Summer vacation is an exciting, yet anxious time for many parents. Every year, parents want a break from taking care of getting up in the morning, preparing lunches, following timetables, driving the kids, checking homework and enforcing sleeping times. At the same time, they are scared of having to fill the huge amount of free time that school handles so brilliantly during most of the year.
I have 3 children and have those feelings every school break. In some of the places we lived around the world, our kids had many holidays besides the summer vacation, so the challenge was even greater. I count the days to the next break with my kids and mark it on our family calendar. As we get closer to it, I get a bit anxious, imagining them wasting time, watching TV or sticking their head in their computer for hours. Preparing and making plans for the summer vacation is the best way to get over this anxiety.
One of the greatest things to do with your kids during the summer vacation is take them on a trip. I have written a lot about traveling with kids. Gal and I traveled with our own children a lot and not only during the summer vacation, but throughout the years, even during school months.
We believe it is meaningful to do in every age (Tsoof was 2 years old when we traveled to China). It is good to have short and long travels (longer trips are better). Travel is good whether you are camping or staying at a fancy hotel. It is beneficial for your kids whether you travel in the same country or overseas, in the company of others or just with your family.
Travel is memorable whether you are wealthy or poor. When I was a kid, we were very poor and I remember my parents taking us on a trip once a year, during the summer vacation. It was very meaningful for me and I still remember each of those holidays 40 years later.
During travel, we, as parents, learn about ourselves, our children and the world around us. Our kids do the same. They learn to connect with their family and the people they meet on the road. They appreciate us and their life and stop taking things for granted. They experience us in a different setting and the most important thing is that we bond together, which makes traveling with kids priceless.
Traveling with kids has many advantages and when you do it while the kids are on summer vacation, you can make sure they will reduce their screen time. If you use some of the vacation to prepare for the travel, pack, plan and learn about the places you want to visit, you can add even more valuable time into the vacation.
Some parents are afraid of traveling with their kids and it is important to understand that what you think about traveling will manifest into your reality. Buddha said, “He is able who believes he is able”, so aligning our own beliefs about traveling with kids to make the traveling happen and with joy is important.
Over the years, I collected some positive beliefs about traveling and some useful traveling tips that helped make my travels with my kids enjoyable for everyone. I would like to share with you some them and I hope you will find some encouragement to travel with your children.
Tips for Traveling with Kids
- Any length of traveling is better than not traveling at all. Make your trips 3 days or longer. Why? Because it takes a while to “get into the groove” of traveling. Many parents are still thinking about work and their to-do list, and only start letting go on the third day. Anything less than 3 days is not a real vacation, but more like some time off. It is still better than nothing, but if you can, make the effort to spend at least 3 nights away from home.
- It is possible to travel with kids at every age. Tsoof was 4 months old when we moved to Thailand and by the time he was 2 years old, we had traveled with him for over 6 months. He was a baby, with diapers, special food, water bottles and sleeping in a different place every night. Kids are more flexible than we think they are. In a way, a breastfeeding baby is even easier to travel with (no need to worry about food). I believe that the brain remembers everything, even if we do not realize it. Babies remember the joy of traveling and this seed grows in their mind into great appreciation for the world around them. If you stop every 1½ to 2 hours, let the kids play at a stop over, they will travel for hours and have a great time.
- Make sure you traveling is not just change of bed and shower. We value every second of our travel and we want to experience lots, so we make sure we do things more than just sleep late, have bath, eat in restaurants and go swimming. Plan a trip somewhere, hiking, sightseeing, adventure activities, museums, art, music… Make sure the kids don’t consider traveling as accommodation somewhere else.
- Accommodation is a big part of every travel budget. When you look for accommodation, find cheap hotels so you can use the money otherwise spent on accommodation to do other interesting things. We just look for reasonable places, because typically, we get up in the morning, have (our own) breakfast and return at night for a shower and sleep. Whenever we stayed at fancy hotels, we felt the fanciness was wasted, because we prefer to do things, not just sit by the swimming pool. Good, cheap accommodation can help you afford to travel for longer.
- Always leave spare time during trips for doing nothing, for catching up and for rest. It is hard to be active every day and when you have some spare time, you can fit in unplanned things you discover along the way. On our last trip, we allocated some extra time so that we could change the last part of the plan and add new things we did not know about until we got into the towns where we stayed. Spare time gives you flexibility and helps keep things calm.
- Don’t take half of your home contents with you when traveling. It creates a burden. Teach your kids the art of minimalism during travel. No need to take clothes for every occasion, for every possible weather and to suit every scenery. Nowadays, there is a washing machine at every place you stay and you can schedule washing the clothes. When camping, take only what is necessary and make sure to have a list that you can perfect over time with what you take with you. Take things in smaller containers, bags and bottles to save space. No need to take body lotion, face lotion and hand lotion. One is enough! I give my kids a small bag and tell them that they have to fit everything inside it and they do, and they get better at it every time.
- Take some homework with you while you travel so that your kids do not forget all the things they have learned during the year. Summer vacation is a real problem for all kids, because they lose practice and forget. If you have a booklet with activities for their age level in math and English, and they do a page or two every day, they will not forget. Every year, at the beginning of every year the teacher spends the first month evaluating and testing what the kids remember. During the summer vacation, while traveling, your kids will be busy, so boost their memory and at the beginning of the year, they will start with an advantage!
- Take games with you. Make sure you have games for the time in the car, for stops and to play at places where you spend the night. Games are a great way to keep the kids busy. Here is a road trip game we like to play. Make sure to have enough games to keep things interesting. I have Sudoku, trivia and cards with me at all times. In emergencies when we we’re all exhausted and not in the mood to entertain the kids, we have some games on their smart phone.
- Take reading books for everyone in the family. Be a role model and take a book too! Spend time reading books and make it a fun thing to do. Reading keeps the kids busy, entertained and it is a learning experience. When we are traveling and reading at the same time, the book and the travel will be combined in our memory.
- It is OK for the kids to have some screen time during travel. If your timetable is full and they spend some time in the evening in front of their screen, it is not the end of the world, so schedule for it and keep everyone happy. In many places, you can get a babysitting service for young kids, so when you need to squeeze in some laundry time or shopping, they can watch TV or play on their computer while someone watches over them.
Again, traveling with kids is very important and can be stored as a good memory for years to come. It is a great way to keep the kids busy, entertained and create a deep educational experience and bonding time for the whole family.
Enjoy traveling with your kids!