By Sara Swofford
Overscheduling is the norm for today’s family. Work, school, sports, family events and extracurricular activities have many working at a deficit with their time and energy. Frankly, many families don’t spend enough time together. Going away for a long weekend or, even better, a solid week or more, brings families closer and gives kids a perspective that extends beyond their hometown. Experiencing different cultures, trying new foods and seeing images from the Internet come alive are all reasons to travel with your kids. Not only is it a great way to learn together, but exploring the world beyond your front door is the perfect bonding experience. Family vacations are quality time spent together away from the normal routines of daily life.
Packing for the first time tends to cause kids to think they are moving, not going away for a short period of time. They often cram everything possible into a piece of luggage without much thought. A good starting point is to have your children lay out what they want to bring. If you will be traveling by plane, let them know luggage space is limited. If you’re driving, let them bring along a couple of extra items they want to have. Look over everything with them and explain why some things should go and others should stay at home. After a few trips, they’ll know the difference between necessities and luxuries.
Some trips go better than planned and go without a hitch while others are accompanied by logistical nightmares, language challenges and reservation snafus. When one of these unwanted occurrences happens, flexibility is the key to overcoming it. Approach it as a real-life teachable moment for your kids. This is a time when a family relies on each other, learns how to solve a problem and adjusts expectations. Some of the best memories are made from “disasters” and flying by the seat of your pants – you can laugh about it later!
Bringing along the kids will require an adjustment to how much ground you can cover in a day. However, not rushing around, cramming everything into a short time frame will actually enable everyone to see more. Kids notice things adults often overlook; join them in a moderate pace and enjoy the small moments along the way. You will appreciate their perspective and they will appreciate your undivided attention.
Add equal parts fun
There should be a balance between what the kids will enjoy and what the parents want to do; everyone needs to have fun during vacation. Have a conversation with your children about the importance of accommodating each other. Explain a vacation can’t be one-sided in either direction and that the goal is for everyone to have a blast on the trip. It’s never too early to learn the art of compromise, so involve the entire family in as much planning as you can.
Any map is a good map
Whether it’s a far-flung trip across the world or a simple excursion across town, kids build upon their base of knowledge with every new experience. If you have the opportunity to travel to another country, kids encounter different time zones, gain a better understanding of other languages and world geography and have the opportunity to try all sorts of new foods and activities. Going local, you can visit ethnically different areas, stores and restaurants within your city or across your state and finally see the tourist spots right in your own backyard. It doesn’t matter how far you go, it is important to get your kids out there in the world and share in that learning experience together.
Reap the benefits
Every experience builds upon the next one; your kids will be making connections to the world every place you go. Kids gain an enormous amount of knowledge within the walls of their school, however, there is a big world out there waiting to be explored. There is a true value to hearing different languages, smelling exotic markets and interacting with people from a different country, but also with learning more about your
home state and what makes your part of the globe tick. As long as you’re discovering together, your family ties will grow stronger and become the foundation for the adults your kids will become.