You’re almost there. After months of planning, reading books, checking websites, chatting with friends and dreaming about your vacation, the day has come. You’ve made it through security, juggling all the baby-gear (or maybe your kids are older, and security has been a relative breeze). You’re about to land. Now what?
While we’ve had our share of travel disasters, family melt-downs, and other less-than-wonderful transit experiences, here are a few things we’ve learned about making the most of these precious days.
Surprise Your Kids
Put aside your “at-home” expectations, behaviors and habits. Eat like the locals and try foods you’d never eat at home. Dust off your language skills and stun your children with your ability to speak to the locals (this is a great one!). Not only will your kids try new food when they see you trying it, but they will also try a new language just to keep up.
Model healthy behavior by taking a nap mid-day or reading a book on the beach. Take some time just to play with your kids in a park or to sit in a cafe and chat with them. So often, our children just see us in busy-life mode. Snap into vacation mode. It will be good for them and for you. Surprise and inspire your kids!
Let Your Kids Boss You Around
No, don’t become a spineless parent, but give your kids a meaningful role in both planning and executing the vacation. Especially if they are tweens or teens, let them choose where to go, what to do, and when to do it. Older children are more than capable of researching a destination, gathering information and coming up with great game plans. Let them. They’ll be much happier if they have a say in at least some of the decisions.
Try to balance their desires with yours. If you’ve always wanted to visit the Vatican and they are balking, too bad for them. But let them choose the next day’s activities. Each member of the family has different interests and pursuits. Blend each person’s interests into a least some part of the holiday.
Of course, have fun. Travel is nothing if not fun. But there are so many ways in which it can be no fun. Don’t over plan, don’t wear yourselves out and make sure to build in some downtime to simply enjoy one another’s company away from the stresses of home, school and work.
Think about your goals. Why did you want to take this trip with your family? Keep your eye on the goal, but don’t obsess. Stay flexible and a bit spontaneous and if you’re lucky, someday you’ll hear these words from your children: “That was cool. I want to do it again when I’m older, with my kids.”
For More Information….
Between travel books, websites and agents, there is a wealth of information out there on international travel. Do your research. Don’t hesitate to enlist a travel agent if you have an odd number in your party (for example, my boys and I traveled as a party of three in Bavaria for a week. Our travel agent found great hotel rooms for us with three beds. We couldn’t find a thing online.)
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been writing about what my family has learned from traveling together, especially traveling internationally. We’ve traveled alot, but there are many other families out there who have traveled much more. If you are one of these families, please share your tips!
If you haven’t traveled so much, but have friends who travel alot, pick their brains and get their opinions. Everyone has travel secrets and success stories. Hopefully, we also have all learned from our mistakes.
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