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Traveling with Kids: Raising an Intrepid Traveler

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Uttering the “b word” in our house is strictly forbidden. This extends to my children’s friends and more than once I’ve heard them hush another child and remind them that the “b word” is a bad word in our house. Bored? Boring? I don’t want to hear it. The subtext behind those words is “entertain me” and that attitude is the death knell for the traveling life. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way in traveling with kids and raising an intrepid traveler.

Be Bold and Start Early

Don’t let your child’s age limit you. Younger children require more planning in some ways, but gain great confidence from getting out in the world early. Babies can be amazingly easy, toddlers not so much, but you’ll be rewarded once your children hit their preteen years. They’ll become relatively self sufficient and helpful travel pals.

Set Realistic, Kid-Friendly Goals

Decide on a few key sites, the rest is gravy. Don’t expect the kids to enjoy seeing more than a couple of major sites a day. They’ll end up tired, grumpy and overwhelmed, and you’ll be that parent carrying the screaming child through Disney World.

Don’t Be a Pack Mule

Divide the stuff and conquer. Let children carry as much of their gear as possible. Roller bags make this possible, with a backpack to carry their books and other activities. It’s important for kids to get a sense of how to pack and how it will affect them if they overpack.

Involve the Kids in Planning and Execution

Ask children to research your destination on the internet; visit the library and pick up some kid friendly travel books. Find a novel that takes place in the area you’ll be visiting and read it together before you go. Encourage your children to pitch in and help on the road. If they have a question about their travels, direct them to the gate agent, flight attendant or hotel clerk and coach them on how to ask the question. This is a confidence builder. (Get more tips on Engaging Your Child in Travel Planning.)

Set Meaningful Travel Goals

The engineer in me likes list making and my children seem to have adopted this too. We have set some travel goals for ourselves and we’re all excited when we’re able to check destinations off our list. Our first travel goal was to visit all 50 states before my kids go off to college. Just 18 more to go and 5 years in which to get there. I think we’ll make it.

We also plan to visit every country from which our recent ancestors came from, although we probably won’t be able to do this before they go to college. These are more countries than you might think, and include Canada, China, England, Ireland, Russia, Trinidad and Venezuela.

There’s a tremendous of joy in traveling with a child who enjoys the process as well as the destination. I’m looking forward to many more years of traveling with my best travel buddies!

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Andrea is a single mom in Arlington, Virginia with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Her children took their first trips when they were just four…

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