Some of the greatest memories are created on family vacations. Everyone can put their to-do lists aside and just focus on having fun together. Once your child gets into the sleepover phase, they may ask to invite a friend on the spring break trip or summer vacation you’re planning. It’s no secret that kids love to be around their friends once they hit a certain age, and it doesn’t get much more exciting than going on a trip with your best friend by your side.
As soon as the words “yes, you can invite them” slide out of your mouth, a million thoughts will cross your mind. It’s a huge responsibility to take someone else’s child on vacation, but it’s absolutely doable and can be incredibly rewarding for your child and their friend. We want your family vacation to feel like just that—a vacation. Consider these 10 things when deciding to take your child’s friend on a family vacation so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the memory-making.
1. Consider how expenses will be paid
Of course, any trip will cost money, so it makes sense to assume you’ll be putting forth some funds for the friend’s expenses. What’s important to consider is how much and what type of expenses you want to cover. We recommend deciding this before extending the invite to the child and clearly communicating from the beginning what you expect the child’s parents to cover. If you’re flying somewhere, perhaps you request the parents cover airline fees and spending money, and you offer to cover lodging, activities, and meals. Whatever works best for your budget is fine as long as it’s clearly explained and agreed upon by both parties.
2. Have open discussions with the parents beforehand
They know their child best, so getting their input on things their child might need while away is a must. Discuss things like allergies or medical concerns, fears, dietary needs, and so on. Knowing this information will allow you to be prepared if something comes up. By offering to take the child on vacation, you become responsible for them, so it’s imperative you know as much about their needs as possible.
3. Determine if you need to get written consent from the child’s parents
When traveling outside the country, some airlines and destinations may require written consent from the child’s parents stating they’re allowing the child to travel without them. Do your research to see if your destination requires this, or be proactive and get written consent regardless. This will not only prevent travel delays, but it will also provide you with peace of mind.
4. Communicate your rules to your child and their friend
All families are different, and the rules you enforce for your child may be different than what their friend is used to. Before the trip, we recommend having a conversation with your child and their friend about behavioral expectations. If there’s a bedtime you’d like them to abide by or an amount of screen time you want to allow, let them know in advance. Likewise, it’s a good idea to speak with the child’s parents about rules they like to enforce. While this is your trip and your rules should be followed, it would be respectful to know and consider the boundaries of the other child’s parents.
5. Plan for the unexpected
Things happen. Kids can be reckless and can sometimes end up getting hurt. Prepare for any minor injuries that could take place by considering a few things. First, travel with a first aid kit (this is simply a good practice at all times). Second, look into the nearest hospitals and urgent care clinics so you have at least an idea of how to access help if needed. Lastly, have a conversation with the child’s parents about what they’d like for you to communicate to them. Whether they want to be notified of their child stubbing their toe or they’re comfortable with only hearing about major occurrences, be sure to respect their wishes.
6. Know the child you’re bringing
We don’t recommend bringing a child on vacation whom you’ve only been around a handful of times. If you don’t know them well, you may not know if the type of trip you’re taking is right for them. A hiking trip in Colorado may not be the best option for a child with severe asthma and a fear of heights. Going skiing may be challenging and nerve-wracking for someone who’s never put on skis before. If the child frequently gets homesick while sleeping over at your house, they may not enjoy a week-long vacation without their family. Bottom line, get to know the child and their family so you can feel confident about bringing them along.
7. Provide a packing list
Think about the climate, the activities you’ll be doing on the trip, and the items your child will be packing for the trip, then give your child’s friend and their family a list of things to pack. You wouldn’t want to touch down in Florida and find out the child didn’t pack a swimsuit. Give the family plenty of time to prepare for what the child will need to bring.
8. Provide an itinerary
On a similar note, provide the family with at least a loose itinerary of what you’ll be doing. If you’ll be on a boat all day with little cell service, the parents might worry when they don’t hear back from their child if they aren’t aware of the daily plans. Having an idea of where their child is and what they’ll be doing will put them at ease and help them determine how much money to send along.
9. Communicate with the family about check-ins
While some families may not need their child to check in everyday, it’s a good idea for you to ask them beforehand if they’d like or expect updates from you. Likewise, if you know they’re expecting a nightly check-in from their child, you can be mindful of that and provide gentle reminders. Overall, communication is key to having a successful, fun, and memorable experience.
10. Remember to make the most of it
Traveling in general can be as stressful as it is exciting, and bringing someone else’s child on a trip is a big responsibility. Prepare yourself beforehand by communicating openly, setting expectations and boundaries, and being organized. A family vacation is supposed to be a fun time to make memories, and allowing your child to bring a friend on vacation will result in plenty of memories they’ll cherish forever. Set yourself up for success beforehand so you can have the wonderfully memorable experience you all deserve.