Plan a Slow Vacation, Ask the Kids to Help
When kids help plan the vacation-even if it's just where to eat one meal-they have a stake in the itinerary
Roadside America app logo
Wouldn't it be great if you never had to say or hear the words "Hurry up" while traveling?
I can help with that.
RULE #1: Don't Overplan.
Leave room for magic in each day. This is true whether you're on the road or at a planned destination, even a theme park.
If you don't plan more than 50% of each day, you will have plenty of room for the little moments that can never be anticipated. When you have flexibility baked into your schedule, taking 15 minutes to feed the ducks at an overlook is a source of joy, not frustration because you're behind schedule already.
And let's face it, traffic problems and weather delays are inevitable. If you've left breathing room in your itinerary, they're no big deal.
Lighten up. Don't overplan.
How to stop the whining
Let's face it, young people don't have much autonomy in their overscheduled lives. They're hustled from school to afterschool activities, while weekends are spent at sports tournaments and community service projects.
In a "high stakes childhood" there simply isn't much room for making choices and self-direction. This can make anyone (at any age) feel powerless and even unmotivated. Vacation should be different.
When kids help plan the vacation-even if it's just where to eat one meal-they have a stake in the itinerary. They will be less likely to whine or complain when they have a say than if they're just going along with what their parents have already decided to do.
Watch my interview on Good Day Charlotte for more on this topic.
Here are four ways to get your kids involved before you leave or while you're on vacation:
1. Give an older child an entire travel day of the vacation to plan the roadside stops or a destination city to research and make recommendations to the rest of the family.
With the advent of smart phones and tablets, this is straightforward. "Roadside America," "Roadside Presidents" and "History Here" are my favorite apps for finding unusual sights and historical markers.
Most states or tourism agencies will send you a free travel guide; look for them online. Many can be downloaded but search well in advance if you want one mailed to you.
If you want to do some planning on the fly, use the apps I recommended. They're especially helpful when a trafic jam crops up and you're looking for something to do in the immediate vicinity while things settle down.
Finally, visit the brochure racks at welcome centers. The kids can pore over them in the back seat (bonus: this will keep them entertained for hours). You can ask them to consult and make a joint recommendation for the next stop another way to teach them life skills from the road.
2. A younger child can choose a restaurant from the billboard signs along the way or can choose where to eat a picnic lunch. Give the child two acceptable options from which to choose.
3. Give everyone some of what they want in the itinerary. When you understand that Mom loves to read every display at an interpretive center while Sis likes to take animal pictures and Bro is a rock hound you can plan accordingly, knowing that everyone's needs are being met. Your turn is coming.
4. Give everyone a "wild card." A wild card is where someone can ask to change the planned itinerary. Consider one wild card per person per week.
Sometimes things crop up on a trip that are more appealing than what you had planned. At other times, someone might want to extend the stay at a planned stop. Either way, when you follow Rule #1 (above) you'll have plenty of time to accommodate the wild cards.
I'd love to hear how these tips work for you. Please leave a comment and your own suggestions!
ABOUT TAMELA RICH
Tamela Rich is an award-winning author, storyteller, adventurer and mom. Known as the "American Road Trip Expert," she is passionate about sharing tips on transformational experiences for every member of the family. Her motto is to "Pack Light. Travel Slow. Connect Deep." For more information, visit TamelaRich.com.