Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Traveling With Little Tykes...Take 2

Tate napping on the fly at Yosemite Nat'l Park, June 2008
Where should you go?
Well, that’s easy? Where do you want to go?
To help decide this, it’s important to ask some questions to really know what location and type of trip you’re looking for. Before I share the questions we ask, I’m going to explain about the three types of trips.
  • Kid Centered Trip
    * This is a trip that is centered on what the kids want to do. This type of vacation is a lot of fun! Kid’s need and wants are more easily met, and your children will cherish the memories for a lifetime. When I think of a Kid Centered trip I think of Disneyland, or something similar. That said, I know of several people who go to Disneyland for an adult trip, and there is nothing wrong with either one.
    * One of the main advantages to a kid centered trip is that the kids are nearly always entertained!
    * Kid Centered Trips are usually based around some type of event or a special thing. It could be a soccer camp, water park, theme park, baseball tournament, etc.
    * The disadvantage to a KCT is that usually it’s more expensive during peak times, and there are usually long waits to get to where you want to go during the peak season. You must plan ahead in order to get the best deals, and budget in a little extra money for souvenirs, food, and lodging.
  • Family Centered Trip
    * This trip is centered on the needs/desires of the entire family. This type of vacation is also a lot of fun! It takes a bit more work to find a location that everyone will enjoy, and make a schedule where everyone will succeed, but it is well worth the effort.
    * When I think of a FCT, I think of a more educational type of vacation, such as a trip to Yosemite. FCTs are usually centered on a place with a lot of opportunities to do different activities together as a family.
    * FCTs usually require more planning for things to do-you can’t just show up and go as you can with Disneyland. Hikes, day trips, and such must be planned, as well as down time activities, such as card games, swimming time, etc.
    * Kids must also be prepared for this kind of trip. I always talk up where we’re going and what we’re doing so that Tate (eventually Theo, too) will be successful.
    * Family centered trips require a give and take. As a parent, you may not necessarily get to go on the 12 mile hike to the top of an amazing waterfall because your kids can’t handle it. On the other hand, you’ll have a great excuse to not stop at every toy store and/or children’s attraction.
  • Adult Centered Trips
    * I don’t think I need to explain much here…adult centered trips should be for adults and children should be left at home with family or trusted friends.
In this series we are going to focus on KCTs and FCTs, primarily with a focus on FCTs. Just about all of the tips for a FCT can be used for a KCT.
So, back to the original question, where should we go on a FCT?
And, back to the original answer…where do you want to go?

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single location that I would not bring my kids. That said, there are several trips I’d love to make (Machu Piccu in Peru is on the top of the list) but I am going to wait until my kids are old enough to appreciate it. I know that we COULD do Peru now if we wanted, but as I said earlier the boys wouldn’t be able to appreciate it, and I don’t think we would appreciate it either-we’d be too busy hauling the boys up the mountains to really appreciate the view. So we wait.
Here are some things to think about when deciding where to go:
1. Is there enough to do in the area for everyone?
When we were in Guatemala and went to Tikal (which was a 9 hour bus ride away) we planned an extra day in the area so that we could go to the local zoo with Tate. While Mark and I weren’t terribly interested in going to the zoo, we knew that in order to make sure that Tate also enjoyed himself we should go. And we all had fun. Tate talked about the animals at the zoo for the rest of the trip, and we were really glad that we took the time to do something that he loved.
Tate at the zoo in Guatemala...a mere 2 feet away from a crocodile...don't worry, the rusty chain link fence was reinforced by chicken wire.

2. Do you have time to take things slower than you would by yourself?
If you want to have a trip worth remembering, it’s important to realize that you’re just not going to get to do as much as quickly as you did without kids. It’s going to take you longer to get out and about in the morning. You’ll have to take more frequent potty breaks. You’ll have to stop for snacks more often. You’ll walk slower because little legs just can’t keep the same pace as you. You’ll need to decide if you want to have naps on the go, or if you want to return to ‘home base’ every afternoon for a nap. If you choose to have a nap on the go one day, you’ll probably want to plan to have down time the next afternoon. I can tell you from experience, about the second day of missed or poor naps; it really starts to get ugly. The third day is nearly impossible. Since part of the fun of vacations is remembering back, I have come to believe it’s best to plan in down time and nap time in order to negate grumpy attitudes.

