If it were up to The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy Gale, all kids would be content with life in their own backyards. Sure, “there’s no place like home,” but you know your kids will be better for seeing and appreciating the world at large.
The only problem is that kids aren’t born with a knack for — or a love of — traveling. Instead, it’s up to you as a parent to extol the virtues of the practice. You can make those lessons even easier to learn if your child’s first experiences on the road are enjoyable ones, too.
Be sure to put these eight tips into practice the next time you and your brood head out to see the world. That way, everyone will be happy with your travel experience — and ready for the next family adventure.
1. Open Their Eyes to What’s out There
Start your trip on your computer or in front of the TV — seriously. Through travel shows, YouTube videos or educational programming tailored to kids, they can learn about other parts of the world. They can hear new languages. They might even see an activity that looks fun or a type of food that they want to try. That’s where the curiosity begins. When you notice their interests piqued, make a note — you can work that into your travel planning when it’s time to book the first big vacation.
2. Start Small and Local…
Once the gears begin turning, start figuring out ways to pull your kids out of their comfort zones, but on a smaller scale than traveling will. For example, you might cart them to an ethnic restaurant to try new foods and different flavors. You could spend time outside, too, exploring a state or national park, taking a mini hike or spotting wildlife. Although you’ll spend the night at home afterward, your children will get to experience a bit of life outside of the norm.
To further prep your kids for a big family vacation, you could plan a staycation, too. A night or two in a local hotel will help acclimate them to the environment before a week-long venture away from home.
3. …Then, a Kid-Friendly Venture
When you’re ready for the first big family trip, it’ll be in everyone’s best interests to go with a getaway with a reputation for being kid-friendly. You don’t have limit yourself to the typical choices, although they’re go-to spots for a reason.
Aside from the usual theme parks, you might consider taking your family on a cruise. The kids will love being on the ship as much as they will enjoy exploring each port. On top of that, cruising is a great bucket-list travel item because of the bespoke service on board and the cultural experiences available on land, allowing you to visit multiple locations and experiences at once!
4. Plan Around Their Interests…
Cruising might just fit the bill here, too. Do you have a child obsessed with public transportation? Sports? Sea creatures? Chances are, there’s a vacation destination closely linked with whatever they’re currently into.
You don’t necessarily have to plan your trip around every single one of your child’s likes and dislikes — that wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the family. However, having plenty of exciting activities related to their interests will ensure your kids enjoy this getaway.
5. …Or Let Them Plan With You
Children who are a little bit older can chip into the planning process. Even if you’re going to Disney World, have them skim the guidebooks and pick out the things they want to do and see. That will add to the excitement as you make your way around the parks.
The same goes for any destination, really — ask your kids what they want to do or let them research to find ideas. Picking up a family-friendly guidebook will give them a structured place to start their search for to-dos.
6. Make Transit Fun and Stress-Free
Let’s face it — the act of traveling is probably the most difficult part in all of this. And, if your child has a bad experience on a plane or in the car, you’re going to have a tough time getting them to try it again.
So, make sure you’re prepared for the transit time ahead. Not only should you bend some of your rules — extra screen time on the plane, anyone? — you should make sure to stuff your bag with all the comforting essentials. From snacks to motion-sickness medication to chewing gum for preventing popped ears, a little bit of preparation can go a very long way.
7. Don’t Over-Prepare
A go-go-go schedule will not suit children on the road. Instead, block out some must-do activities, pinpoint a few kid-friendly places to eat and go with the flow for the rest of the time. Otherwise, your kids will sense the rush and the stress, and they might not want to travel again with those feelings in the air.
8. Make Memories — and Save Them
Your kids will undoubtedly feel dazzled by the new sights and souvenir shops you pass on your journey. But the most important lesson to teach your children is that memories, not material goods, will be the best takeaway from your trip.
You can still preserve these moments by saving brochures and ticket stubs. Take plenty of pictures, too, and display them somewhere special when you get home. That way, you all can relive the memories as often as you want — and get yourselves excited for your next getaway.
Because, in the end, these moments are what it’s all about. And, once your kiddos learn that lesson, they’ll love traveling as much as you do.
Kacey Bradley is the lifestyle and travel blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts. Along with writing for her blog, she frequently writes for sites like US Travel News, Thought Catalog, Style Me Pretty, Tripping.com and more! Follow Kacey on Twitter and subscribe to her blog to keep up with her travels and inspiring posts!