Nearly 100 million Americans have planned a family vacation this year, according to a AAA survey. Since the early 20th century, vacations have gone from a sign of affluence to an integral part of the American experience. And why not? They’re so much fun. However, a vacation can also be leveraged to sprinkle some fun on something that tends to be less-than-entertaining: finding a new home.
Usually, when looking for a new home, the parents venture out, painstakingly evaluate the options, and once they have made a choice, they nervously inform the kids over an awkward dinner. But what all stakeholders—big, tall, and small—were part of the process? Granted, looking at homes may be less interesting than whatever is glowing from the screen of your kids’ devices, so you will have to jazz it up a bit. The solution: an awesome house-hunting family road trip.
The key to getting the kids on board with any new idea is to execute the perfect pitch. Set up a special dinner. Ask the kids what they want, and use that to form the menu. Make an event out of it. Print out the menu, tell everyone to dress up, and build anticipation by talking about it in the days leading up to the pitch dinner. The night of the meal, adjust the lighting, do some modest decorating, and anything else that will help set the stage for the “awesome news” you have to share. They will be on board before you even open your mouth.
After everyone is stoked and ready to rock and roll, it’s time to take care of the little logistical things that can help the trip go smoother. Anything that could be a headache while on the road should be handled: the itinerary, mapped directions, and fuel, oil, and other vehicular minutia. Getting the kids involved will be huge. Have them pitch in with car cleaning. Ask them to search websites for ideas of things to do while in each neighborhood. Ask them to make a list of things they want to do in the new town before they can decide whether or not they want to move there. Graciously acknowledge their ideas so they feel like important members of the house-hunting team.
You could even sit down and watch a few episodes of your favorite house-hunting shows to get some ideas as to what to look for. Give everyone a notepad and have them write down—or draw—what they want to see most in a new home.
Setting Up the Itinerary
Your trip will hinge on either a series of open houses or scheduled visits. Reach out to some realtors and ask for a list of open houses in a few different areas. Depending on the makeup of your family and your schedule, it may be preferable to set up some viewings. Let the realtor know ahead of time that the whole tribe is going to be part of this pow-wow so they aren’t surprised when they see you pull up with your troop.
Even though it is best to incorporate the kids’ input, you will have to artfully weave in everyone’s desires as you prioritize the family’s needs. Select a few neighborhoods that you know can be potential home runs. Here are some ways to ensure your list of destinations is a strong one.
Narrow Down Your Search
Your list of neighborhoods will be different if you have preschoolers than if you have teenagers. If your family consists of both, you can eliminate the headache that inevitably comes from conflict by choosing areas that will make all demographics happy. Is there a cool kids’ museum in one of the areas? You can hit that up on the way. Perhaps you can find a place to race carts, check out an interesting show, or hit up a famed restaurant. Regardless of the homes you are looking at, the focus should be fun.
That being said, there are some checkboxes that will have more weight than others. Here are a few things to look for:
What to Look For: Health Care Facilities
If you or anyone in your family need prescription medications, you will want to find a home within close proximity to a pharmacy, hospital, primary care physician or other medical facilities. If you are managing back pain, you may be interested in physical training or rehab centers. If someone in the family has more serious medical needs, these should also be prioritized. Typically, these concerns should take priority over what tends to be the biggest deal-breaker or –maker: the school system.
What to Look For: Schools
Often, a family will choose to invest even more in their new home than originally planned in order to live in an area served by a strong school system. Meeting with the school department, teachers, principals, and others may have to wait for another time, however. To make it fun for the family, you can ask to have access to a school’s gym, football field, or even a classroom or two. Most educators will welcome the chance to entertain a family looking to make a move to their district.
It may be helpful to reach out to the school department first and have them put you in touch with the right contacts. This way, you won’t be accidentally creating conflicts within the structure of administrators, teachers, and school support staff. As you present your family, you are also helping to create a positive first impression that future teachers and administrators will remember when your kids enroll. And communicating with upper administration can be a powerful step as well: It never hurts to build up a little political capital before you enter a new school system.
What to Look For: Food, Drink, and Chill Spots
Does your family enjoy the occasional brunch? Have them pick out some cool spots to eat while on your family road trip. Is your family more of a breakfast crew? Start your family road early and stop for breakfast on the way. You can spice up the schedule by setting up viewings at different times of the day as well. This not only adds some flavor to the schedule, but it allows you to sample different types of eateries on the way. Before your family road trip begins, tell your kids you need them to be foodies to figure out which neighborhood packs the best eats.
