Sounds frustrating, but that's the reality of our high tech world. It takes more than natural beauty and wonder to get our kids hyped up for your vacation.
However, there is hope! There's a lot of ways to get your children more involved in your next trip. Planning for a family vacation should be a whole-family process. Not only will it excite them for the coming adventure, it's a great life skill for when their out wandering on their own. So bring on the lil' vagabonds and let's get to it!
Step 1. Create the itinerary
I know this might be harder with the young ones, but it's important to be fair. You need to hit something for everyone and while you might know all there is to see in Washington D.C., the kids don't. So rent some travel DVDs or look up a few episodes of your favorite travel show. Personally, I'm a huge fan of Samantha Brown and she's done it all- Weekends in your favorite US locales, European hotspots, even trips to central and South America!
Once the kids know what there is to see, have them create a list of their top 5 ( less if you're only going for a few days). Build your itineraries around these Must Do's. This way, everyone feels there's something for them.
Tip: If you find overlap: everyone wrote down "Go to the zoo"- add it to the itinerary, but still find a unique item on each kids list. It's says to that child "hey, this moment on the trip is all about you!" That's an awesome feeling for kids.
Tip: So you've got a teenager. - sigh- It happens to the best of them... Actually, it happens to all of them, sadly! And you've watched to videos, read the travel books, looked up all the Must Sees and they still don't have an item for the list? Get creative! Online research some bizarre or high tech tourist options. Maybe find the hottest, most hip restaurant in town- where their favorite actor eats"like all the time!" In short, con them! ;)
Step 2. Start a Countdown. This works great with younger kids. Create something visual that you can make a big ceremony of by ripping of each day. With the older ones, you might want to go high tech again. I use an app with built-in reminders for my trips. This might not be the exact thing your teen needs, but there are several count down apps to choose from.
This could be any iconic shape: Big Ben, The Space Needle, St. Louis Arch... Be creative!
Step 3. Save for Souvenirs. With little ones this might be harder or if you have an allowance set up. But if you create "piggy bank" type saving options for the kids that let them know all that money is money they can spend on the trip! For whatever they want!! It's a lot of freedom and a great way to build your trip up.
Tip: beware the teenager! Let them know that this fund is for fun on the trip. Just because they saved $40 in their fund does not mean that they can spend it on iTunes or apps. This is for something to remember the trip by!
Step 4. Make travel kits. Again, more for the little ones here; but if you're road trippin' it's a must! I suggest a combination of old and new. Make sure you take the security blanket or Mr. Stuffington, but also include new coloring books or trip specific bingo. If you're driving along Route 66, there are going to be things that you can only see there!
Step 5. Relatable Vacation Reading. Some school assign summer reading lists -and you're welcome to go off of that when helping your kids find something for your trip. However, if you don't have a book picked out I suggest finding something that matches your destination! Actually, I do this for myself pretty often. I read Dan Brown's DaVinci Code right before going to Paris and it really added a cool layer to the sights I was seeing!
Step 6. Limit the technology. I'm not saying they can't keep their iPod or cell phone, but there's no reason they need their Laptop, SD, cell phone, iPod, tablet, Ereader, and portable DVD player... I say 1. And don't let me trick you! If one is taking their laptop and another wants the portable DVD player, but they each NEED their phones... They are playing you!
Step 7. Packing. Again, this is a bigger deal for the little kids... Then again, if you remind your teenager that these will be the pictures you're tagging them in on Facebook or Twitter- I bet that will get them REALLY involved! Just make sure you're monitoring, last thing you want is little Bobby packing all his awesome Dino tees and no undies.
Step 8. Prep the pets. If you're taking them with you, great! Let the kids help you pack their things. If they are getting a sitter, let the kids help you outline a schedule for them. If they are going to a Pet hotel, let the kids know what Fido is going to do on his own vacation!
Tip: make it fun, if you can! Maybe work out a doggy photo shoot where he spends a day at the spa or something equally funny. The kids will love to see that the dog was enjoying himself while all those pesky humans were away!
Step 9. Talk to the Teachers. If you are pulling them out for a day or two, it's not the end of the world. But by letting the teachers know, they might be able to assign something more interesting than the regular homework! Teachers are the most creative people I know, so give them a chance and they'll probably make your life a little easier.
Step 10. This is the last one: Give each person a job. Something to be responsible for throughout the trip! Maybe someone loads the suitcases every time. Or someone is in charge of the gps. Growing up, I like to be in charge of picking the lunch location! I'd spend at least an hour looking for every rest stop I thought would work. It was fun.
My final tip: research, Research, RESEARCH! You know your family better than anyone. Find the things you know are your style and be ready to make these the trips they talk about with their kids some day!