Are we there yet? 

Yes. We’re already there. We’re exactly where we need to be: together, exploring the world as a family. Summer vacation is one of the best ways to recharge your family’s battery. Time together (away from the daily distractions of work, school and media) strengthens family ties and lets you rediscover one another. You tend to learn a lot about people on endless road trips, walking the streets of new cities or lazy moments, dangling your feet into the lake. You can also learn a lot about the world in which we live. Learning is about growth. Travel pushes us in new directions, stretches us to look beyond our own lives and helps us to see life from a different angle. Here are some ways to enhance your family’s precious moments of summer and for each of you to learn a little more.

Make your trip a family affair. Many kids passively experience their family vacations, being shuttled from one spot to another without any thought. This year, let them do some research. Have each family member propose a vacation spot and skeleton itinerary. Take a vote and make the top location your destination. Give each child the responsibility of choosing two activities for the trip: one cultural and one entertaining. Older kids can take planning a step further by researching location, costs and sorting through logistics. They can also lead the family through the experience by sharing important details about their activity.

Build anticipation for your journey by checking out books from your library or watching movies. See if you can find historical fiction that takes place in your destination. Have your kids search the internet for pictures, maps and stories to create a collage of what they think your destination will be like. Older kids can create their own travel guides by including maps, weather reports, daily itineraries and information on sights and local restaurants. Investigate what the local food specialty is or what kind of music is popular in your spot and track them down while you’re there.

Use travel time to create memories and exercise imagination. Instead of letting each person plug in and tune each other out, power-down all electronics and entertain one another. Start a story with the line “Once upon a time” and take turns adding on to the story. You’ll be surprised where you end up and at the creativity unleashed, not to mention the laughter.

Let them lead you. Maps are an excellent way to encourage visual/spatial development and geography skills. Younger kids can trace your journey on large maps from home to your destination. Older kids can help navigate through city streets or on the road. Practicing navigation skills helps to build responsible travelers, with an awareness of their surroundings. 

Help them become historians by keeping a journal of daily experiences. Make sure to bring notebooks, pens, tape and glue sticks. Add items to the journal like ticket stubs, postcards, and receipts. Leave space to add pictures upon your return. The first entry should be right before you leave and the last, once you get home. Include daily highlights and lowlights. Create prompts for the family like, “The funniest thing that happened today was”.  If you’ve decided to create the travel guides mentioned above, be sure to leave plenty of pages between daily itineraries to use as journal and scrapping pages. These become treasure troves of memories and are a wonderful way to see the trip through each person’s eyes.

Wherever the road leads your family this summer, we wish you safe travels and loads of laughter.