Taking Your First Family Trip with Your Foster Child

Planning a family trip with a foster child requires planning, but can be a great bonding and trust building opportunity. 

If a foster child has just joined your family, you may be excited about taking your very first family vacation together. As found by researchers at Penn State, all children – including teens – benefit from spending time with their parents; doing so has “important implications for adolescents’ psychological and social adjustment.” Because daily life is usually busy, a vacation is an ideal way to give children this much-needed time, but also to get to know them – their interests, passions, and unique personality traits. How can you ensure that your first vacation together has all the ingredients you need to achieve this aim?

Organization is Key

In order to travel with family peacefully and efficiently, organization is vital. If flying, ensure your children’s documents (passports, etc.) are up-to-date (if you are traveling internationally), book early so as to take advantage of cheaper airfares, and be prepared for contingencies such as lost luggage. Ask your child to pack a backpack (which they can bring on board as their hand-carried luggage) with a pair of sneakers, a change of clothes, spare medication (if they are taking any), their favorite snack, and their cherished entertainment items (including tablets and smartphones). This will ensure that if their luggage is temporarily lost, they won’t be left without important devices.  

Keep in mind that each child’s case and state laws vary. Make sure you receive all necessary permissions; and consider alternatives if travel is not approved so your foster child can participate in the shared family experience.

Togetherness is the Goal

Instead of dreaming up the ‘perfect holiday’ – one that can cause financial stress or involve too many planned activities — focus on holiday types and locations that will strengthen your bond as a family. Your foster child will most likely take time to get to know you, so your first holiday should not be so jam-packed with activities that you don’t have enough time to talk. Rather than focusing on amazing sites, focus on experiences you can enjoy together. Think of ways you can converse, laugh, and create memories to be cherished many years later.

Make Nature a Priority

Nature-based vacations (think visiting the seaside or mountainside) are a fantastic way to enjoy a wide range of activities together while taking advantage of the stress-busting benefits of the Great Outdoors. One of the best things about planning a visit to a natural park or coastal area is that you don’t have to worry about purchasing tickets or catching public transport to a host of busy sites. In the midst of majestic nature, it is easier for children to communicate, enjoy physical activity, and take part in a host of adventures (think canyoning, hiking, swimming, or skiing) with your family.

A Bucket List for Everyone

Once you have decided on your destination and mode of transport (air travel, road trip, train ride, etc.), try and discover if your foster child has a dream destination or bucket list that includes sites close to where you will be traveling. Although it can sometimes be difficult from a practical point of view, allowing each family member to choose one site to visit is a great way to ensure the vacation has something for everyone. A road trip is an ideal way to accommodate disparate tastes, since you can change your mind as required, and take little detours (or even spend more or less time in a given place depending on how much fun you are having). 

The first holiday you take with your foster child can offer a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other and build wonderful memories together. To reduce stress and travel peacefully and confidently, ensure that all documentation, booking, and planning is done well in advance. Choose nature-based destinations if possible, since these invite shared activity but also offer the peace and calm that nature brings to both adults and children.