The beauty of having children and taking them to new places is that you get to see the world through their eyes. I remember when I was young going on trips to Chicago or Mackinac Island (Michigan) and it was truly some of the best memories. At that age, a new state was like a new country!
Planning trips as a family and counting down the days means you actually enjoy the trip for a couple months before it even begins! There are so many great activities you can do with your children before leaving on a destination to maximize this feeling. Some of things we like to do are:
1) Get out a map! Of course, you can do this digitally, but there is something more real about getting a paper map and unfolding it to show your kids where you are going. They may be too little to understand scale, but this is the first step to understanding what a 3 hour drive, 3 hour flight, or more means from Point A to Point B.
2) Take a trip to the library Most communities have local libraries which offer excellent resources about so many destinations. Don't have a library where you live? Go online and read about the history of where you are going, get a guide online, etc. There are great books out there that can prepare a child for a trip. For example, if you are taking a trip to Mexico, you can get a book and read to them in advance about Mexican culture or popular Mexican children's stories. These are things we've done weeks to months in advance of trips to get them prepared and thinking about the bigger picture.
3) Scavenger hunts are a great way to see a new city If you are going to a city, chances are that there are some great family activities already available at the tourist website. We've noticed that many cities have great scavenger hunts where you can print out a list of places to go and get a stamp at various locations. You can also make your own, which is a lot of fun as well!
4) Learn a few phrases of the local language If you are going to a country that doesn't speak your native language, that presents a great learning experience for your children. Simple and useful phrases can help build a better understanding of the interesting differences and add to the new perspectives. Not going to another country where they speak a different language? Chances are the locals have different accents or slang that you can have your children listen for.
5) Take the family to try the cuisine Just booked a trip to Mexico? Go and celebrate (and take a map) by going to the most authentic Mexican restaurant you can find! Better yet, go online and get some recipes on line and make a meal together! Bonus if you get music playing in the background of the country you are going to! :)