Before the two of us grew up and began traveling worldwide on our own to advocate for children's rights, our family took a summer vacation in France. It didn't have the romance of Casablanca. But the tense moments were definitely there.
Mom and Dad planned four weeks in an apartment in the historic part of the city. They were excited but Marc, then 16, longed for his new girlfriend back home. Craig, 10, sensed Marc's displeasure and lobbied for more of his older brother's least favourite activity – museums.
It was tense. Bogie might have lost his cool. But, there's a reason we'll always have Paris. That's because in an effort to cheer everyone up, Mom and Dad let go of the reins and allowed us to plan the remainder of the trip.
Let your kids plan
Letting two young boys plan a vacation in Europe might seem riskier than escaping the Germans on a night-plane to Lisbon. But with risk comes reward. For us, the reward was having our eyes to the world. It prepared us for adventures to come.
Our parents like to credit our further travels to this one fateful vacation. They have a point. Allowing your kids to take part in trip planning exposes them to the world's incredible cultures, histories and traditions. With their curiosity awakened, they become more globally aware.
Our parents' strategy was simple. They gave us some travel books and a budget and told us to plan the next four weeks.
We were both bitten by the travel bug and excited to help. Marc, whose case of homesickness was miraculously cured, became our chief organizer.
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Together we poured over the books, researched the best deals and the fastest ways to get around. Soon, the entire family was zooming through Italy, Switzerland, Greece and Germany by rail.
The activities we chose weren't much different from our parents' selections. The difference was they were our choices. We were the ones coordinating the details so we were the ones dragging them around.
The whole experience left us wanting more. It was only a couple of years later we were researching our own adventures to South Asia and Kenya.
Even if you don't have the opportunity to travel the globe, you don't have to go far to peak your child's interest in the world. In fact, even a daytrip can get them thinking.
Nearly every region puts out an events guide each season. In it, you'll find a multitude of music, culture and arts festivals. These events have tons of learning opportunities for your children. By involving your kids in planning a weekend excursion, not only are you creating great family memories, you're opening their eyes to the world.
These actions may sound small but you are actually teaching your children invaluable lessons about the world. Plus, when you allow them to take part in the planning, you are empowering them to go further and learn more on their own.
Plus, it's not like Marc totally forgot about his girlfriend on our trip. She got a postcard from every city along the way.
Tips for parents:
1. Put a map in a central location in your home. When you hear about an international issue on the news, help your child locate the country, city or region on the map.
2. Find a guide for events in your region, then sit down with your kids and talk to them about which ones they would like to see. These daytrips are a great way to spend to quality, family time together.
3. The next time you plan a family trip, have your child take an active role in the planning. Give them a budget and some travel books and let them come up with the itinerary for the whole family.
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