Travel is a huge part of my family’s life. As the senior founder of SpecialGlobe, an online travel site for families with special needs children, I often have my two children, ages 7 and 9, along when I explore new places in order to build itinerary guides. My children thrive on the road, loving every new place that we visit, and they are always excited to see, learn and experience whatever awaits them. Through our travels as a family, I have come up with some tips for families that might help when contemplating your next trip. I hope you enjoy! Perhaps we will see each other on the road!
- Start early. Getting your children used to cars, planes, and new situations and places early in their lives will make travel easier and much more enjoyable for the whole family in the future.
- Set realistic expectations. Travel is expensive and you want to get the most out of your trip, but be realistic and understand that kids (and parents) have limits. Have an itinerary to follow, but also plan some down time for the kids to swim in the pool and read a book. Travel is highly stimulating for all of us, so it’s nice to have a few hours in the day to recharge batteries.
- Involve them in the planning. Once you have your destination in mind, involve your kids in the planning process of what you might want to see and do. Show them pictures, read them books and articles and ask them to pick out the things they most want to see or do. This is a great way to ensure your children will remember the trip!
- Empower your children. Giving your children responsibility during your travels will allow them to feel empowered and included. And having a hands-on experience will help them remember the trip more vividly and more positively. Some ways you can empower your children are to ask them to help find your flight number and gate number on the airport screen or find your hotel room number, and to allow them to order their own food and drinks at restaurants and on planes. You can also give them the responsibility of packing, carrying and checking in their own bags. These tasks will give them the opportunity to strengthen their social and reasoning abilities as well as their math and reading skills, all while having the time of their lives!
- Step outside of your comfort zone. Travel with children can be daunting, and sometimes it’s just easier to stick with what you know. I highly encourage you and your family to try something new, perhaps something you thought out of your reach. There is a big world out there to explore with new cultures, new foods, new sights and sounds—and your children are sponges! As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” Traveling with your children will teach them that there is so much more to this beautiful world beyond their own backyard and will encourage them to be ambassadors of global peace and awareness as they move into adulthood.
What has worked for your family? Please share your own experience and tips by leaving a comment.