Since vacations are expensive and families often only get to take one or two a year, deciding where to go and what to do on your next family trip might feel like as big of a challenge as a presidential debate. Trust me though - it doesn’t have to be. Unlike our next “big election,” with the right voting strategy, everyone can win at the end of this great debate!
To plan the ideal vacation, include everyone in the decision-making process with age-appropriate tasks, use a democratic voting system, and ensure the whole family gets heard in the planning. Put this simple formula to work and enjoy the process as it unfolds:
1. First, have every family member submit destination ideas for the vacation ballot. My girls are too young to participate just yet, but if you have school-aged kids, encourage them to ask friends, do online research (if they are old enough) or just list out some dream destinations! This way, everyone in the family has a chance to participate.
2. From there, mom and dad pick the top three options based on distance, time and budget to make sure the destinations are feasible for their family (i.e. bungee jumping off a bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand probably won’t work for many families). This is also a chance for mom and dad to propose, or "pitch" if you will, options the kids may not be aware of and use their veto power for the good of all.
3. Create mini-itineraries for each of your three choices. You don’t have to spend hours on research, but you’ll want to hit the main points of a destination.
Example: New York
- Day 1: Statue of Liberty, shopping in the West Village
- Day 2: Museum of Natural History and boat tour on the Hudson
- Day 3: Empire State Building and sight-seeing in Times Square
- Day 4: Explore Central Park, stop in at FAO Schwarz
- Day 5: Brooklyn – Zoo, Parks, Children’s Museum
4. Finally, based on these mini-itineraries, do a hands up/hands down classroom-style vote so everyone in the family gets an equal say.
Viola! Choosing your next vacation destination was not the act of Congress you thought it would be.
Boy do I wish my parents had used this voting tactic growing up. When I was in junior high, they decided we were taking an educational Spring Break trip to Washington, D.C. My history-buff father packed the schedule with visits to almost every Civil War Battlefield in the area. Looking back on it, I’m very thankful that we went on that trip because I was able to understand the values our country was founded upon, but if a few more shopping excursions had been added to the itinerary, I might have been a happier tween. That’s why doing a little research in the mini-itinerary stage and involving your kids in the process is so important!
Thanks to the Internet, you can quickly and easily find out anything you can possibly want to know about a destination, with the click of a button.
My family uses the following phrases in the search field of our favorite search engine to make sure we’ve covered our bases.
- “Kids activities in [destination]”
- “Things to do with kids in [destination]” or “things to do with ‘young’ or ‘little’ kids in [destination]”
- “Family fun during the summer/winter/fall/spring in [destination]”
- “Date night in [destination]” 5. “Indoor family activities in [destination]”
- “Family friendly restaurants in [destination]”
- “Tourist hot spots in [destination]”
When searching Google, don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. The top page is populated by sites that are good at playing the marketing game, but there is often interesting, more authentic info to be found if you dig a little deeper to find lesser known sites and bloggers with experience in your destination. Or better yet, people who live there - we all know word of mouth is the best source of information, after all!
Don’t forget to check the date stamp on any article or post you use and call ahead to make sure nothing has changed. When we were in Montauk this summer, we arrived promptly for the free swimming lessons on the beach only to find out that they had ended the week earlier. Oops! Our bad.
At the end of the day, if you follow this vacation planning strategy your family will enjoy being allowed to help with the process, you’ll ensure everyone will be happy with the trip and you can use the fun of planning a family vacation as an opportunity to show your family democracy in action!
Image from: http://madisondemocrats.org/?page_id=23