Don’t forget to set up some time for relaxation as well. As you look at different homes and roll from destination to destination, house-hunting fatigue may start to set in. Be sure you arrange for some chill time in cool local spots. This will help make your family road trip both fun and refreshing.
What to Look For: Conveniences
This may include a good spot to have repairs done on your vehicles, so you should check out some auto shops before you leave an area. Ask about prices and hours of operation. Check where the local dentist is, and swing by to see if they accept your insurance. You may also want to check out the local barbers, hairdressers or masseuses.
To really make the family road trip memorable, take advantage of some of the services you are surveying. Have your kids get their hair done or grab a quick cut. Get them a—well-supervised—massage, pedicure, or manicure. You can even give everyone a scorecard so they can evaluate each experience. Afterward, everyone can prepare notes.
Everyone’s a Critic—And That’s Good
The objective at the end of the trip shouldn’t be to come to a neat and tidy consensus. You will have to divorce yourself of this idea. You want to have a barrel of ideas, likes, dislikes, thumbs up and down, smiley faces and grimaces. Take notes as you go along, and have your family do so too. It may be helpful to have each member write a little narrative—even if it’s just pictures—after each destination. When the trip is over, you can read—or visually interpret—each summation. Do so in random order so the opinions of the adults don’t come across as being more important than those of the kids.
You will also want to limit the influence of the young ones by stepping in and making a “grown-up” decision at some point. But this doesn’t mean you have to, “predictably,” take over the decision-making process. You can make it a fun and interactive part of your family road trip by setting up a judges panel, similar to a cooking or talent show. The adults can sit on one side of the table, and the kids can each present their arguments as to why their favorite spots were the highlights of the family road trip.
If your kids can cook, you can have them prepare simple dishes that symbolize the experience of each destination. They can try to recreate the cuisine of a favorite restaurant or food truck. Or they can prepare something that serves as a metaphor for the place or the experience. For instance, if one place was a lot of fun but not necessarily the best choice for the family, a really colorful, but super sweet cake can be prepared to represent an option that is “sweet” but ultimately “junk food.” Then each dish can form a part of a big meal that represents your family road trip.
How to Make Sacrifices—And Stick to Your Guns—On a House Hunting Family Road Trip
Each decision is going to either please or disappoint someone. That’s the downside of a house-hunting family road trip. To soften the blow of disappointment, you can take steps beforehand to preempt any upset.
Try to let everyone know that no one’s opinion is going to trump that of another. Everyone’s important, and that includes the parents. If you feel this may still come across as authoritative, you can try to reason with the kids by saying something to the effect of, “Do you think mom and dad should have an opinion, too? Tell me why.” Listen carefully as they answer in order to show that you respect their position.
Even if you’re careful to take everyone’s opinion into consideration, you may still have to make a decision that will upset one or two members. As the trip proceeds, members of your family are bound to get attached to one option over another. They may even start fantasizing about what it may be like to live there. While you don’t want to disappoint anyone, a few frowns should be expected. But there may be ways to avoid the impact of a let-down.
Typically, you will get a sense of the best place for your family soon after seeing it. If you know you’ve found the best home, neighborhood, or city, you can change your itinerary in order to make the final reveal a little easier for everyone to swallow.
Consider focusing on doing fun things in the area. You may want to center activities around specific things each of your kids like. If they have particular interests, you can cater to those by selecting relevant museums, parks, or even sporting events. If your efforts fail to impress, find a theater playing one of the kids’ favorite new movies. And as a last resort, locate a great restaurant with an awe-inspiring dessert. Take the kids there and get each one a big tower of sweetness. They will naturally associate that area with the pleasant memory of stuffing their faces with the most epic dessert ever. When you tell them the final decision, you can build up to the reveal by including “home of the (insert dessert here)…” You may even get some applause.
House Hunting Has Never Been So Fun
If you use a family road trip to find the perfect property, the whole squad will feel like decision-makers. This inclusive approach will pave the way for an easier transition to your new home. Acknowledging even the smallest ones as the stakeholders they are will also help shape their experience after the move: Their new home will be more than just a place to live; it will be fun.
Author: Adam Carpenter
Adam is a business and innovations writer. He also writes for Bitcoin Market Journal, The Daily Hodl and private clients around the world.