If you ask for parental opinions on traveling with children, stand back and prepare yourself for responses of the very strong and greatly varied nature. While my wife and I were all for packing up the whole gang and hitting the road, or sky, or sea, we completely understood how daunting the thought of it all could be.
A simple Google search will yield ample articles and research-based studies, singing the praises of traveling with one’s young. Seeing the world, or even other parts of a home state, give opportunities for families to bond, as well as experiences children can learn and grow from. What the articles and research state are rarely opposed by parents, because as most know travel is, in its purest form, a wonderful thing. Parents aren’t put off by giving their kids experiences, but rather by the paying for, planning, and pulling off of the experiences. Whether approaching travel when our kids were babies, or now as we travel with our kids and their babies, three things have been and still remain non-negotiables for consideration.
First, parents have to count the cost. Keeping up with the Joneses has always been a thing. However, in this age of social media, it’s an extremely amplified thing. Constant bombardment via Facebook posts and Instagram pics of seemingly perfect vacations with perfect families enjoying them can be dishearteningly overwhelming to most of us in the parental population. No matter how staged we have come to understand many images in our society to be, the sting of not being able to give our kids extravagant trips can get to us. However, very early on, my wife and I learned that it’s not always about where a family travels, it’s about the family just simply traveling . . . together. In 30 years of parenting, we have taken everything from “eating sandwiches out of the back of the minivan on the way to the campsite” to “flying across the country and staying at hotels with cool indoor pool” trips. Not even getting much time in this blog, are the “staycations” we have enjoyed, and we truly did enjoy them. Don’t feel the need to overspend or go in debt to give your kids travel memories. If you are stressed about the finances, chances are no one will have a great time. Definitely make travel experiences a goal, but also make sure you do your homework in selecting the right kind of trip for both your family and your family’s financial seasons.
Planning: The second thing we always have considered when planning family travel is thorough planning. When I say “planning,” I don’t mean strict, regimenting schedules where the parents have to play the roles of “wagon masters.” If you have had kids for more than a minute, you know flexibility is something you have to leave room for. But, doing your trip homework paves the way for smoother travel times. Don’t roll your eyes at travel guides, especially those created with kids in mind. Of course, the internet is ripe with all sorts of resources, and your local bookstore or library is, as well. We leverage websites and travel blogs, but we also enjoy getting our hands on a good old paper version of a Birnbaum guide. As your planning, don’t forget to include your kids in the process, you might be surprised how the excitement and bonding can begin long before your trip does. In fact, there have been so many times our kids have told us, “planning the trip and anticipating its arrival was as fun as the trip itself.”
Execution: Finally, when it comes to pulling the whole thing off, well, if you’ve figured out to pay for it, and you’ve thoroughly planned for it, execution should be the fun part. If you’re not worrying about the money, or having arguments in the car about where to go next because you’ve got a solid plan, you have eliminated a majority of the typical trip stressors. So, limit your phone usage, which goes for parents, as well as kids, and purpose to be 100% in the moments you have so eagerly anticipated . . . together.
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org