The Vacation Attraction Planner

Many families, time and money willing, plan a summer getaway to, well, anywhere else. Whether you’re going to Paris, France or Paris, Texas, if you’re taking the kids with you, you’re going to have to figure out how to keep them entertained. For some destinations, that can be as simple as heading for the hotel pool to splash the hours away or letting them loose to roam the campsite creating their own adventures.

If hanging out at the hotel all day doesn’t tickle your fancy and you’re not headed for the great outdoors, then you’re going to need to come up with some activities and destinations that will keep them interested and engaged. The idea is to prevent the constant wailing and whining of “I’m bored”. So what’s the best way to figure out what your kids will want to see and do? I say ask ’em!

Planning a family vacation is a lot of work. There’s packing to be done and reservations to be made and activities to be planned. Why not make the kids do some of the work?

This summer, we’re planning a road trip to Portland, Oregon, with stops at Crater Lake National Park and Redding, California. Now, if it were up to me, our time in Portland would be spent exploring the Columbia River Gorge area (perhaps the Gorge Beer Trail) and its many waterfalls, browsing the shelves at Powell’s City of Books, and relaxing at the Portland Japanese Garden.  But, for better or for worse, it’s not up to me.

So I’ve put it up to the kids. I’ve told them that, unless they want to spend our time in Portland doing what my wife and I want to do, they need to come up with activities and attractions they want to do and visit. Being the mean dad I am, I let them know that “I want to go to the car museum!” is not adequate. They need to do the research on the places they want to go to and come up with a justification for spending our limited time there. Because they’re all old enough to use the internet, I gave them a list of items they need to find out about the places they suggest. These include:

  • Name and Address
  • Telephone Number
  • Website Address
  • Hours of operation
  • Cost
  • Duration of a visit

To make all this easier for them (and for me), I put together a little form for them to fill out. It fits on a half-sheet of letter paper so they don’t think it’s too much work. Most of the information will be provided by Google, just by searching the name. Anything else can easily be found on the venue’s website.

As the trip draws near, we’ll collect all of the suggestions and prioritize them. Knowing how long we expect to stay at each place will let us identify which can be done the same day as something else and which items will need a full day set aside. Knowing the hours of operation in advance means we won’t show up somewhere only to discover it’s closed that day. And best of all, because they know that they’ll get to do what they want to do at some point on the trip, they won’t mind doing what their siblings (or even — gasp! — their parents) want to do.

Although we’ve only just told the kids about this, Jared has already identified the World of Speed motorsports museum as a must-see item and Sara found Glowing Greens Blacklight Miniature Golf: “Glow in the dark mini golf. Need I say more?”

I think we’ll have our itinerary taken care of, by the time we’re ready to go.

If you’d like to give this a try with your kids, you can download a copy of the planning sheet we’re using below.

Photo by Clarita at



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