Monday, June 14, 2010

Terrific Travel Tips

"Good company in a journey makes the way to seem the shorter." Izaak Walton

Yes, I promised travel tips last week, but then again I wanted to share with you just a little about our daughter’s wedding. Now we are back on track, and I know for most of you summer is already in full swing, so let’s talk travel. As you consider a summer family vacation here are several important tips to make it a great family time together.

Pre-prep for Success: Vacation Preparation is everything! For a memorable trip, begin preparing the kids beforehand for what they can expect or which family members they may be meeting. Together, you can look up on line some of the possible activities to do while you are at your destination. Talk about the importance of being flexible as weather or other circumstances may change even your most perfectly laid out plans. Buy tickets on line to save you the hassle and time once you get there. Check out comments from other families and make sure you are planning age-appropriate activities. Recently I was at the Tulsa zoo and saw a mom, dad and grandma all pulling their little bitty toddler along in a red wagon. It was obvious that the young thing had no interest at all in the animals, despite the fact that the family kept pointing and saying , “Look at the animals.” He was just too young, and definitely too hot and tired to enjoy the experience, which leads me to my next point.

Schedule for Enjoyment: You know your kids and you know what they can typically handle. Please don’t overload your little ones by trying to fit way too many activities in a day. They are already going to be on over-stimulated by the new environment, so don’t overwhelm them with too much to do. A good schedule for younger kids usually includes getting up and getting out early, a time to eat lunch and rest (or nap) then another late afternoon activity and dinner. For older kids, you may want to let them sleep a little longer and enjoy a mid morning brunch, then a full day of afternoon activities and sight-seeing. Plan out your days as much as possible ahead of time making your schedule work for your family’s needs, but always remain flexible. Teaching your kids to be flexible and adjust to new situations is a quality they need to learn for life, and they learn it as they watch your example on vacations. Schedules should not rule your vacation, they are simply a guideline to help you work through your day.

Throw out Complaining: Make one clear rule before the trip even starts, “No whining or Complaining allowed.” Now mom, you set the tone by guarding your own mouth, but also have a talk with the kids telling them how whining and complaining can be quite draining not only to the rest of the family but to the whiner himself. The energy used for complaining can always be better used toward choosing to enjoy an activity or work through a difficulty. We are happier people when we stop whining, and change our focus to something good about the situation. On one trip I had my daughters memorize the apostle Paul’s words in Philippians, “I have learned to be content no matter what the circumstances.”

Give Goodies: A goody bag became a fun and expected item on Ladd family trips. I took great joy in putting together a fun little tote bag of games and snacks to keep the girls occupied while we traveled in the car or by plane. They even served to be helpful as we waited at restaurants. A quick trip to Walmart or the Dollar store will help you fill a bag with healthy snacks, water, markers, note pads, small books, pocket sized games, chewing gum, activity books, little toys, magazines, you name it! I built the anticipation by waiting until we got in the car or boarded the plane to give the kids their bags. They loved it, and it sure made travel much more enjoyable.

Bring books: You are never bored when you have books. My mom used to read to us on long car rides and it made the time go by so much faster for both her and us kids. I suggest you go to Half Price book store and pick out a few books that will suit your family. You may even want to bring a fiction book to read as a family on the trip such as Chronicles of Narnia. Books on CD offer another good idea for car or headphones. Yes, I would bring a few DVD’s along on the trip, but don’t neglect the value of inspiring your kids to read.

Writing on Return: Coming home from a trip can sometimes be a bit of a downer, but you can make it fun by taking time to reflect on the trip. I used to take a blank journal on each trip, and we put pictures in it and wrote reflections in the journal on the way home. Our favorite memories about the trip as well as funny things that happened along the way made good entries into the journal. We also added tickets stubs and brochures. You can even write a family poem about the trip allowing everyone to share in the creative process. Ask everyone to make a drawing or sketch of their favorite part of the trip. Years later it is a joy to pull out a journal and reflect on a memory.

Hopefully some of these travel tips will assist you in experiencing wonderful and memorable family vacations. For the next few weeks I will be sharing Theme Ideas to use week by week to make your summer a blast!!! Also, you may want to visit my other blog to read about “Flowers that Fade, but the Word of God Stands Forever.”