After our whirlwind, cross-country, cross-pacific jaunts as a family, we wanted to share a few things that we found to be very essential and a few that were, not-so-essential, during our travels. Of course, as with any blog post that contains a list, it’s not meant to be prescriptive, but just based on our own experiences. We admit that since we only have one child and we’re not challenged with the dynamics of traveling with multiple children. Bravo to the mommy’s and daddy’s traveling with NOT two, but three, four, or five children or even more!! WOW!
Since May was Mental Health Month in the U.S., what I am listing are actually NOT ‘physical things’ at all, but “mental” in nature.
I’m certain there’s plenty of information online about the best luggage, car gadget, smart phone, GPS device for family travel. I’d rather focus on our mindset for this post.
Most Essential Mindsets:
- Patience. Traveling, by nature, will not go at the pace that you would like. Ever. There’s plenty of dead time, waiting, then waiting some more. Or driving cross-country, to get from point A to point B.
- Expect the unexpected. Yes, very cliché, but true.
- Plan as much as you can, and let go of the rest. Flexibility of mind is important. If you’re too anal about planning, then you lose out on the fun of ‘getting lost’ in the moment, and discovering unexpected new experiences. It’s okay to have a few days where nothing is planned in advance, and go explore the new destination blindly.
- Keeping a child busy isn’t about money, but about creativity. You don’t need a built-in DVD player, or an Ipad, or Nintendo to keep your kids busy. Balance out their time with word games that gets everyone involved. For our M, we prefer making up new games, including but not limited to: “M, create a song with these three words, …” or “Each person names a word that begins with the last letter of the previous person’s word..” and more.
- Allow your kids freedom to have fun. Okay, this one is about gadgets. For M, having her own camera (any old digital will do), to take shots, make videos, is priceless. To me, gadgets that foster creativity are better than games and such that are just for killing time. Low tech “Tablet”: colored pencils and a notepad. Dollar store, enough said.
Mindsets to Leave at Home:
- Control. Yeah, self-explanatory, right? See numbers 2 and 3 above.
- Expectations about anything. This can range from the cottage you’re staying in, or how your kids behave.
- Money = Love. You can’t buy happiness. If you can’t afford to buy souvenirs, then don’t! Teach your kids that the experience in itself is a gift, and you don’t need to get a “We came all the way to Thailand and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” shirt, to prove that you went there. Your memories, photos, and videos can be sufficient. Buy postcards, instead of the more bulky, pricey gifts.
- Maximizing every minute of every day. It’s okay not to see every landmark listed in the travel book when you visit a far away destination. You won’t be able to see all of it, so relax, and enjoy what you do see, and be reasonable with your planning or stay longer (do the slow travel). But, if you want to travel like a contestant on the “Amazing Race,” then go for it, I ain’t stopping you.
- Ethnocentrism. Yeah, I’m going academic on you here. Yes, things will be different from home, so use that as a teaching moment with your kids. Role modeling is essential, and teaching kids that there’s more than one way to do things, is priceless in our book. We witnessed a very large tourist family (both in number, and size) in Chiang Mai, stopping to ask us to direct them to the nearest Burger King,. Yeah! You read correctly. Burger King! My heart sank just then. It was very hard not to lash out with a multicultural lecture at that moment!
What about you? What are your essentials and non-essentials?
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