My parents infected me with the travel bug when I was a child. Once you get it, it’s hard to shake – and it’s contagious! During my formative years, I lived in Germany. Each weekend we explored the local culture while balancing that with trips around Europe.
As an adult, I happily shared the travel bug with my husband. Five years into our marriage we adopted a 10-month-old girl from Guatemala. It made sense that within 3 days of finalizing our adoption in Guatemala, we were already travelling to bring her home.
Given our love for travelling, we started to identify how we might infect our daughter with a passion for travel. So, how do you plan your family vacation with a child? Here are some steps we take.
Pique their curiosity.
There are lots of ways to get your child thinking more broadly about the world and excited for travel. Here are some suggestions:
- Place a world map in your child’s room.
- Explore other cultures, foods, and customs when you’re at home.
- Point out places you are travelling when you go on a business trip.
- Utilize sports as way to talk about other states and countries.
- Read books set in different places.
Identify a reasonable destination.
For our family, cities work really well. They are compact and typically we can see many points of interest leisurely over 5-7 days. When our daughter was 3, we explored Rome. Rome offered us museums for rainy days, countless architectural delights to discuss shapes, Borghese Park for picnics, a zoo, the Coliseum along with a multitude of other activities that suited our family.
Make planning for the trip a family affair.
Allowing your child to be part of the trip planning makes for a much more excited traveler. Consider incorporating what your child is learning in school into your trip. We are preparing for a trip to Oregon in August. We’ve made several trips to the library and are currently learning about Lewis and Clark, the Oregon Trail, and why the Beaver is Oregon’s state animal. Since our daughter is learning about tidal basins and marine life in school, we are planning out our hikes and considering activities based on books she has read, her experiences, and our family interests. Our daughter is always engaged when she arrives at our destination because she’s familiar with what we are going to see and it comes to life during travel.
Utilize these smart travel tips once you’re on your way.
Travel can involve plenty of roadblocks, stress and “I’m bored” time if you’re not careful. Here are some ways to ensure a smooth trip:
- Ensure each day has a balance of activities. Be reasonable and have the courage to slow down.
- Utilize audio tours. We purchased an audio splitter which can be used to do self-guided tours. Having the splitter means our daughter can’t wander too far and we are sharing an experience. It also means we can go at our pace!
- Pack a scooter and helmet if you have one. This can really help save on long walks!
- Put your child in charge of something. In our case, it’s public transportation. She likes maps and we have her help us figure out how many stops we have to go.
- Look for museum passes. Depending on the city and what’s included, they can help you save time and money. Some even include the use of public transportation
- Savor the parks. Kids are remarkable at making friends on the playground or kicking around a soccer ball with strangers.
- Create missions or conduct scavenger hunts. For example, in Paris, we took on the mission of finding the best crepe. Having a local food mission meant my daughter had something she wanted to consistently try and eat every day.
- Have the right equipment. A digital camera for your child, plus a pair of binoculars and a journal can be a great way for them to capture and document their experiences forever.
Ultimately, traveling is about being together, exploring, and sharing experiences. All experiences won’t go well, but having a sense of humor goes far. Children are innately curious and adaptable! Through travel, the world becomes a classroom. It is an opportunity to show that we are part of something bigger, strengthen a child’s curiosity, and build magical memories. If there is one bug to catch this summer, make it the travel bug!
Shabnam M .Irfani is a Senior Training Manager for Sales Learning and development at Janssen. She has been with J&J for nearly 8 years. She also has a husband of 13 years and a spirited 7-year-old daughter, named Sophie. They happily reside in Maplewood, NJ where they take advantage of local Jersey and New York City activities.