10 Things I've Learned from 6 Months of Traveling with My Kids
Tomorrow marks six months that I've been traveling full time in a travel trailer with my husband and two kids. We've spent thousands of hours together and seen countless tourist attractions, both mundane and famous. I've learned a few things about kids and travel -- or at least how my kids travel -- along the way.
1. A good park is just as fun for kids as any place that requires an admission fee.
My kids have been to Disney World, MagicQuest, Ripley's Believe It or Not, and numerous other big money attractions. They've had a blast. But they have had just as much fun climbing on big rocks in Central Park or climbing trees in New Orleans' City Park. The beauty of a park is that it's open to anyone, regardless of your current financial situation, and there's no pressure to stay for hours to get your money's worth of entertainment. My husband and I have already decided that the next place we live absolutely must have a great public park system.
2. Children do see differences like race, they just don't assume the differences are bad.
My 6-year old can't tell the difference between a person of Korean or Chinese descent, or even the difference between Pakistani and Spanish Americans, but she does see variations in skin color. She asks me all kinds of questions about these differences, including why they exist and what happens if people with different skin colors have babies together. What I've learned through my daughter meeting so many people over the last six months is that she is not necessarily "color blind", but she's also not afraid of learning or talking about differences because she doesn't assume they are bad. Travel has inspired so many great conversations in our family, conversations that I'm grateful to be a part of.
3. Museums aren't boring. Even to kids.
My kids have been to dozens of museums in the last six months, some admittedly more interesting than others. I've been amazed to see their curiosity peeked by everything from Asian art to Native American artifacts. Museums get a bum rap for being pretentious and boring and I find many families steer clear of conventional museums. Talk to your kids about museum rules and you may find your kids are great museum companions.
4. Kids can fit in just about anywhere, even without primary colors or cartoon characters.
So often I notice parents skew their travel itineraries towards "family-friendly" activities. While I don't take my kids out to explore a city's nightlife, I have found that we all grow tired of watered-down attractions geared towards young travelers. My two kids had a great time strolling through the art studios in Savannah's City Market and shopping in New York City's Chinatown.
5. The chances of your kids eating sushi, spicy foods, vegetables, or anything besides a chicken nugget are just as good as the chances of you eating sushi, spicy foods, vegetables, or anything besides a burger.
It's easy to assume that children aren't adventurous eaters, but I've found our children's palettes have expanded with our own. The more we expose them to, the more they enjoy experimenting with new cuisines. Granted, I'm pretty sure my kids love of Indian food has more to do with being allowed to eat it with their hands than an appreciation for spices.
6. Kids are constantly learning, even when they aren't in a classroom or a school building.
While we travel our kids are enrolled in a virtual school program. They have daily assignments and a yearly curriculum to complete, but I was worried that they'd be missing out by not being in a classroom environment. I've since realized that kids pick up lessons constantly (even when we wish they weren't paying attention.) It's so fun to watch my kids learn about the world around them by being out in it, instead of just reading about it in text books.
7. My kids would rather spend time with me than just about anyone else.
My oldest son is almost 12, right about the age when I'd assume he'd be more interested in other kids than his parents. The reality is that both of my kids seem to love spending time with me and my husband. Yes, the six year old is much more impressed by with me and more likely to believe whatever I say, but even my preteen still enjoys my company. I'm not sure how long this will last, but I mean to take advantage of it for as long as possible.
8. You're never too old for a nap.
I like to say that we limit our daily events for the kids' sake, but the reality is that a full day of sightseeing tires me out faster than it does the kids. Exhaustion sucks, so we make an extra effort to avoid it by keeping our schedules fairly light. That might mean we don't get to see every single awesome thing there is to see in this country, but we spend our days together happier.
9. Spending time outside puts everyone in a better mood, regardless of age.
Whether it's a park or a walk through a crowded city, we all get a mood boost from fresh air. It's so easy as an adult to get caught up in work and housekeeping and go an entire day (or several) without stepping foot outside. I even find myself holing up in the RV occasionally! But my mom was right; fresh air is good for you.
10. Everyone needs time to do nothing productive.
People tell me constantly what a great opportunity traveling for a year is for my kids, how fun and exciting it must be for them. It is. But we all need regular doses of downtime. No excitement. No fun. No new adventures or stimulation. My six year old is the first to speak up when she needs a day to "just stay home in my jammies!"
What has family travel taught you?
- Michelle Tells All: Her First Date with Jim Bob
- The Few Things I Know for Sure about Parenting
- 5 Fall Pinterest Tips to Inspire You
- 5 Lessons of Success I Learned by Chasing My Dream
- Measles Mounts a Comeback -- Are Your Kids at Risk?