The Three Ps of Engaging Your Kids in Your Family Vacation
Every year, I’d take my kids on a family vacation—the Grand Canyon, the
Monterey Aquarium, Yosemite. When they were little, it was easy to keep them engaged and happy. Then they hit their teenage years and it was all I could do to get them in the car, let alone see some excitement about going to Washington, DC. Based on their long faces, you’d have thought I was sending them away to a work camp instead of flying them to the national’s capitol for a summer vacation. Over the years, I discovered several tricks for creating family vacation experiences that even my teenage kids could get excited about. Here are my three Ps for engaging your kids in your family vacation.
Bring your kids in on the planning process. You’ll find they are little wizards when it comes to surfing the net, so give them some basic parameters—the cities you’ll be visiting, budget restraints, time limitations—and see what they can find. When they help plan the trip, they are more involved. My son’s interest in exploring caves led us to the Grand Canyon Caverns, a cave tour on the way to the Grand Canyon; something I would have missed.
Having pre-planned activities every day can take its toll on even the most seasoned traveler. If you think you are going to get your teenage daughter up every morning at six for some tour…think again. But if you alternate a day of “doing nothing” with a touring day, you can satisfy your longing for seeing the sights with your kids’ desire to do nothing. On a recent trip to Cancun, we alternated pool days with excursion days. On pool days, the kids slept in, swam in the pool, played video games, and hung out with friends. The next day, we were up at seven for a day-long tour that included a jeep ride to a Mayan ruin, snorkeling in cenotes (underwater sinkholes), and ziplining through the jungle. I didn’t hear a single complaint all day and we were all ready to do nothing the following day.
Museums are a hard sell, as is anything to do with history. So how do you make a trip to DC’s monuments or Boston’s historic sights a blast? You look for interactive experiences that turn touring into a game. One company that does just that is Urban Adventure Quest. They have interactive scavenger hunt games that turn cities into a giant game boards. In Washington, DC, for example, the game takes players on an interactive tour to several museums, sculpture gardens, and historical sites, where participants solve clues and complete challenges on their smart phone. The game even manages to “sneak in” local history and fun facts along the way. Because this interactive tour is played on a smart phone, your kids’ natural affinity for anything electronic makes it easy for them to lead the way. And when children lead the way, they are engaged.
Christie Walker is the mother of two and an avid traveler. As a fan of the Amazing Race, Christie looks for adventure-type experiences that will engage her entire family when she plans her trips. She invites you to check out for interactive tours in 12 U.S. cities including Washington, DC.