doing—including mini golf, swimming, or fishing.
This approach works best if you know beforehand how much latitude you want to give. Don’t promise to go anywhere in the world and do anything they want unless you mean it.
2. Really listen to what kids say if you ask them to offer options.
Let’s say you decide on a trip to a lake because everyone finds that appealing. What’s next?
Just listen. Use this time as an opportunity to get a sense about what works for everyone’s age, interests, stamina, activity level, flexibility, and attention span. Promise to consider all possibilities. You’ll learn a lot about what feels right to all participants—and that may spare everyone a lot of grief later.
3. Provide continuity and context during the waiting-to-leave period.
Kids don’t really understand time and distance, which is why traveling—and travel plans—may be confusing. Look for kid-friendly books about your destination, plus others on travel in general. (Anything that explains what happens from the time you make your plans until you finally get there is perfect!)
As V-day approaches, help your kids manage their anxiety and excitement. When they quiz you about departure plans, avoid resorting to the vague, “We’re leaving next week, or “We’re not ready to load the car yet.” Instead, try the more tangible, “We’ll be there in three more sleeps,” or “We'll see the penguins in seven more lunches."
Bolster enthusiasm for the trip by sharing stories ahead of time about traveling by plane, train, or car. Check online sites to find great things to do once you reach your destination.
Take time, too, to boost your little ones’ sense of autonomy and independence: Encourage your brood to help pack their bags, plan what to wear, and select a few stuffed animal friends to take along for comfort.