Preparing Kids for an Epic Family Trip

There is a book called The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. In one of the essays in that book, entitled “On Anticipation,” he posits that a major part of the joy of traveling is the anticipation of one’s journey. And I agree. The importance of the anticipation of a trip cannot be overstated. Travel is not just what occurs moment to moment on a journey. It is the excitement and the anxiety, the planning and the preparation, the feeling of “Are we really going to do this?” Not only that, but also when on your trip, it is the interplay of one’s expectations with the reality. Sometimes the reality is worse than the expectation, but more often than not, the traveler encounters a reality that she never could have imagined. The surpassing of what one can imagine with the majesty of the reality that one can actually encounter is what we all hope to experience on an epic trip. The only way this is possible is to prepare for the trip intellectually.

As adults, we tend to do this on our own without any prompting from the outside world. We look at maps, perhaps do some research. We buy our tickets and (sometimes) plan out where we will be sleeping. We have to do this otherwise there would be no journey upon which to embark.

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The kids having one of many “pajama days”

Children, on the other hand, are a whole different story. They just do what we adults tell them to do. Sometimes they cry and fight, and sometimes they listen willingly. But we, as parents, would be remiss if we didn’t offer our children the chance to prepare their awesome little brains in the same enriched manner that we, with all our lifetimes full of experiences, can prepare.

We helped our little ones prepare in the following ways:

  1. We posted up a roadmap of the United States and traced (as best as we could) the route that we would be taking on our travels.
  2. We visited websites together and looked at pictures of things we were hoping to see along the way. We even found a site called Kidson66.com that had some nice coloring pages that I stapled into a book for the kids.
  3. We re-watched the movie Cars and talked about the significance of the old road versus the new highway, taking into consideration both the positives and negatives of progress and change.
  4. We purchased children’s travel journals. Though we weren’t so faithful in documenting our trip while we were traveling, the prompts on the preparation pages helped the children allay some anxiety and express some expectations and hopes.
  5. We bought kid-proof cameras so the children could take pictures of important events and sites that they wanted to capture. (I also had a selfish reason for doing this. I wanted to be able to see the trip from their perspectives. And they took some really amazing pics!)

Preparing children for a trip like this will help everyone enjoy their travels. Especially on a trip like the one we took, where the answer to the question “Are we there yet?” is perpetually “No.” We were going on a journey to embark upon an adventure, not to get to a final destination. It was important the children knew and understood this concept. Whatever your purpose, make sure your children are prepared and know what to expect. But also make sure they are prepared to expected the unexpected. After all, that’s the best part.

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