Why You Should Let Your Kid Plan Your Next Family Vacation

The following was produced in partnership with JetBlue, who helps families make memories in more than 100 cities. As the most caring travel provider with the mission to inspire humanity, JetBlue’s “Little Tickets” shines a light on today’s busy families and how a little time together can go a long way.

Kids may not seem like ideal travel agents, but letting them participate in vacation planning has a massive upside. Not only do children have loads of inspirational, out-of-the-box ideas, they also get super excited about specifics. Adults look forward to a week off. Kids look forward to seeing that one mountain in the southwest corner of a national park. There’s a beauty in that and in getting kids pumped about actively exploring the world rather than passively consuming it. And there’s beauty knowing that kids just want to spend time together with their family.

There’s also this: Vacation is a skill that needs to be taught and Americans, who left an estimated 662 million vacation days on the table last year, are notoriously bad at learning that lesson. Kids without agency become adults who don’t use their vacation days. All the more reason to let your kids help decide what to do with yours.

The best way of going about that is not offering a child free reign–not unless you want to try and find a vacation house in Narnia–but control of very specific elements of the itinerary. Not only can they manage a plan for attacking a theme park or a beach town, the critical thinking that goes into that sort of organization is great for their development. Dr. Dave Anderson, the senior director at the Child Mind Institute, says that kids look to adults to model decision-making choices. Show a child how to make a daily agenda and then let the kid try to follow suit. The results are likely to be impressive.

Anderson advises parents to narrate their decision-making process as they think about where to eat or swim or stay. This teaches children how to apply filters to decisions and factor in the competing needs of their traveling companions, which also constitutes a meaningful exercise in empathy. Pretty soon, the kid is capable of narrating their own decision-making process and better engaging in discussions when things take an unexpected turn.

Still, it’s important to have reasonable expectations and…

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