You can set yourself up for an amazing travel experience abroad with your family. (Part 1 of 5)
You have kids. You want to travel. But somewhere between reality and desire you encounter resistance. Fear. Confusion. A sense of overwhelm.
It all just seems too much.
What we're really talking about
I’m not talking about a trip to visit the grandparents. I’m talking about a major trip – especially out-of-country – with kids in tow.
Stop there! Kids are not “in tow.” Unless they’re under 3, and then I’ll give you that leeway. But any over 3 are not “in tow.” If you have that mindset, then it’s gonna be tough.
Rather, from preschool age onward, you can find ways to make the kids a vital part of the planning, preparation, going and follow-up experience.
This is what this article – and the four following in this series – is meant to help you do.
Let’s break this process down into five parts:
- Re-enter & Reflect
- Follow up
Okay. Let's start with planning.
Start with a good plan
The first step in planning is to figure out basic interests and resources.
- Where do you want to go? (And why?)
- What would be your ideal trip if you went there?
- What do you want to do? And why?
- What memories would you like to make?
- LENGTH OF TRIP: How much time do you have for the trip?
- MONEY: How much money can you afford for a trip like this (budget)?
- RESOURCES at HAND: How can you prepare? What resources do you have?
- TIMELINE: What is your timeline for preparing?
Now, I’m not suggesting you just throw those questions out to your kids. First, you and your spouse (or partner) need to make time to discuss these questions. Are we talking one week, two, three or more? What place(s) are you considering? Are you in sync with your spouse (partner)?
I suggest you take a brief but valuable journey through each of the above questions with your spouse (partner) before broaching the idea with the kids. Work through these question so, like a good “team leader,” you go into the discussion with your kids with some clear ideas and potential outcomes in mind – still retaining flexibility in the process.
Approaching the kids
Now, only you know the ages and maturity levels of your kids. So what I write here will serve as principles, not rigid rules, on how you should involve your kids in the process.
But one element is key.
If they are 3 or older, involve them in some way. Empower them. Help them to become the co-architects of the journey they’ll be on. If you do, this will take the trip to much higher level of satisfaction for all.
Make sure you have a map in your house – or a map available you can open and spread out on a table – for the kids to look at when you’re having your first discussion. I’m talking about an off-line world map, not something on a tablet, laptop or desktop. Dealing with place in hard copy will add a sense of reality to the discussion.
After you’ve asked them where they want to go, share where you would like to go – and why. Presuming you have done a bit of research beforehand, share with them some of what you’ve learned – what excites you, whom you could visit, etc.
On this last point, if you are visiting someone, the kids will especially love it if it is someone they know. So, for example, if you’ve had family friends who have moved to Spain and that is the place you choose, the possibility of visiting “friends in Spain” will likely raise their interest level and point them in the direction you’re hoping for.
Research – Phase I
Once you’ve settled on a place (or places), now encourage them to do some research. If you have multiple children, ask them to work together or pair them up – older with younger – to do research and report back. If some of the kids are older, encourage them to get pricing and other valuable information. Schedule another date to talk.
At that next meeting, let each kid share a few places they’d like to go. Keep notes. Affirm their ideas along the way, but always let the group know you will not be able to do everything on the list. Eventually, as plans come together – and if family dynamics are good for this – you can vote on the places/activities and decide that way.
There is much I could write here, but these three main points I would like to stress:
1 | Get a leg up on jet lag: If you are making a significant (six hours or more) jump in time zones, do your best to arrive in your destination in the late afternoon or evening. (And, if possible, leave in the morning hours.) If you can arrange your travel this way, especially on the way out, your body will adjust faster and jet lag will be less of an issue.
2 | Start shopping early, if possible. Although I’ve read many articles by people who travel hack to get around the world, this may be a much harder thing to do for a family, especially if you’re new to it. That’s why I advice to start your explorations early (6 months in advance) and comparison shop as much as possible.
3 | Buy the trip-cancellation insurance, especially if you’re traveling as a family. Just do it. With so many variables involved, make sure you’re protected. And insure your trip. Here is a good option, promoted by an amazing traveler and generous guy, Nomadic Matt.
How to involve the kids in budgeting
On budgeting, this is primarily an adult task, but it is possible to “mirror” it for younger kids by helping them understand the process. For example, use something to help them understand allocation – stuffed animals, crackers, or something like that. Show them how much they have and what will be needed to take a trip. I'll expand on this idea more later and link back when I do.
For the older kids, use real numbers and ask them to help you make decisions when you get to the point of searching for flights, transportation and lodging, etc. Again, bring them into the process at a level they can understand.
The point here is this: the more invested your kids are in the trip from the get-go, the more likely they will be to work towards its success and not feel “as if they’re just being dragged around by mom and dad.”
Onward, to PREPARATIONS!
Let us know below any relevant ideas you've found helpful, please!