As you and your children begin to navigate the world together, sharing your knowledge while teaching them how to make their own way will create confident and compassionate travelers for the future. Here are a five tips for empowering the next generation of explorers:
1. Preparation breeds confidence
Involve your kids in travel planning and decision-making from the earliest age possible. Show them maps, books, websites and pictures. Stoke their curiosity by discussing the nearby and faraway places you hope to visit. Consider introducing a few words in the native language of intended destinations. When you or other friends and family travel for business or pleasure, show your children their destinations on a map, share images and discuss geographic and cultural points of interest that will build their growing understanding of the world.
2. Bestow responsibility
Discuss the details of travel plans and encourage your children to create their own packing list early. Talk about the importance of having the right gear for an adventure trip or the proper attire for a city visit. Then, encourage them to pack their belongings to be checked and to carry on a flight or in the car. As soon as possible, give them responsibility for making sure their bag makes it from home to the car, train or plane. Discuss the importance of having proper identification inside and outside of their bags and retaining baggage tags once a bag is checked to your destination.
3. On the move
Chart a road trip using online mapping tools and share the information with the kids. If they are old enough, encourage them to create a suggested to and to offer options for stops along the way. If you will be flying, show the kids how to navigate the booking process and then check in for a flight online. Use a site like SeatGuru.com to find the best seat configuration for your family. Consider making children responsible for their own boarding pass. (For the younger set, perhaps printing an extra as backup is a wise decision.) Provide each child with an itinerary and discuss the details before you depart. Talk in advance about preparing for and moving through airport security.
4. Strategic safety
Visiting a city? Make sure your crew has the hotel address and phone number at hand. If you will be traveling to or through a crowded venue like an airport, a theme park or shopping mall, be sure to have a clearly defined plan should someone lose his or her way. Use the buddy system or rooms designated for families when visiting public restrooms. Consider giving each member of the family a cellphone and instructions for use. Travel insurance may be a good choice for your clan. Should a family member need emergency care, you'll want to have the best options available. Without propagating fear, encourage your children to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
5. Go local
Research your destination before your departure and discuss how the places you will visit might be different or similar to your own home and community. Books, videos and images can help. Once you arrive, burrow into the culture and make a point to learn about how and where the locals live, work and play. Visit local farmers markets. Skip the chains and seek out locally owned eateries, shops and lodging. Seek out volunteer possibilities. If the language is not your own, learn at least a few key phrases and practice them before and during the visit. In the end, education and experience breed understanding, acceptance and confidence.
(Lynn O’Rourke Hayes is the editor of FamilyTravel.com. Email her at lohayes@FamilyTravel.com.)
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