A Different Type Of Travel – With Kids
You and your partner are finally taking your dream vacation. The only thing is, by the time you got around to taking that dream vacation it’s no longer just you and your partner; it’s you, your partner and the kids. It’s not the end of the world. Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be drudgery, but it will require some attitude adjustments, some negotiating and a lot of planning and open communication.
You’ll be best off if, from the beginning, you accept the fact that this is not the same trip you would be having if it were just adults. Not better, not worse, just different. Expectations are premeditated disappointments; so adjust those expectations from the start and you’re more likely to enjoy the experience you’re having instead of longing for the one you’re not.
Remember when you were teaching your children about sharing? You had a bag of M&M’s, poured it out on the table and doled it out; one for you, one for me, one for you, one for me.
Remember when you were teaching your children about sharing? You had a bag of M&M’s, poured it out on the table and doled it out; one for you, one for me, one for you, one for me. Well, it’s time for sharing 202, this time with activities and/or sights. Explain to the kids that this is everyone’s vacation, not just theirs; therefore, everyone gets to choose activities they want to do. When it’s time for the adult activities, they don’t have to love them or for that matter, even like them, but they do have to go along with them and do it without complaining. You, of course, in return, will promise to do the same when it comes time for the activities that they want to do.
Getting kids involved in the planning from the beginning will help create “buy in” for the trip that is being created. If you’re not wedded to a particular vacation site, give them a choice of two or three places that are in the running. If they are older, have them review guidebooks to pick out places of interest they would like to visit. If they are younger, check your local library for videos on the location of choice so that they can watch it and get excited about your upcoming trip.
Assign them specific days that they are in charge of planning: what to do, how to get there, where to eat, etc. Most kids will enjoy the authority that you have placed in their hands and you’ll be the beneficiary of their creativity.
When traveling with kids you will want to do more planning than you might have done were it just you and your partner. Kids like to feel secure in their surroundings and the easiest way to offer that security is to feel secure and confident yourself. With advanced planning you can offer that to them. When you arrive in a city with reservations in place and the knowledge of how to get to that accommodation, the kids don’t have to worry about where they are going to be sleeping that night or if they’ll be lost in transit. They will soon come to trust that Mom and Dad “know what they’re doing” and that they need not fear the unknown.
Also keep in mind that while kids appear to be high energy, they burn out more quickly than adults, as they don’t feel the same drive we might have to “see the sights.”
Also keep in mind that while kids appear to be high energy, they burn out more quickly than adults, as they don’t feel the same drive we might have to “see the sights.” They want to move at a slower pace, see less in a given day and have more down time to play and to relax. If they’re really young, time to nap. Don’t fight their pace but instead embrace it! You may discover that traveling is a lot more relaxing and enjoyable when you’re not pushing yourselves to cover as much territory. You won’t see everything the city has to offer but chances are, even if you push yourself, you still won’t.
While there are things you surely won’t get to do while traveling with your kids, there might just be some incredible things that, had you not been traveling with your kids, you wouldn’t experience. A horse trek through the dunes in Chile or flying hundreds of feet above the rain forest on zip lines in Thailand would never have been on my list “A” list of activities. But, because of the kids’ interests, those were just a few of our activities on our year long trip around the world and what amazing adventures they turned out to be.
Editor’s Notes: All photos are courtesy of the author: lisa Shusterman. (Yes, lisa spells her first name with a lower case “L”. Honest. Not a repeated typo.)
lisa has also written two books following their “round the world” adventures:
ONE WORLD ONE TRIP and Around the World in Easy Ways: A Guide to Planning Long-Term Travel With or Without Your Kids.
(Oh, and the “Flight of the Gibbon” photo is a bit blurry because they were ‘in flight’. Have to take lisa’s word on that one.)