With a teen and a tween comprising one-half of our travel unit, the potential for conflict and boredom is high. I don’t know that it is possible to create a perfect family travel itinerary that will make everyone happy, but here are six tips on gaining consensus on a travel itinerary that seem to at least lessen the chance of us wanting to eat our young. These tips could also be adapted for a group of adults traveling together.
1. Include the kids in the selection of the travel destination and itinerary
I learned this one pretty quickly through my own personal experience of family vacations where I was dragged through lots of state capital buildings and museums that held no interest for me. Some tips:
- Ask the the kids what kinds of things they want to do on the trip.
- Present them feasible options and see what seems most interesting to them. Create a wish list of possible activities.
- Be clear that we probably can’t do everything on everyone’s wish list.
- If something on their wish list is just not feasible (due to its cost, location, amount of time it takes, age restrictions, etc.), try to be clear about that upfront.
2. If possible, select at least one activity from everyone’s wish list
If someone wants to experience something that is time consuming or expensive, that might be the one activity that is “theirs.” If the activities they select are quicker and/or cheaper, maybe they get more than one.
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3. Everyone will get their turn
We always talk before a trip (and a lot during it) that there will be something for everyone at some point during the trip. But some activities or locations aren’t going to be the ones you chose, and you’re expected to make the best of it. You’ll get your turn at a destination or activity eventually. (Actually, we probably just cut to the chase and say, “There will be no whining. Deal with it.”) Being clear about our expectations for their behavior throughout the trip, even if it’s not something they’re excited about doing or seeing, has been reasonably successful so far.
4. Make sure the adults get to do something of their choosing as well
Especially when kids are young, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just keeping the kiddos entertained the whole time. When planning our trip to Europe in 2015, knowing that I had already been to Florence and Antibes, I advocated for a trip to Lake Como so my whole trip wasn’t a repeat of past trips. (We tried to get my husband to the Alps, but unfortunately it wasn’t feasible. But Antibes and Como were both new to him, so he was fine.)
5. Try to find at least something you all love to do together
Our kids don’t like hiking as much as we parents do, and we don’t like amusement parks as much as they do. But we all love ziplining, so we try to do one zipline/ropes course on every vacation.
6. If necessary, divide and conquer
If you are traveling with more than one child, and you have more than one adult along, you could try to “divide and conquer” for part of the day, splitting up to meet the differing interests. I personally wouldn’t overdo this strategy, since family togetherness is so precious and scarce, but once in awhile it’s fine..