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I talk to a lot of people about travel. And I also try to read every travel article I can get my hands on. I love looking at different perspectives and ideas. Every family is completely different. What works for my family may not always work for another. Additionally, I enjoy sharing ideas and brainstorming about ways to either improve our travel or help others improve theirs.

One theme I hear surprisingly often goes something like this: “I think it’s great that you take your kids to a lot of places. But my kids really only like the beach and Disney.” It’s not always verbatim, but usually along those lines. Occasionally the follow-up question goes something like “How do you get your kids to like going on these trips?”

For months I’ve been scratching my head to come up with some sort of an answer. Did my kids just inherit my love of adventure and travel? Or have I actually done something to instill it in them? Sure, my kids love Disney and the beach. But honestly if you ask them about their favorite vacations, they rarely answer with either of those places.

Although I’m not 100% sure why my children love our trips so much, I’m going to try to sum it up. Here are 8 ways to make a trip memorable for kids:

  1. New Experiences: Whenever we go somewhere new, we try to do at least one new activity. I can honestly say that not ALL of our new experiences have been positive, but they’ve certainly been memorable. Even when something doesn’t work out exactly like we plan- we try to laugh about it both in the moment and after the fact. Of course, a lot of times we end up really enjoying the activity and it becomes something the children beg to do again.

    We were all super uneasy about our first caving experience, but it turned out to be awesome.

  2. Age Appropriate: Although I’m all about new activities and ones that expand my children’s views/education, I try to make the majority of our activities age appropriate. There is a finite amount of time they can be expected to be good, quiet and attentive. I also try to select destinations that accommodate both ages of my kids PLUS adults. I don’t want to do things geared only for kids. And my kids don’t want to do things designed for adults. Finding a nice blend is a key to a memorable activity!

    The College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, GA was truly a fun experience for all of us.

  3. Play: Similarly, my kids have a TON of energy. They cannot be indoors with no freedom to run for any extended period of time. I try to incorporate active stops throughout our vacations. Often visiting a new playground or park can prove to be a very memorable (and affordable!) part of our trip.

    A visit to Pullen Park in Raleigh, NC and Maggie Daily Park in Chicago, IL were considered highlights of those respective trips.

  4. Pool: Another memorable activity my children love to do on trips- especially in winter months- is swim in a hotel pool. This is a great way to get out energy and it wears them out before bed. I try to book hotels with indoor pools and leave a little extra time in our schedule to take advantage of them. It can be a tad frustrating to plan a spectacular trip’s worth of activities only to have your children remember the hotel pool as their favorite part. But, at the end of the day, they’ve really enjoyed themselves and have a whole collection of trip memories (even if the pool is the highlight!)

    A lot of things made our trip to Virginia special, but the pool at The Jefferson stands out in the kids’ memory.

  5. Food: In all honesty, food can absolutely make or break a trip for anyone. We do insist that our children try new things- particularly while traveling. We do bring snacks from home and have “ordinary” no frills meals. But, we also try to incorporate at least a few memorable food experiences. Unique restaurants, and fun food experiences will stick with kids. Our family loves ice cream so we typically try to seek out a new ice cream on our trips. It’s fun to look back and compare to try to remember our favorites!

    Making their own pancakes in Orlando, FL and eating the very best ice cream in Ireland- they won’t forget either of these experiences!

  6. Interests: I know I’ve mentioned new experiences a lot; however, I would be lying if I didn’t mention the fact that I absolutely tailor our trips to my children’s individual interests. Both kids are crazy about animals so we almost always visit Zoos. My daughter wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up. We try to visit as many aquariums and marine destinations as possible. Likewise, my son dreams of being a baseball player. We visit different baseball stadiums and try to catch a game. I’m sure as they grow their interests will change, and at that point I’ll incorporate whatever their new favorite hobbies involve.

    Taking in a Braves game in Atlanta, GA and visiting a dolphin at Sea World in Florida.

  7. Travel Fun: I think almost everyone can agree- sometimes the actual travel isn’t much fun. Whether you’re traveling by car or by plane, it can wear on you. In fact, if you let it, it can actually negatively overshadow the trip. Having made this mistake several times, we now spend the extra effort making the transportation end as enjoyable as possible. We try to break up travel with active layovers or nights in hotels along the route. As much as we don’t like to, we also stop more often with the kids. Sometimes just getting out of the car can recharge them and help make the trip more enjoyable.

    Big smiles from the back- always a good sign on a long road trip.

  8. Bend The Rules: There is nothing I enjoy more than rules and routine. My kids have always been and will always be on a schedule. But on a vacation I throw it out the window and break all the rules. We stay up late, watch extra TV, eat food in bed, and have WAY too many treats. I think because I am so strict at home, the kids think it’s the best to “go crazy” on trips. Typically, the kids handle it really well and it certainly makes for fun memories!

Cookies and Hot Chocolate at midnight on our Disney Cruise!

How do you make trips memorable for your children?

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