Even though we home school, we don’t spend all of our time at home! Whenever possible we enjoy traveling and giving our children the opportunity to explore the world around them.
Sometimes we plan vacations that will take us to a different city or state, but often we try to plan short, “educational vacations” as a way to explore a new area not too far from home.
One thing we usually discover as we are making our travel plans – there is NEVER enough time to see everything an area has to offer!
Now that our children are getting older we are involving them more in the planning process. On several occasions we have even let the kids plan the vacation agenda.
Believe it or not, this arrangement has been VERY successful! Not only do the kids get a few geography lessons by doing research ahead of the trip, they also learn how to set priorities, and plan schedules.
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Let Kids Help Plan the Vacation Agenda – A 3 Step Process
Whether you are planning to visit a big city or a small town, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do. The first step is to understand all the area has to offer. This is actually a perfect geography lesson for kids!
As we have learned through our lessons with North Star Geography this year, it is important to learn about the physical and human geography of a place.
Physical geography includes things like topography (landforms, bodies of water, man-made features, etc.), climate, natural resources, etc.
Human geography includes topics such as food, language, history, local customs, and more.
There are several tools/resources available to help with this research:
One of the first places we look for information is the Internet. A simple of search using the name of the place you are visiting along with “travel” or “visitor” should offer several options for beginning your research. A few key sites to look for might include the Chamber of Commerce or a Visitor’s Bureau.
These sites will hopefully offer maps of the area, lists of popular attractions, historical sites, festivals and activities, average temperatures, etc.
For example, if your family was planning a trip to Orlando, FL you could visit sites such as:
Visit Orlando – the official tourism association for Central Florida
If you find a site for the Chamber of Commerce or Visitor’s Bureau they may offer to send you printed materials.
My kids love to get mail so we always look for this option! This is also helpful because you will be able to take these materials with you on your trip.
For example, we are planning a trip to Key West, Florida so we contacted the Chamber of Commerce and they sent us a great brochure that includes a map of the area, information about the weather, suggestions for fun things to do, outdoor activities, and more.
This is great because we can practice our map reading skills before and after we arrive using our new maps.
When we planned a trip to New York City earlier this year we purchase a travel guide to help us prepare for our visit. I gave the book to my kids so they could review the many options available. Naturally they began looking at the many spots we had visited previously, so I had to encourage them to explore new things and set a goal to see places that were new to us. Since we are studying American History this year one of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Statue of Liberty.
2. Set Priorities
Once your children begin to learn more about the area you will be visiting, it is time to look at options and set priorities. It will be hard to see and do everything your destination has to offer, so making some decisions before you arrive can be very helpful.
Here are some questions your children might want to consider as they review the many options available:
- What are the unique natural land/water features of the area?
- What famous landmarks will we be able to see when we visit?
- Can we find a historical site that links to our current history studies?
- What famous people lived in this place – can we visit places significant to this person’s life and work?
- What costs/travel requirements are associated with visiting various places?
The “wish list” of places to visit and things to do may get rather long! As a way to help determine which places you will visit during your trip, your family should decide how many activities to include each day, what your travel budget is, how many days you will be in the area, etc.
3. Plan a Schedule
After setting some priorities for places to visit, the next step is to figure out how to work everything into your schedule. This is a great exercise in time management!
To help plan a final schedule it will be helpful to look at maps, understand what is involved with any tours you family decides to take, what travel options are available, etc.
Some families like to have a full schedule and make the most of their visit while others prefer a more leisurely pace so they can take advantange of any interesting opportunities that come up along the way.
Regardless of how your family prefers to plan, it is always helpful if everyone has done a little bit of homework ahead of the trip as a way to build excitement and anticipation for learning and exploration. When your kids plan the vacation agenda they will understand the logistics involved and will look forward to the learning adventures your family will be able to enjoy together.