5 Reasons why my three young kids are planning our Italy adventure this fall.
Going to Italy is not just a vacation for me, it’s the realization of a life-long dream, and what some might call a near obsession. Since my teens the allure of discovering Venice; driving the winding roads of Tuscany, and eating pasta in Rome, has pulled at the very core of me. It’s almost a spiritual, attraction I feel, as if it’s the one place I’ll feel most at home in the world.
For this reason I didn’t want to just take my kids to Italy, I wanted them to understand it’s magical spell and help me discover it for the first time; together as a family. But how can I make two nine-year-old’s and a thirteen-year-old, really get it?
My greatest fear is that we’d get there, after them hearing me talk it up all their lives, and they would say; “Everything is so old and yucky!” I feared they wouldn’t get it. And that would kill me.
So I decided this trip needed to be about them falling in love with her beauty, and the thrill of travel. And the only way to do this right, is to make them plan our trip.
The fist task was to get them to WANT to go. And not just, want to, but crave going the way I have always done. Here’s how I did it.
1. I introduced them to Italy through my favorite movies.
Yes I knew that these romantic comedies might go over their head a bit, but they would be able to see the glorious-ness of Italy in a format that they knew best; movies. So for the last several months we’ve sat down to family movie night, and watched every single movie I could find that was filmed in Italy and remotely appropriate.
They’ve seen Only You, Roman Holiday, Letters to Juliet, Under the Tuscan Sun and in each film I narrated the places they saw on screen and told them we would go to these places, and the reason why I found them to be so beautiful.
It’s the best way to get your kids comfortable with the scenery of a new place. With how people eat in different places, how they dress, and how they talk. That way when they travel to those places, things will seem familiar. This really helps relieve some of their anxiety or nervousness about travel, helping them know what to expect and get excited.
Note: I did this when I took my kids to New York last year. I’d been showing them movies of NYC since they were babies, always pointing out all the places in the films where I’d been or where someday I would take them. Putting names to things like; when a scene would show Times Square, I’d point out all the specific things in Times Square, and tell them that’s what it’s called. So that when we went there, they knew right away, and could recognize specific buildings and had a sense of ownership of the city. They had absolutely no fear! Just excitement to see in real life what they’d seen all their life in the movies.
2. I started a language learning contest.
Once our tickets had been booked, I asked each of my kids to download the app Doulingo on their iPhones. It’s an easy fun way to learn any language, and makes learning like any other app game my kids play on their phones, so right away they picked it up.
Then I set up a serious contest for them to earn spending money for the trip. I put $100 on the table for whichever kid got in their required 15 minutes a day for the most days. $100 for whichever kid used the Italian they were learning the most around the house between now and the time we leave. $100 for whichever kid reaches the farthest level in the app. And some smaller $25 prices, for things like most levels achieved in a day etc.
I knew setting it up this way would motivate them in a very different way. My son already is fluent in Spanish so I knew from the start that he’d win the $100 for getting the farthest in the app. One of my daughters is the quiet study type, and I knew the reward for doing it daily would motivate her. My last daughter get’s easily distracted and unmotivated and is not a study person (she’s just like me God bless her)! But I knew she picks up everything around her so fast and that she’d be the one to speak it the most around the house, listening for new words from her other siblings.
SO in this way all my kids would learn and retain the language. They also get prizes when we are in Italy for using it there. So make it fun! Make sure that it includes all your kids special needs and interests. But they will pick it up in a flash!
3. I assigned them a city.
This is the biggest one of all. We are visiting/staying in four locations on our trip. I know that this busy travel schedule will quickly wear out its excitement if I have the whole trip planned myself and try to get them engaged when we get there. BUT making them each responsible for a city, will get them excited! This way they will know what to expect and be excited to share what they have planned with the rest of the family.
For example: Kanen (my son) has Rome. His job is to research all things Rome. I got them all personalized leather journals where they write down all their findings, research and plans. He’s responsible for knowing what tourists do in Rome, why people go to those places, where those places are geography from were we are staying and how we get to them. He’s also researching what the food is like in Rome and the best places to eat. This fits his personality perfectly. He’s a history guy, he’s a research guy and Rome is our most aggressive tourist destination. It will make him feel like the man!
Izzy is my country girl, she loves cooking and gardens and the countryside. So she gets Tuscany. Mira is my glamour girl, so Venice was the obvious choice.
4. I gave them veto power on where we stay.
We will be using AirBnB for the very first time in each city of our trip, and I figured what better way for them to really own the trip, then for each of them to have veto power at where we stay in their city? So I made wish lists on each city with my favorite pics, and they get the final decision on which one we select. I’ve got to say, this has been a BIG hit! They love looking at the Villa’s in Tuscany, and the apartments in Rome and Venice.
5. I shared all the details and got their input.
When it came time to book the flights, I talked to them about it. Explained where our layovers would be and what they can expect.
When it came to getting from one city to the next, I did my research and them presented them with options. They chose the train from Venice to the little village near Portofino and got excited thinking of seeing the countryside. This way when I surprise them with an upgrade to fist class they will get what that means because they’ve seen and studied what coach is like.
I think my best advice to anyone traveling with kids, is involve them! If you don’t want them to be board and complaining the whole trip, make it THEIR trip. Give them responsibility, give them options and then follow through with letting them make choices. The more they feel like they are a needed part of the process the more eager they are to step up and be involved.
If you’re a single mom, start traveling with your kids! Start doing road trips like I’ve done with mine the last eight years. It’s a great, cost-effective way to get your feet wet.
And for all you parents out there; if you’ve always had a dream to see the world and show your kids, just do it. Find a way. It’s not as hard, expensive, or daunting as we imagine. But it is soooo worth it.