Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Travel Studies Seminar: Taking the Kids

Art by Mary Engelbreit

On New Year's Eve, 1993 Dee and I sat in a restaurant day-dreaming about the New Year. "Let's go to Europe with the kids," I said recklessly. It was actually out of the question. We knew how much a trip would cost, and adding the expense of the four teenagers we still had at home made the numbers even crazier to contemplate. But, knowing it was just a whim, we played it out.

Pros: It had always been our dream to show our kids Salzburg; it would be our 25th anniversary; our older three kids had already left the nest and we knew how fast it would happen with the others; if we left it another year or so they might not be able to (or want to) go with us; we had tons of experience both planning trips and traveling in Europe, and we knew we'd be their best tour guides; it would be a family bonding experience. And, we wanted to go.

Con: Money. On a napkin we did the math. Ridiculous to even think about. But still . . .

The next day, January 1, 1994, we presented the idea to the kids. What if we set a family goal to save $1,000 a month for nine months? We could go to Europe in September for three weeks. Would it be worth it to them? The maps came out and and we sat around the table discussing it all morning. Our kids were 18, 15, 14 and 12. There were lots of concerns: going in September would be less expensive and we'd be likely to have nice weather, but they'd be in school. Could they miss that much? The oldest was in college--should she skip that semester? Jobs, projects, roommates, commitments... And how would we save enough money??

At noon we took a vote and it was unanimous: We would go for it. All aboard!

Everyone agreed that we'd each contribute whatever we could. Of course an 18-year-old could earn more than a 12-year-old, but the actual amounts weren't relevant. "One for all and all for one" was the attitude. Everyone volunteered to make sacrifices: we cut out music lessons, Little League, haircuts, Easter dresses, basketball shoes, restaurants—we made a long list. The next day we all went to the bank together and each of us opened special savings accounts for our trip funds.

Over the next few months we notified everyone about our goal and numerous opportunities to work rolled in. The kids babysat, mowed lawns, shoveled snow, chauffeured neighbors, cleaned houses and businesses and yards, hauled trees, helped people move, organized basements, weeded gardens . . . and all the earnings went into the bank.

Whenever we skipped a pizza or a movie we made a contribution to the account. By July, I realized we wouldn't make it. We had fallen short. The nine months was actually only eight months (because we'd be gone the ninth) and we'd had unexpected expenses during the summer. I was sick about it.

Out of the blue one day my dad called and said he had some miles on Delta he wanted to donate to our cause. They were enough to buy one and a half airfares, and Dee had just enough miles to combine for the second fare. The folks at Delta made it work. With that incentive, we redoubled our efforts.

A friend in the neighborhood asked incredulously if it was true that our kids had to pay to go on a family vacation. I guess it might have seemed that way to an onlooker. To us it was much more than a vacation. While the three-week trip was an incredible experience, the best part of it was setting a goal and working together to achieve it.

A page from our book.

It doesn't matter what you're trying to accomplish: finishing the basement, getting a new TV, buying a trampoline, or going back to school. With the support of a family, you can do it. Sit down together and make some plans. Let everyone contribute ideas, and then let everyone contribute over a period of time by working towards it somehow. I guarantee this strategy will strengthen your family and create awesome memories.

I've collected some great suggestions for traveling with kids from my daughters and daughters-in-law.

All fired up.

Candice says: "I always make sure to have:

  • a DVD player for the car (with new movies to watch)
  • a plastic, refillable water bottle for each person
  • snacks that won't melt and can be eaten without making a huge mess (such as goldfish crackers, grapes, string cheese, etc.)
  • Dramamine--sometimes I'll give it to them before we've even started if I know we are driving through the mountains
  • a pillow and small blanket for each kid
  • CDs with music that the adults enjoy (if we are listening to music we like, we are usually in a better mood to deal with the kids)
  • a notebook and a pencil for each kid

"Some things I've learned not to bring are lots of toys (they just make a mess and don't get played with anyway) lots of art stuff (same reason as before) or even lots of car activities. It seems that the more I bring, the more chaotic it becomes. The kids seem to do better if they can just listen to music and look out the window or watch a movie.

