Make Sure Your Kids Actually Enjoy Your Next Family Vacation With Rick Steve's Planning Tips

Traveling with kids is somewhat of a contentious topic, not because exploring other places with your children is frowned upon, but because it comes with a string of challenges parents have a tough time dealing with. Many can attest to how stressful it can be to calm down a toddler during a flight or keep children entertained throughout a lengthy trip. Planning is extra complicated, too, since, depending on their ages, you may have to take into account extra considerations like car seats, special meals (especially if they're picky), and safety.

Then again, the logistics is just one part of the challenge. If you want to make traveling with your children a truly enriching experience for everyone in the family, it's just as important that you take extra steps to ensure that the trip is truly enjoyable for your young ones. And per travel expert Rick Steves, the trick is to let them in on the planning and give them more freedom. The last thing you want is for your youngsters to sulk for the majority of the trip. If you want them to have the time of their life on vacation, include them in the brainstorming and decision-making process and maybe even consider giving them the chance to explore independently, even just for a little while.

Make sure your kids have a say in the travel plans

No one wants to feel left out in planning a vacation — and that includes your kids. Sure, they may not be knowledgeable enough about the ins and outs of exploring an unfamiliar place, but asking for their input can do wonders in making the trip meaningful for them. Speaking with Country Living, Rick Steves advised letting your children join the actual planning to distribute some of the workload and make them feel more involved.

"If it's a family vacation, it's a vacation for everyone, so each member should get to contribute. When they're old enough, ask kids to not only pick a destination but also research what there is to do, the best time to go, if you'll need reservations," Steves explained. Apart from it being an avenue for learning, involving them in the planning also gives you a better idea of what they expect out of the vacation. It may make them even more excited for the trip since they get to share their own opinions on spots to go to and activities to do. "It's a real-life process that teaches them pacing, the need to choose this over that, and to take ownership of an adventure," Steves added. "As a family, you can also read and watch movies about the destination leading up to the trip, as well as get out the map and look around."

Allow them to explore on their own

If you want your kids to actually enjoy themselves, Rick Steves also recommends giving them some leeway to do their own exploring — provided that they're already old enough to do so, of course. As a parent and the default chief planner, you may sometimes forget that not everything has to go a certain way. You have to take into account the desires of everyone in your group and remember that some activities you wish to do may not necessarily be in line with what your children want.

"When you're traveling with anyone, it's important to remember that each person has their own energy levels and interests," Steves said. "It's okay to split up and do different things and come back together. As our kids got older, we gave them a longer leash and finally set them off on their own for a few hours. It's so fun to see them figuring things out on their own, learning lessons that help them grow into confident adults." 

If you're comfortable and feel like it's safe, you may want to give your young ones some freedom to pursue the activities they want, even if it's just an hour or two. This can help them feel more excited, as well as boost their independence and give them an added sense of adventure. If everyone in the group gets the opportunity to do the things they want, the more successful — and enjoyable — the trip will be.