Wably Travel

How To Engage Children While Traveling

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Little boy in a child safety seat sitting patiently in the back of a car with his hands behind his head staring out of the window

Image: Oleg Mikhaylov/Shutterstock

Traveling is a wonderful opportunity for parents to show their children the world. With so many cultures, languages, sites, and foods to try, experiencing new things together is extremely important.

Unfortunately, the real world isn’t always as perfect and logical as we’re taught to expect. Kids get fussy, hungry, bored, and tired. They disengage by playing games on their phones or plugging in their headphones.

These types of behaviors are quite discouraging to parents who wish to share new memories with their children. Luckily there are ways to help engage the attention of kids who might need a bit of a tug in the right direction.

Next time you’re in dire need of some family travel advice, try using the following tips!

Involve Them In Trip Planning

The best thing you can do before heading out the door is involve your children in planning the trip. Perk their interest by asking them what types of places they wish to see while on vacation. Are they fans of Star Wars or Harry Potter? Have them research filming locations. Do they love to read? Find out where the biggest, most beautiful library is. Do they simply love to play soccer in the park? Look into the destination’s access to gardens.

Other ideas for prompting your kid’s research are natural history museums (for the aspiring archaeologist), houses of famous historical figures, adventure activities (like hiking or skiing), and cuisine experiences. If your child is all about comparing chocolate gelato at various cafes, roll with it!

Make Connections

Adults are naturally better at making connections between events, places, people, and history. Children, while smart and capable, haven’t fully developed that skill. This is why some kids get bored while touring new places- they don’t have any cultural context for why the destination is so special. You might see the site of an epic quarrel between Caesar and rival Roman senators, while your child most likely sees a chaotic array of old stones.

Keep this in mind when you visit places with your kids. Find historical maps that show what the sites used to look like, explain who key players in historical events were, and make modern-day connections they might understand. Read a story from an author the night before visiting their birthplace or sample regional cuisines that have been passed down for generations. Think in layers by answering the questions: what are we visiting, and why are we visiting it?

Encourage Active Thoughts

When you child is actively participating in the trip, they’re less likely to get bored. You’ve already had them research places they’d like to visit, so now have them venture one step deeper by investigating aspects of the destination. Have them to prepare questions ahead of time to ask the museum keeper, let them draw all over a replica map of a ruined city and ask them what types of shops they think would go where, book cooking classes where they create and try different cuisines, or sign up for a musical lesson. Is pottery or a type of art specific to the area? Visit a studio and get messy together! You’ll even come home with a souvenir from an opportunity like that.

The world is full of exciting experiences waiting for your family, so don’t be afraid to dive in head-first! It might sound like a nightmare to wrangle the kids in to enjoy a family trip, but it’s easier than you think. All it takes is a bit of forethought and determination. If you follow through with these tips, you’ll have lasting family memories to share for a lifetime!

Copyright 2016 Mandy Burkholder