Tuesday, December 21, 2010
10 Great Tips for Traveling with a Litter of Kids
As David Boesch and his wife Jill packed up their three children (ages 13, 10 and 7) into the family minivan and set off for a one year trip around the world, they pulled out of their driveway enjoying a gorgeous Arizona sunset – which was ruined by the kids who were already squabbling about which DVD they were going to watch.
While we may not be heading around the world, we might be taking off for Yellowstone. And, as the thousands of us RVers are planning our trips next season, more than a few of us are already dreading the thought of having to deal with bored, bickering children.
The Boesch's trip took them from the bustling streets of Bangkok to the dirt roads of Patagonia – and to 17 countries on six continents – and they picked up a few parenting tricks to foster family harmony along the way. Below is a list of the globe-trotting family's 10 best tips to make family travel a great experience for everyone, and may bring some sanity to your travels, wherever they may take you:
1. Let the kids help plan the trip. Let them pick the destination for a day or plan the day's sightseeing. This way they will be doing what interests them. It probably won't be the art museum or the theater, but it will balance the cultural activities you have chosen with what they want to do.
2. Manage expectations. If you tell your kids that a car ride is going to take four hours and it takes four and half hours they will be angry because you are late. If you tell them it is going to take six hours and it takes four and a half they will be "stoked" that you are early. High expectations beget disappointment so even if you are going to a great spot, don't make the mistake of talking it up too much.
3. Make a spontaneous rule that could break up the road trip at any moment. For the Boesch family, they would stop at every go-kart track. This was a great way to break up a boring drive. It doesn't have to be go-karts, it can be driving range, batting cages or whatever your family is into but it helps to have something for the kids to look for that result in a spontaneous stop.
4. Develop a tradition around food. For the Boesch family, this was a "pizza contest." One of their goals during their year of travel was to find the world's greatest pizza and so in each new town they asked the locals where to find "the best pizza in town." They began a list of their favorites, and during their year of travel they ate a lot of pizza. (This also saved money because it is cheaper for a family to order pizza to share than for each person to get their own entrée.)
5. Use "Dollar snacks" to save money and limit empty calories.The Boesch's allowed their kids one snack per day as long as it cost under a dollar and had less than 300 calories. If one of them didn't want a snack, they would give that child the dollar to save or to spend on some other non-food item.
6. Turn museums into treasure hunts. Whenever the Boesch's visited a museum, they would start in the gift shop and would each buy a post card regarding a famous exhibit. Then, they would read about it in one of the museum books and then search for it. Once they found the exhibit, whoever had the post card would give a brief presentation. No two objects could be in the same section of the museum, which guaranteed they would walk by a lot of different stuff.
7. Use electronics to your advantage. Automobile DVD players and other portable electronics can be a godsend on a long road trip-keeping the kids distracted and avoiding boredom. But some technology can be destructive to a family (I am thinking here about my teen daughter who is texting her BFF instead of looking up at the Statue of Liberty) or the father who turns on the television and plops down on the bed as soon as he checks into the motel. Cell phones get left behind (sometimes they are left under the rear tire of the RV), chargers get lost there are plenty of places to stay without TVs. It is okay to be duplicitous. Not having these distractions forces your family to interact more (and isn't that the point of travel anyway?)
8. Know thyself. Pay attention to the body language of your kids: Throughout their year of travel, the Boesch's were constantly tinkering with the pace of their trip. If their children were bored they did activities to tire them out; if they were tired, they slowed down to let them rest. There is no requirement that says you have to see every single monument in Washington D.C. in order for the trip to be a success. Overachieving parents please note: IT IS OKAY TO LEAVE SOME FAMOUS SIGHTS FOR THE NEXT TIME.
9. Don't be afraid to split up for a couple days. For the Boesch family, many times during their trip the boys went one way and the girls another a few days apart was often good for family karma and it allowed both groups to do what they want.
10. Don't leave home without a tour book. Throughout their travels the Boesch's have bought dozens of tour books and they have all paid for themselves many times over in saving money and hassles. The Internet is good, but it is no substitute for a book that you can carry in the car and pass around to members of the family to discuss restaurants and accommodations.
Pins on a Map A Family's Yearlong Journey Around the World", which chronicles the families trip around the world and is filled with unforgettable moments, surprising discoveries and a priceless education for their children. Starting with the family's careful preparations, the book follows their visits to nearly every continent on earth, from the first three memorable months spent in a travel trailer discovering hidden treasures across the US, to their sojourn through Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and South America.