Trip-prep Activities for Tots to Teens
Ages 5 and younger
Kids this age have a hard time understanding time. Tell them too soon about the trip, and you'll field daily questions of, "Do we leave today? Are we leaving today? When do we leave?" Save your sanity (and theirs) by sharing trip info a couple of days before departure. Show them pictures of the destination in brochures or online and let them know what they'll see and do.
After you've packed the necessities in their bags, ask them to pick out something special to take that they think they'll need (that will fit in their bag!) and let them pack it, even if you don't think it's a necessity. Kids this age can help choose a snack for the trip and pack it in baggies, too.
Early elementary years
If you'll be driving, show kids your hometown on a map and point out the destination. Ask them to help think of a route that would make sense and let them trace the roads on the map.
Give kids a list of several things you might do on your trip — a museum, a park, rides at an amusement park — and ask them to choose their top three activities. Write these down and tell them you'll try to be sure they get to do those special things.
Older elementary years
Share information about your destination and ask them to brainstorm some activities they would like to do. If you're heading to the beach, maybe they'd like to play miniature golf one day or fly kites. Have them write down three "must do" activities and ask them what steps you'd need to prepare (buy a kite or locate a miniature golf center, for example).
Let your middle-schooler help plan some of the logistics. Ask him to calculate the driving time, how many pit stops he thinks you'll need and good stopping points along the route. If you're willing, let him help plan the budget, considering hotel prices or the cost of gas.
Provide some guidebooks or go online together and let her choose some attractions, restaurants to check out or meals to pack (and then help you assemble them).
Your high-schooler can help brainstorm realistic destinations, considering everyone's interests and temperaments. Challenge her to find scenic stopping points along the route and do a little research about each. Let her help find hotels and low rates.
If you'll be driving or using a recreational vehicle, let your high-schooler help with the mechanics, checking air pressure and oil level, stocking the RV or performing a safety check on the vehicle (tire condition, emergency kit).