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5 Tips for Surviving Travel with Kids
Spring has just arrived, and it’s time to think about those summer travel plans. You know: pile everyone in car, RV or plane and head off for that next great adventure. Problem is, sometimes the great unknown is… well… unknown. And when you have a child (or two, or three) in tow, travel can seem to be less about enjoyment and more about logistics.
The good news is that with some advance planning and a willingness to accept reality, everyone in the family – no matter the age – can find something along the way that will make all the effort worthwhile. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Call ahead. Disappointment is hard to overcome when you arrive at a hyped location only to discover renovations or even regularly scheduled maintenance that isn’t mentioned in the posted schedule of operations. If you like to have a locked-down schedule, it’s a good idea to make contact with a real person and confirm that the time you’ve identified for your visit is viable.
2. Get the kids excited. This is where the fun really begins. Involve the kids in your planning by giving them a few choices about what they want to do (but only offer what you’re willing and reasonably able to do, of course). In our family of five, we each get to identify one activity, event or element in a vacation that we think is essential to our individual experience. Or, if we’re spending a whole day somewhere (think zoo or amusement park), we each get to pick one thing to do. This way, each person has a say, but no one person calls all the shots.
3. Balance education with fun. Sure, sometimes great learning experiences will hold attention indefinitely. Think of Sue, the massive T. rex at Chicago’s Field Museum. But after a couple of hours of wandering through a museum, most kids are in need of a break. Know where it will make sense to let the kids run and whoop a little.
4. Let the trip happen. Sometimes, with all the advance planning that a family trip requires, it’s easy to forget to enjoy it. Be open to the surprises along the way – like leading your kids through a crowded subway stop during rush hour or ducking into a wildly inappropriate store to escape a sudden storm and discovering a treasure trove of miniature wooden animals.
5. Turn the experience into your personal family history. Present each child with a digital camera before a once-in-their-lifetime family trip. Have them jot down notes before bedtime, recording the high (and low) points of the day. Take advantage of meal times for lively conversations about what the kids have seen and done.
Finally, remember that the point of travel is to broaden horizons – to show our children that they can step out of their comfort zone and learn about a place or a culture that is different. In doing that, we often are also reminded that despite vast distances and seemingly strange customs, people really are the same no matter where you go.