Our family recently returned from a vacation. My husband and I loaded up our four children (ranging in ages 5-12) and traveled from Minnesota to Michigan — and back — over the course of eleven days.
With a limited income, we work hard to make travel a priority. We put strong value on adventuring together as a family.
Traveling offers wonderful opportunity to learn about different places, people and cultures. Family travel also provides opportunity to engage more deeply with your loved ones without the distractions and responsibilities of work and home.
In my experiences traveling with kids I have also learned some lessons. Here are some tips to make your travels with kids a positive experience:
1. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
In what seems to be a former lifetime, I took flight lessons to learn how to fly a single engine airplane. When I was taking these lessons learning how to fly, I was, relevantly, also learning how not to crash. One of acronyms I learned while flying was the 5 P’s: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
Whether you are working to avoid a crash flying an airplane or trying to avoid pandemonium on your family vacation, you can apply this advice. Through my travels with my children over the years I have found great value in planning ahead. Prior to our travels we spend time researching the Internet and travel guides so that we go into our the travels with general ideas about kid-friendly attractions, activities and events that we want to explore.
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This year I made a meal plan for our camping trip so my mind could be more relaxed while on vacation. Instead of thinking of what I needed to do next, the research, work and planning I did ahead of time allowed me to be more present and in moment, making my vacation more enjoyable.
2. Expect Good Behavior, but Anticipate Squabbles.
My husband and I have high behavior expectations for our children. We expect them to be kind and respectful to us, to others, and to their siblings. On our trip, however there were certainly squabbles. We tried, as much as our patience allowed, to use much of the time and experience of spending a stretch of time together and in public settings as teachable moments, helping them mold their character with positive guidance, support and modeling.
3. Play, Rest and Nourish.
When you are on vacation, it is tempting to want to be in “Go! Go! Go!” mode 100% of the time. But if you approach your travels in this way, especially when traveling with children, you will likely get exhausted. In our travels, my husband and I sometimes need to remind each other to schedule down time. When we play, we also have to rest.
We have also learned how important it is to eat healthy even when on the go. We cooked most of our meals in our camper, but had to be very intentional so that we included fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet and did not rely on nourishing our body on a high percentage of processed foods.
4. Give and Take.
My husband and I are partners in our travels. We have learned the importance of give and take. Making compromises, accommodations and adjustments to meet the needs, desires and interests of each other and the needs, desires and interests of our children. This too is parenting in action, being a model and working to teach this important life skill to our children through our own behaviors.
5. Pictures will help you remember.
Pictures can help both adults and kids remember their experiences. Upon our return from all of our family travels, I create a photo book. These books are great to look over and read to our children and serve as reminders of the fun that we have had together. Photography is also a mindful practice in gratitude. When I need a positive boost or reminder of the happiest moments in my life, I often look back on the photos of our travels.