You might believe that holiday planning is best taken care of when the kids are all safely tucked up in bed, and you’ve finally got some time and peace and quiet to seriously get things sorted – but we disagree!
Letting your little ones have a say in your holiday plans can help you craft a memorable holiday experience that everyone will love, and dare I say it, you can even actually enjoy yourself whilst you’re getting everything organised. This means you can nail your holiday plans whilst also having fun and keeping your tots entertained! Winning all round.
Check out our top tips and ideas for including your tots in your holiday honing…
Why ask your kids?
Involving your kids in the decision-making process right from the get-go is a great way to familiarise them with your plans from the very start, so when you head abroad to unfamiliar surroundings, it comes as less of a shock. It also helps to ensure that everybody gets the most from their holiday as you know you’re choosing a getaway that everybody will be sure to enjoy! Children can also learn valuable skills from this process – how to make compromises, to ask for what they want and to listen to others.
Choosing your holiday type...
The first step of planning a trip with your children is deciding what sort of holiday to embark on – and what better way to do this than to get those little imaginations flowing?! Check out some fun ways you can do this below:
Try acting out some of the key features and sounds of the various destinations you might visit, for example…
Countryside holiday – make animal noises, pretend to do lots of walking and exploring
Beach holiday – make sounds of the sea, pretend to splash and build sandcastles
Activity based holiday – pretend to be looking at things in a museum or riding on theme park attractions
Try taking your children on a few fun days out to a similar UK location, such as to the beach, for a countryside walk or a trip to a museum, and see where they seem to be happiest and most engaged.
Stick pictures of the destinations you’re choosing from on to empty jam jars and ask your kids to put a coin or marble in the jar of the picture they most like the look of.
If your children are old enough to understand some basic terms, try explaining the various types of holiday in simple sentences – do they want to go somewhere they can make lots of new friends? Somewhere to build sandcastles? Do they want to spend lots of time with Mummy and Daddy or have a go exploring on their own and taking part in lots of fun activities like treasure hunts?
If you have older children, less animal noises or jam jars will probably be required – a simple chat about what sort of activities they’d like to do and sights they’d like to see will suffice. If your kids are old enough to responsibly go off on their own, it’s also a good idea to manage their expectations and establish some ground rules before the holiday begins.
Pre-teens appreciate being treated as adults, and often like to have choices and to share their personal preferences, so this is important.
Choosing a time to go...
You’ve checked the family fridge calendar, the dates are fine, you’ve booked your dream holiday and the day is rapidly approaching… and then your sobbing child announces that their best friend’s birthday party, the ‘event of the year’ is taking place during your holiday week and they don’t want to go.
Events that might not seem like a big deal to you might feel like the ‘be all and end all’ to your child, so do your research and find a time that suits everyone, attempting to keep those surprise date clashes to a minimum. If you can’t change your holiday dates, try to explain this gently to your child and remind them of all the great things they will get to see and do during their trip – and remind them that their friends will still be there when they come back!
Okay, so it’s inevitable. You want to pack suncream and plasters, your child would rather pack the games console and the dog. Packing with your child can certainly lead to a few dramatic negotiations, but ultimately it is a really great way to make kids feel part of the holiday process.
For younger children, simply handing items for them to put into the suitcase is a really nice way to make them feel involved, even though you know you’ll have to re-organise later. For older children, ensure that all of the essentials are packed, but encourage them to choose their own outfits. Any decision that your child has control over will help them to feel included in the process.
For young children in particular, a holiday can sometimes feel like a frightening experience. There are so many new sounds, sights and smells to take in – it can become a real sensory overload! If you know that your child gets particularly anxious in new situations, consider using some techniques to familiarise them with your destination and encourage them to feel excited before you go.
Some ideas could include watching movies or playing songs based in or from your destination, encouraging older children to look up ‘Top 10 Wow Facts’ about your destination, or start cooking some meals from the region. Most European destinations will have some familiar home from home comforts anyway, but introducing new tastes, smells, facts and experiences before you go is also a great way to encourage your child to learn more about other cultures from a young age.
This may come as a bit of a hard truth – but prepare your kids for a potential lack of internet when they are abroad. Whilst most resorts and holiday homes do now have access to free Wi-Fi, older kids might not realise that being glued to Instagram when out and about might land you with a hefty data bill. Being stuck to the screen might also mean that they don’t really get to appreciate their surroundings or family time that you have together – same goes for Mum and Dad too!
It can be worth setting some restrictions for your kids as to when and how long they can spend using technology on holiday – but this is entirely down to you and how much tech-time you deem appropriate. If you do decide to set some ground rules try to ensure that EVERYONE in the family, follows them, parents included. We all need a bit of a break sometimes!
On the flip side, some technology can really help to enhance your holiday experience, whether that’s a handy app for getting around or a camera to capture some of those precious family holiday memories. An inexpensive digital camera can be a good way to encourage kids to stay off their phones, but to still allow them be able to document all of your holiday fun – plus if it gets lost or broken, it won’t be the end of the world. Giving your child a special holiday notebook to jot down their favourite memories of each day can also be a good idea, and it’s a lovely thing to be able to look back on in years to come.
The do's and don'ts
Encourage children to make their own decisions
Offer a sensible range of choices of activities and destination
Keep control of decisions that are made and have the final word
Let children make some mistakes – that’s how they learn!
Give young children a small role in the decision making process at first, then give them bigger roles as they grow
Give in to upset children if it means overspending
Make decisions if you’re feeling panicked or rushed
Let one child have more power over decisions than others