Friday, June 23, 2017

How We Let Our Kids Plan Our New England Vacation

As we hatched the idea of going on an extended road trip this summer, the NFO and I came across an article in the Wall St. Journal that inspired us.

It suggested that we " Dare to Let the Children Plan Your Vacation." (link)

We thought that was a great idea.  So, we discussed with them and they agreed. I sent the following email setting up some parameters.  To their credit (and granted, it was Tonka -13- who did the bulk of the work), they made it happen.

Team Finland,
I am super excited that you are taking on the responsibility of planning our summer New England trip. 
Ima can give you the deadline of when we need the rough draft plan and when we need the final plan.
As for me, I am just documenting the things I care about, so you have them
  1. I like seeing how things are made. Manufacturing, technology, etc.
  2. I like historical locations
  3. I want us to do things that we cannot do in Maryland.  It should be "unique" to that location. If the answer to the question of "could we do this/something like this at home?" is yes, then we shouldn't do it on our vacation (with obvious exceptions like eating, drinking, bathing, swimming, breathing, talking, etc. ;-)
  4. I like exercise....workout rooms in hotels
  5. I need to have wi-fi (preferably free) in our hotel room
  6. I have to be in New York City for a presentation on the afternoon of June 27th.  The rest of you don't, but I will need to get there. It shouldn't be a huge deal, but something to keep in mind.
I think that does it...for now. Love, Abba

Here's the full article...
Summer is a time of family trips and outings. Figuring out a plan that suits everyone can be tricky. It pays to involve children in the decisions—without giving them too much control.
Taking part in family decision-making teaches children valuable skills. They learn to advocate for what they want, listen to others’ wishes and make compromises. But parents who have ceded some decision-making to their children warn there are right and wrong ways to do it.
The Johnson family of Denver is planning a car trip to western Colorado this summer. Amber Johnson says her daughter Hadley, 12, persuaded the family to go jet-boating, racing over the Colorado River at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour in boats driven by professionals.
It’s a plan Ms. Johnson and her husband Jamie would never have chosen for the family. But Hadley sees children’s museums as cheesy. “I’m kind of growing up and everything,” Hadley says. “I’m a little more crazy and adventurous than museums.”
Bode, 10, says he was nervous at first about jet-boating. Ms. Johnson reassured him that passengers wear life jackets and the boats are safe. Now he’s on board with the plan. “I think I might actually learn something, including having a positive attitude and being willing to do new things,” he says.
Giving the children a voice keeps them excited and interested, Ms. Johnson says. It also means suffering through their mistakes. Bode and Hadley picked a hotel online for a road trip last summer because it had a big pool, says Ms. Johnson, editor of Mile High Mamas, an online community. She suggested they might want to do more research, but “they jumped on it because it looked really fun,” Ms. Johnson says.
When they arrived, the pool was closed for renovation. Ms. Johnson sees such “soft failures,” or missteps with minor consequences, as learning experiences. “We would call ahead and do more research” next time, Hadley says. 
Internet savvy helps children gain influence because they can research travel options online with ease. Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations, a New York City travel agency, says clients bring children as young as 7 or 8 to planning sessions. Mr. Ezon recalls one 12-year-old who made a convincing argument for his family to fly Emirates Airline because of its business class.
Parents can channel that kind of energy by setting spending limits or offering acceptable choices and letting children research and advocate for the ones they want, says Sean Grover, a New York City psychotherapist who works with children and teens. Parents should make the final decision, says Mr. Grover, author of “When Kids Call the Shots.”


Tips for the best ways to let the youngest members of the family help plan a vacation.
  • Offer choices of acceptable activities or destinations.
  • Let children advocate for plans they want.
  • Keep control of final decisions.
  • Give in to demands that violate your goals or budget.
  • Make decisions when you’re stressed or rushed.
  • Allow one child always to take the lead.
Gina Luker of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., and her husband Mitch enjoy attending live concerts with their four children, ages 17 to 26. They allowed their youngest daughter, Hannah, to choose the most concerts, including Fall Out Boy, says Ms. Luker, editor of a blog on food, crafts and decorating. Ms. Luker stopped saying yes two years ago when Hannah, then 15, no longer seemed grateful or excited over VIP passes to meet her favorite bands.
Now 17, Hannah appreciates that her parents let her have a voice but also set limits. Being allowed to drive family decision-making “gave me a big head,” she says. “Parents have to walk a fine line: They shouldn’t be afraid to say no, but they also need to say yes sometimes, so teens don’t feel trapped” in a world of their parents’ making.
Parents should model good decision-making for small children and give them a small but growing role as they go through school, says Dave Anderson, a clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit mental-health organization in New York City. He advises parents to progress through “I do, we do, you do” stages of coaching from childhood through the teen years, with a goal of instilling independent decision-making skills.
Among those skills are listening to others’ ideas, accepting compromises and being open to new experiences, says Eileen Ogintz, founder of Taking the Kids, a website on family travel. “Maybe one kid is all about the thrill rides and another kid is a foodie. You can allow each of them to have a voice, and then they’re each exposed to something new,” Ms. Ogintz says.
Yana and Raul Gutierrez ask their children Marcos, 13, and Maya, 11, for travel ideas, “but my husband and I always have veto power” and insist on destinations where the children can learn about geography or other cultures, says Ms. Gutierrez, of Montclair, N.J. They agreed to Maya’s request to visit China two years ago because they’d already been planning to travel there at some point, Ms. Gutierrez says. While both children were excited about seeing pandas, they learned “how much more China has to offer than pandas.”
When Marcos asked to visit Fiji after seeing ads for an underwater hotel there, his parents said no because the family traveled to the South Pacific last year. They gave Marcos and Maya a say in planning a trip to Indonesia this summer, however. The family is looking forward to snorkeling, hiking volcanoes and visiting temples.
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