Monday, May 6, 2013

Travel with Kids

In my post about life being a daring adventure, my friend commented about my bravery traveling with my kids. I responded with a lengthy comment which never got saved or posted. Clearly I had a lot to say, so I thought I'd turn it into a full length blog post.

Traveling with kids hasn't been so much an act of bravery as much as it has been a matter of necessity. I rarely have the luxury of family to take my kids. And so they tag along wherever we may go. Here are my best tips about travel with kids.

1) Plan your itinerary with your children in mind.
Kids have different tastes about interesting activities and they certainly have much shorter attention spans. When going to a special place, make sure you include outings that will interest your children. Accept that you won't be able to spend hours and hours staring at a special painting in a museum. Enjoy the energy and enthusiasm kids bring to exploring new sights. You'll appreciate the perspective they bring to the experience. Six years ago I went through a section of the Louvre Museum in Paris with my three-year old son. I let him take the camera and will never forget the perspective he had of the art. I could see how the museum looked through his eyes.

2) Inoculate your kids to travel through shorter expeditions.
I trained my kids to enjoy and behave in museums with short, frequent trips to a small museum in Sweden. This museum had it all with rats in barrels (showing the ship trade in Sweden), the creepiest skeleton of a giant crab, suits of authentic medieval armor,a technical museum that included lots of machines and cannon balls. Trips to this museum were inexpensive and were always a welcome outing when the rain drove us inside one too many days. Something to consider is that many museums today are designed to be more interactive and appealing to kids. Many museums offer a kids trail that includes a fun booklet and worksheet. At the Westminster Abbey, our kids had to find different things in the building, including graffiti marks on the coronation chair. We learned a lot from completing the activity and the kids were thrilled to earn a chocolate gold coin when they successfully completed the treasure hunt. Let your kids get really involved with the different exhibits.
If you like hiking and camping, take your kids on shorter outings so they'll be more prepared to cope with longer stretches of camping. Make sure that you emphasize the adventure and togetherness of the outing.

3) Prep your kids with information and context so they will understand what they are seeing and enjoy it more.
Before a trip to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. my kids watched an animated series produced by PBS called Liberty Kids portraying the events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War. My kids understood the significance of the Liberty Bell and loved Benjamin Franklin's printing press because they had context to the events which provided meaning to them.
Before our trip to Egypt, my boys read the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan which cleverly teaches Ancient Egyptian history and mythology through a modern fast-paced storyline that is relevant and interesting. My boys were able to understand the meaning of some of the pictures on the walls of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. They had so much to discuss and offer as we toured those ancient sites.

4)  Plan food and rest stops carefully.
Nothing ruins a trip like tired, cranky, whiny kids. To avoid this, make sure you get as much as rest as possible. Pack lots of good snacks along the way. Research local restaurants so that you have plenty of options when the crew is ready to eat.

5) Enjoy the special time you have as a family to explore together.
Kids grow up and move away. You won't have many years to travel with them. So enjoy it while you have it. I'll never forget standing in an olive grove in Jerusalem with my young son as we talked about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I'll never forget the excitement of riding camels with my kids in the shadow of the Giza Pyramids. I'll never forget being surrounded by a crowd of Egyptian kids eager to take my daughter's picture. I'll never forget riding bikes with my boys on the Island of Ven between Sweden and Denmark. I have some wonderful memories to treasure exploring interesting places with my children.

What are your best tips about traveling with kids? What keeps you from traveling with your kids?

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