Exploring the world with children in tow is an education for the whole family. We asked travel bloggers what they learned about preparing their kids and themselves for the demands – and frequent surprises – of life on the road.
HEATHER GREENWOOD DAVIS
Heather Greenwood Davis is a freelance travel writer and blogger at GlobetrottingMama.com. She, her husband Ish and their sons Ethan, 11 and Cameron, 9 spent a year travelling around the world. They hit 29 countries on six continents and were named National Geographic Traveler magazine “Travelers of the Year.”What surprised you most during your travels?
What surprises me the most about travelling with my sons is the number of times they’ve forced me to question my own biases and assumptions. They bring a fresh perspective to everything we see and do and are a constant reminder of assumptions we adults make all the time. Where I might see poverty, they see happy kids who are “free” to run around without shoes. Where I saw the chaos of cows roaming free or camels intersecting with traffic, they saw nothing but wonders.
What is your top tip?
Get kids travelling as early as possible. We went from car trips to see grandma to all-inclusives to Machu Picchu to a year around the world, all before they were 10. All that travel means that now my two can get through security checks faster than many adults and are more likely to ask you to stop jabbing their headrest than to be the one kicking your seat.
What do you never leave home without?
Ground rules. We have long talks before each trip about what the trip is about and why we’re doing it. We talk about what electronic gadgets can come and when and how they can be accessed. We all know what the rules are before leaving and what the penalties will be if rules are broken. Also, with two pre-teen boys I never get on an airplane without something they can eat in my purse.
What do you wish you’d known before your first big trip as a family?
Newsflash: The trip doesn’t have to be perfect. Some days it rains; sometimes parks are closed when they should be open. Learning to not build up anticipation of any one activity has allowed us to better roll with the punches and to create some really great memories. The days when things didn’t go as planned are the ones that we still talk about now that we’re home and, yes, eventually we laugh about them.
How do you justify taking your kids out of school?
Parents have a responsibility to provide the best education they can for their kids. Some of that will happen at school; some of it won’t. While we’ve hit educational spots (guided tours at the pyramids or crawling through the Cu-chi tunnels in Vietnam for example) they’ve also gained an “education” in how it feels to be an outsider and what life is like for people who don’t take food and water for granted.
What’s your favourite destination for kids?
The Galapagos Islands. Seeing whales, sea lions, tortoises and more in the wild without any fear of humans, and in that gorgeous protected setting, gave the kids and us parents an incredible understanding of what’s at stake environmentally if we continue to abuse the planet.
Graeme McRanor is a Vancouver-based writer and producer. He’s currently exploring Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with girlfriend Suzy and his five-year-old son, London. Check out his work at GraemeMcRanor.com.
What surprised you most during your travels?
His adaptability. On our first overseas trip we landed in New Delhi soon after his fourth birthday. It was a rigorous journey that, in the initial leg, included 20 hours flying and weary hours hours on trains and monsoon-ravaged roads. He engaged in the moment and asked questions that showed concern for the people, particularly kids on the street. As a blond blue-eyed kid, he was much photographed by locals, ending such encounters with a courteous-but-crisp, “No more pictures.”
What is your top tip for parents?
Lose the Disneyland mentality. Just because you’re packing kids doesn’t mean your trip can’t pack an adventurous punch. Riding a camel across a desert within sight of the India-Pakistan border can be just as safe and perhaps more rewarding (for everybody) than waiting in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. Cheaper, too.