07 Aug 5 More Easy Tips for Traveling with Kids
And we are still traveling . . . still wearing the same old clothes that we packed in our one international carry-on almost a month ago (although they are washed and clean), still swimming in the oceans we don’t have in Colorado, still arguing about all the arguing (and electronics), and still having lots of laughs! As promised, here are 5 more easy tips for traveling with kids.
1. Wear RoadID. One of my favorite things is my Road ID. I wear it when I bike and hike, and so do my kids. I threw them in our backpacks before we left in case we were planning to do any biking. While I was chasing after my daughter in Miami airport, I thought, hmmmm, maybe I should get that RoadID on her wrist! We always tried to set meeting places in case someone got lost/separated. But I was even more confident knowing that my kids had our cell numbers on their wrists when we ran through crowded airports, walked through the throngs of people in downtown Barcelona, and played on the packed beaches of Mallorca.
2. Learn how to navigate. When I was young, we had an RV. My parents gave me the Rand McNally roadmap and said, “Here you go, direct us.” It was a tall task for a young girl, or at least I remember feeling a whole lot of (self-imposed) pressure. But it was an important learning experience. To this day, I know how to read a map, navigate my way through any city, and not worry about getting lost. Give your kids the map. Let them navigate. If it takes an extra block (or two or three) to walk to where you are going, so be it. If you go around the rotary three times while your kid is deciding which road to take, so be it. If you end up in a hidden mountain town that you didn’t intend to, all the better! They will learn how to read a map, develop confidence in navigating in unfamiliar places, and not be afraid of getting lost. In our global economy, it’s a more than useful skill to have. Plus, it keeps them engaged on long walks or rides!
3. Plan kid-friendly activities and activities for you. We set the expectation from the beginning. We will do things that you like to do. We will do things that we like to do. And we will do things that we both like to do. And we stuck to it. We toured a cathedral – the Sagrada Familia (which we had in the “we like to do” column, but we added a tower tour for the “kids like to do” column). We took a tour of the Cuevas del Drach (a cave tour for the “kids like to do” column) and added some Majorica shopping (for the “me like to do” column). We took the scenic route (“we like to do” column) to the beach (“kids like to do” column). And we took a bike tour through Barcelona (“we both like to do” column). Funny thing though. All of them ended up in the “both like to do” column once we had done them! Set the right expectations and the right mix of things to do, and everyone can have fun!
4. Find a theme. There are always bound to be themes in a trip – quotes, songs, jokes, etc. Pick up on them. Kids love the familiar, and these themes bring the familiar to an unfamiliar place. They also break the ice when things get tense. This past trip to Spain, our theme inadvertently and most randomly was the “By the Seaside” ring tone on the iPhone. It started with my kids’ uncle dancing to each ring tone to entertain the kids while waiting for us to get our bags together for the day. They liked his interpretive dance of that one the best, so it stuck. For the rest of the trip, we found several great times and places to hum, dance, sing, and laugh. It is the song that will stick with the memories we built in Spain.
5. It’s different, not weird. It’s easy for kids to make snap judgements about new cultures, exclaiming, “that’s weird.” We find that a perfect teachable moment. “It’s different, not weird. It’s different than what you are used to, than what you are familiar with. But it’s not weird. It’s just different.” And, it’s okay to be different. In fact, that’s what makes life so interesting! We like to extend this conversation and ask our kids to reflect on the differences and the similarities of the places we visit. So we ask, “What’s different about what you saw today?” and “What’s similar about what you saw today?” It allows kids to learn about the culture and its differences, but also recognize that we are all essentially very similar.
As our month of travels comes to an end, I see that the kids have a bigger idea of the world, but they are also starting to appreciate their own little place in the world. That’s what I had hoped for. To peek into another world . . . a bigger world. To pop open that “my little place in the world is the world” bubble. But to appreciate that little place when they come back.