Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or are new to the rigors and adventures that traveling brings, traveling with children is a very different experience then traveling solo or with other adults. That isn’t to say that it should be avoided. Taking your children on trips can be great for the entire family. To ensure that the trip is as enjoyable as possible for everyone concerned, it’s a good idea to keep a few things in mind.
Schedule play dates
Traveling gives you the opportunity to teach your children about other cultures, nature, and to visit a variety of museums and educational attractions. That’s all fine and can give your children an advantage when they get back to school, but it can also be exhausting or even boring when overdone.
Remember that your children are still young and that this is also a time for fun.
Allowing for scheduled breaks from traveling, toting luggage, and learning will go a long way towards your children’s enjoyment of the adventure.
Consider having a rest day now and then, especially if you’re traveling for extended periods. Not only is this a good chance for the children to release some pent up energy, it can be a healthy break for everyone.
When planning your itinerary, seek out some places that give the children time for their own version of R&R. Whether they love amusement parks, playing at the beach, climbing trees, cooking, the arts or any other specific outdoor activities, you can incorporate some of their favorite pastimes into the schedule.
You may discover some fun activities for them that are also different and new. Sometimes these fun adventures become the highlight of a trip, especially when it’s new for the entire family.
Gather family input
Traveling is a lot more fun when you get to have a say in where you’re going and what you’ll see. Any time you leave home, you’re facing change, which can be scary. New sights, sounds, and smells bombard you from all directions. Different foods challenge even the most adventurous eaters. Learning different customs and dealing with different forms of currency or different languages can be daunting and confusing.
Consider discussing your ideas for a trip with the entire family. Allow each member to have time to talk about what they’d like to experience most. Don’t be surprised if this conversation takes place over several family meetings as the idea starts to sink in. Let your children know it’s okay to express their concerns as well as what excites them about the upcoming adventure.
If your family has children whose ages vary widely, don’t be surprised to hear very different suggestions. They may seem like they’re incompatible, but with a little creativity, you’ll probably be able to incorporate a little something for everyone.
Pack a few extras, but not too much
Allow your children to bring something that’s comforting to them. For a young child, that might be a favorite toy to play or sleep with. Older kids might want their electronics in order to keep in touch with friends.
You’ll want your children to have appropriate clothing and shoes for whatever you have planned. Some children will need your guidance as to what’s appropriate, especially if you’re traveling abroad.
Also keep in mind that most places in the world carry just about everything you’ll need, so it’s okay to pack the minimum amount of things. When you do this, it keeps your luggage lighter, making traveling a lot more fun and leaves room for some souvenirs.
Encourage your children to create memories along the way. This may be in the form of taking photographs, collecting postcards, or writing in a journal. Think about bringing a blank journal for each child so they can write things down or slip in something to trigger a memory later.
Be willing to shift gears
So you’ve settled on a plan. You have your tickets, your itinerary, your bags are packed, and you’re on your way. All is going well and the family seems to be having a good time.
Then suddenly, it isn’t going so well.
Things happen, especially when you’re traveling. Be open to the idea that you might have to shift your schedule a bit. Perhaps you tried to get too many things into the day and people are feeling burned out. Maybe there’s more togetherness than you’re used to and there’s a need for some elbow room. It could be that your days are starting too early or ending too late and the children are short on sleep. Are your children overstimulated with all the new and different things surrounding them?
When you hit a bump in the road, it’s the perfect time to revaluate and see if you need to modify the plan. You might need to add a day of rest and forego seeing a museum or cultural event. Or you might just want to juggle the itinerary. Sometimes the spontaneous rest days that take advantage of what’s right there in front of you will be the most memorable of the entire trip.
Set your intention to have fun.
Your mood and energy can go a long way to setting the tone for the entire family. You’ll have a much better chance of achieving the goal of having a fun-filled day if you wake up with that intention rather than dreading any hiccups that may occur.
Traveling with your children can be a wonderful adventure. Let yourself experience it and be fully present with your family. Just as you want your children to connect with the adventure and with you, be sure to connect with them as well.
Keeping these tips in mind you can create a lifetime of memories. Hopefully you’ll be able to establish a pattern of fun traveling together as a family — even if things don’t always go exactly as planned.
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