5 ways to give your child the gift of travel this holiday season
Why give travel?
Do you remember what you got your kids for the holidays last year? How about five years ago? Don’t worry, they probably don’t remember either. But do you remember your family trip to Yellowstone or Washington, D.C. or Paris? That’s my point. Things are forgotten, if not broken or lost in the back of the closet. Experiences are remembered.
Every since the birth of my first child, Santa and I have collaborated and given gifts around a particular theme. In the early years, there was the train Christmas with the much-loved train table and assorted Thomas & Friends accessories. There was the art-inspired Christmas with an easel, paints, brushes, and chalks. And then there was the airplane Christmas when it literally took two grown adults three hours to assemble the Playmobil airport terminal. But as my sons have gotten older, I’ve shifted my gift-giving.
I still do themes, but now it’s all about where our next family adventure will take us.
Here are 5 ways to make giving the gift of travel meaningful for you and your kids.
1/Choose a location
Many parents hesitate to travel with small children. Be brave. Sure, your 3-year old may not remember the trip, but she can certainly appreciate the here-and-now! Start small - for example, a long weekend at the beach - and then raise the bar as your children get older. By the time your kids are in elementary school, you can start thinking as big as your budget will allow. But at the end of the day, it’s not about where you go as much as it's about doing it together.
KidTripster Tip: When your kids are young and not yet in elementary school, travel during the off-season; avoid holidays, spring break, and summer. You’ll save a bundle! Later, you’ll be trapped by school schedules and end up paying higher prices.
2/Stoke their anticipation
For me, planning a trip has always been half the fun. I love the anticipation. So give your kids gifts that will stoke their anticipation. One Christmas, my husband and I announced that we’d be going on a three-week-long RV trip to visit ten national parks during the summer. The boys received a book about each state that we’d be driving through, part of the Discover America State by State series. We read those books every night from December to June. It was so satisfying to see the boys connect what they saw on the pages to what they later saw on the road.
Another year, we took our kids skiing in the Alps with a side trip to Salzburg. We purchased The Sound of Music movie and watched it repeatedly. Not only could we place every scene on our The Sound of Music tour with Panorama Tours, we didn’t miss a beat singing the songs on the bus!
KidTripster Tip: Visiting a famous landmark? Check out the LEGO Architecture sets that allow kids to build it before seeing it in person. There are dozens to choose from including the U.S. Capitol, Buckingham Palace, and Louvre.
3/Educate your little traveler
Along with anticipation, I think that every trip should include a little bit of education. Too often, people spend loads of money going to faraway places without the background to understand and appreciate what they see when they get there. Before visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, both of my sons read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. That’s kind of a no-brainer. But also while in Amsterdam, we visited the Van Gogh Museum, home to Vincent’s famous Sunflowers. In addition to reading books about Van Gogh, each boy painted his version of Sunflowers using the Children’s Master Artist Kit that they’d gotten for Christmas. When they stood in front of the real masterpiece, they had a much deeper appreciation.
4/Unwrap the wonder
So what else goes under the tree? Think about everything your kids may need on the trip from sticker books, travel games, and small goodies to keep them busy on planes and in restaurants to gear that they can use at the destination. Going snorkeling in Hawaii or the Great Barrier Reef? Wrap up wetsuits, snorkels, and masks. When we went to China one year, I gave them pocket kites that the kids flew in Tiananmen Square. Those kites ended up attracting some Chinese children, and the boys had a memorable cultural exchange.
KidTripster Tip: I always include new clothes for the trip among the gifts. Pick a general color scheme for the whole family. It makes packing a lot more efficient because the clothes will mix and match. And you’ll end up with much better vacation photos!
5/Remember the experience
My favorite holiday tradition is the gifting of an ornament. Every year, my children get an ornament of their own that reflects the theme of that year’s gifts. Past years’ ornaments include a skiing snowman (Alps), a kangaroo (Australia), and a Chinese food take-out box (China). Their growing collections are kept in separate boxes, and they’re very insistent about hanging their own ornaments. As they do, we’re able to recall the memories that go with that particular treasure. Years from now when they celebrate Christmas in their own homes, those ornaments will be the starters for their trees.
Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah once surprised her children with a trip to Santa’s home turf in Finland’s Lapland inside the Arctic Circle. She didn’t tell them where they were going until they landed in Germany for a connecting flight to Helsinki.
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