Tips to Engage Children in Family Travel
Traveling with children involves countless variables to make sure that children regardless of their age are engaged and having fun from the time you leave your house to the moment you get back. When it comes to spring break or summer family travel, especially with elementary age children, a bit of extra planning and preparation can go a long way to make your youngest travelers feel involved and excited whether you are going to Tuscany, Philadelphia, or the Grand Canyon.
Children are naturally curious, so the more we can capture their interest before a trip, the more apt they are to soak up the history, culture, and arts during a trip. Keeping a child engaged during a long trip requires balance. Balanced activities, balanced expectations. Balanced unstructured times. But it helps if your child is excited and interested in where they are going.
Three Ways to Spark Your Child’s Interest in Family Travel
Take a Virtual Tour Before You Go
Tools like virtual tours of destinations and guidebooks geared towards children help create background knowledge and a thirst for more information as does looking at pictures of places you will visit during your family travel. We read about and looked at many pictures of the ruins in Coba on the Riveria Maya before taking my daughter for the first time.
By preloading the history of what we would see, she was better prepared to take it all in once we got there. Children can make predictions about what they might see based on the picture and then see if their prediction was right once they are there. Before exploring Mount Vernon this spring, we took the virtual tour online to plan out our trip. The virtual tour gave us an idea of what to expect instead of being overwhelmed with facts and tidbits once we got there. After our trip, we went back to the virtual trip to learn more about what we had not been able to see.
Read Relevant Fiction and Non-Fiction Books
Another way to engage young travelers is through books. Since we are heading to Sedona later for spring break, and are planning a day at the Grand Canyon, we are reading a book from the series Field Trip Mysteries called The Grand Canyon: Burros that Broke by Steve Brezenoff to help set the stage before we arrive. A second series of books that are filled with historical information are the travel mysteries by Carole Marsh. These books include scavenger hunts that gave us things to be looking for as we explored. A third book series that can be of interest to children in early elementary school is the Magic Tree House series by Mary Osborne Pope. The books are works of historical fiction, but are great to read to cultivate interests in foreign lands and history.
Engage Your Child in the Planning
The third way to foster educated travelers is to engage your children in planning your trip. Use large maps to mark your destinations, and get city maps that show landmarks to keep track of what you see and do. Websites like Maps4kids help children learn facts that sometimes their parents do not even know. (And at least in my house, those are hugely celebrated moments!) Another great source of learning and travel prep for destinations in the United States is the Which Way USA by Highlights magazine that combine facts and map learning with riddles and games. Kids Discover is another magazine aimed at kids that goes into detail about countries, cultures, and more.
Regardless of age, travel is all about learning and exploring. We certainly cannot expect our youngest travelers to want to spend all day in a museum, but we can give them the tools to be well educated travelers and create a balance of hands on experiences that will help them remember their childhood trips for years to come.
Our Hilton Mom Voyage team members live throughout the U.S. and have traveled by air and car all over the world with their families!