3. What are your priorities?
Do you really like to hike? Do you like going to the beach? Whatever it is you like to do, your kids will most likely embrace that as well as a part of their family heritage/identity. Decide what is important to you, research when is the best time to do it, and go from there. It’s always best to decide the most important events/trips/attractions, and schedule those first. From there plan in naps, down time events and extras. Remember, spending a down day playing in the hotel pool or in a nearby lake or river is a thrill for kids…it doesn’t take much to make their day.
It’s hard to know what’s the best method when it comes to deciding where to go and what to do when you get there. Some people prefer a family meeting and voting on the preferred location and activities, others prefer giving kids a few choices and then letting them choose the activity from there. Our kids are young enough that they don’t really mind just coming along for the ride, so we don’t have a lot of experience with this. That said, I think we’ll prefer to ask our kids what they’d want to do on vacation, take their suggestions into consideration and then offer them choices after we’ve researched the area. As kids get older it’s fun to include them in on the planning…it encourages good behavior when they are in charge of certain aspects of the trip!

4. Talk it up!
Whatever it is you plan to do, talk it up! Talk about what is going to happen, how excited you are about it, what you’ll be seeing and doing, etc. Anticipation is a bit part of the fun of vacation, and if you start talking about what you’ll be doing early your kids will begin to share in your excitement, even if they have no idea what a hike is. Also, it’s important to prepare kids for things that aren’t necessarily going to be fun. If there is a long car ride involved, tell the kids. Prepare them for what is going to come, tell them the behavior you expect out of them, and encourage good behavior by talking about the fun stuff coming up, or distract them by talking about the neat stuff they’ve done.

5. Pick a location, and then pick a date.
Unless you have to pick your vacation dates ahead of time, I think it’s much easier to decide where you want to go, and then research to see when is the best time to go. There’s nothing worse (vacationally speaking) than buying tickets to Costa Rica for a long weekend in April, then finding out that it’s Labor Day weekend, so you’ll have to pay a premium price to go anywhere or do anything. Plus, if you’re flexible with your dates, you can usually score a pretty good deal on tickets and/or lodging.

I really believe you can take kids just about anywhere. With a little thought and a lot of preparation you can have a great vacation with your kids-and not just at Disneyland.


NanaStearns said...

No guarantees with infants, but toddlers and up can be well entertained with a thoughtfully packed car box that can include stories on CD, books, puzzles and games for personal time. My experience was that the more time I invested in 1-1, 2-1 & 3-1 kid time during long car rides (i.e. 8-12 hours)reaped huge rewards. We also played "I SPY" alphabet game; license plate games (I see Vermont!) and guessing games with the adult passenger participating. The driver is relieved of whinning and fussing and the kids know that someone is paying attention to them.

Just a thought from another experienced parent traveling with tykes.

I love your posts!!!

Alibear said...

I love this series. Keep it up! I can also tell you from experience on long car rides, bribes (or awards) for good behavior worked well for me and my sister on the 5 day drive from Dallas to Pt. Ludlow for a couple years (we were 3-5 and 8-10 then).

When the kids are older and can provide input on trips, my parents asked us, but I rarely "won". I never got to go to Phuket, Thailand to sit on the beach. Instead we went to historical places to learn and experience the culture. Today, I appreciate that. As a tween, I was bummed, but enjoyed the vacations.

Another summer I wanted to get stateside and not pass go other than a little layover. Mom and Dad wouldn't hear of a missed opportunity to see a new country. I wanted western culture, home, and family. Instead, we spent a week in Turkey on our way home. To this day, it is one of the BEST vacations we ever had! Go figure!

And even though I'm a biased photographer, taking pictures of the random memories, not just the sites is fabulous. You may not look back for years, but later, it's so worth it! I treasure a photo of my mom pointing out a man's nakedness on an old relic at an archaeological site in Cypress and I only caught her pulling her hand away and laughing! Capturing the laughter and good times is great!

Christine said...

Fun series Jenni!! As you know, we are Disney fanatics and have lots of super tips...single rider line anyone? Tom and I still need to get our passports, I would LOVE to all go to Europe, try out the MAC flights and military hotels around the world- fun times!