Family Vacation Tips from Travel Expert Rick Steves

Nathan Law

Rick Steves’ Europe (www.ricksteves.com) Travel expert and TV host Rick Steves has made it his life’s work to help travelers experience the wonders of Europe. “I caught the travel bug as a fourteen year old, when my parents took me to Norway to meet relatives,” says Steves. “Even then I […]

Rick Steves’ Europe (www.ricksteves.com)

Travel expert and TV host Rick Steves has made it his life’s work to help travelers experience the wonders of Europe. “I caught the travel bug as a fourteen year old, when my parents took me to Norway to meet relatives,” says Steves. “Even then I understood what a different perspective travel could offer.”

He built his business Rick Steves’ Europe while also raising two children. “I would spend every summer in Europe working, and my wife and kids would meet me there so we could be together. To me, travel is a great thing for a family. You’re out of your comfort zone trying new things and exploring new cultures, having to overcome fears, being exposed to different people and cuisines. Plus, we were getting to really know one another.” While family trips over the years weren’t without hiccups, “we developed techniques we used to make sure the kids got the most out of their trips and the group was happy.” Read on for Rick’s advice on creating a fun family vacation everyone is sure to enjoy.

father helping son with homework

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1. Ask Kids to Help with Trip Planning

“Parents should honestly incorporate kids into the planning process,” Steves says. “If it’s a family vacation, it’s a vacation for everyone, so each member should get to contribute. When they’re old enough, ask kids to not only pick a destination, but also research what there is to do, the best time to go, if you’ll need reservations. It’s a real-life process that teaches them pacing, the need to choose this over that, and to take ownership of an adventure. As a family, you can also read and watch movies about the destination leading up to the trip, as well as get out the map and look around.”

a selection of gelato in a gelato shop

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2. Let Kids Order Their Own Food

“When our kids were young, my wife and I gave them small travel allowances. If they wanted an ice cream, they had to order it, even in another language, and figure out how to pay with foreign currency. It’s great practice interacting with new people and such fun to see their confidence grow.”

high angle view of girl writing in diary while sitting at home

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3. Have Kids Keep a Travel Journal

“We always had our kids make journals during our trips. writing down their observations from the day or creating drawings of what they’d seen. They didn’t always want to do it but it’s a great way to help them process new experiences. Plus, now that they’re grown ups, they appreciate the keepsakes.”

man on bike riding on the streets of amsterdam at sunset, netherlands

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4. Recognize That Everyone Travels Differently

“When you’re traveling with anyone, it’s important to remember that each person has their own energy levels and interests. It’s okay to split up and do different things and come back together. As our kids got older, we gave them a longer leash and finally set them off on their own for a few hours. It’s so fun to see them figuring things out on their own, learning lessons that help them grow into confident adults.”

caucasian girl sitting on hood of car reading map

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      5. Employ a Traveler’s Mindset At Home, Too

      “Traveling with kids, even if it’s close to home, will help them grow to understand that the world’s diversity and wonders are things to celebrate,” says Steves. Whether it’s letting kids pick a new hike in your town or cooking a new type of food together in your own kitchen, it’s about reinforcing the ideas of keeping an open mind and enjoy the process of trying new things. “You’re doing your kids a huge favor if you can raise them with a global perspective and help them realize that, for the most part, the world is filled with beautiful, interesting people, and it’s much better to build bridges instead of walls.”

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