"Also, we've found that stopping at a junky fast food place like McDonalds just makes us mad because the food is always gross and the restaurant is often dirty. We now like to bring our own food in a cooler and stop at a rest stop instead. The kids can run around outside, the food is better, and it costs less money!"

"Are we having fun yet?"

Gabi says: "My philosophy on vacations is this: Family trips are a lot of fun to plan and a lot of fun to remember. If they happen to be fun as they actually occur, it's just a delightful surprise."

Hannah, Chase, McKay in flight

Christie says: "Hotel beds are perfect for doing things that are not allowed at home. Like jumping or simultaneously falling flat on your face to see who gets there first."

Flower Children

Amy says: "Here are some tips for a trip to Disneyland. Even if the flight is only 1.5 hours prepare snacks and lots of activities before boarding. Print out coloring pages of favorite Disney characters and purchase triangular crayons (so the crayons don't roll off the tray.)"

~J at Formerly Phread (not a daughter) wrote an awesome post on travel with kids.

What do you want to have happen on a family vacation, and how do you make sure it does? Let's discuss!

Homework: Share your thoughts on your blog or leave a comment.

~Any ideas for cheap family vacations/stay-cations?

~How have you involved your kids in planning a family vacation?

~Do you have tips for traveling with little kids? Teenagers?

~What do you remember about a family vacation when you were little? What made it fun?

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.


Christie said...

I think it's awesome that you guys saved and went together. What an amazing experience and lesson.

audrey said...

Here is my post with my tip. I wanted to put pictures with it, so that's why I blogged about it.

dalene said...

Before my oldest left on his mission we took a trip to West Yellowstone. We stayed at Mack's Inn, right on the river (which, at that point, is shallow and slow). Yellowstone was great, but the kids spent every minute we were not there in the river, which was a stone's throw from our room. So much fun.

Also, I used to kind of beat myself up a little that we don't really go on vacation. Our family trips "somewhere" are far and few in between. Then I realized that just making the 99-mile drive to "Grandpa's Farm" is a trip for my kids. Some of their best memories and best stories are from such jaunts. So I take some comfort knowing my kids aren't as deprived as they or I might think. They're building memories near or far.

diane said...

Since we are down to one teen we always have her bring a friend or a cousin. That way she is happy and we are happy. Win win.

Mrs. Organic said...

We are packing up and heading out tomorrow. I suffer from wanderlust and thankfully I have a husband who indulges my restless soul syndrome. We've done all sorts of incentives for family trips - earning tickets for spending money, earning beans by doing acts of service to fill a family trip jar. Here are a few tips I use for road trips.

crissy said...

I think it is awesome that everyone helped to raise money for your trip. I bet they appreciated it more because they worked for it than they would have if you'd been able to take them on a whim. I might just try that, once these babies of mine are old enough to do work and help like that.

As for my homework, I wrote about a family vacation from my childhood.

CMN said...

Here's my tip and it's worked like a charm every time...

Have four basic Vacation Rules:
1 - Stay with the Parent/Adult
2 - Don't Spend a lot of Money
3 - No whining or complaining (Set a key phrase for a child to use instead -- "I need a break" is my favorite. Whenever a child uses the key phrase, be prepared to stop, listen, and outline for them a plan to remedy -- "okay, we're going to finish this activity which will take five minutes and then we're going to go sit under that tree and enjoy a rest." Also agree what the penalties will be for breaking this one...)
4 - Have fun!

Discussing the rules several times before we leave helps each child get them in mind and plan to follow them. Then once we're traveling, all it takes is a simple reminder -- "Rule #1!" -- and the kids react.

Having easy and basic rules is priceless. Especially when the kids remind you of them too... "Rule #2!"

kenju said...

Had my parents ever offered me the possibility of a trip like that, I would have gladly worked to pay my way.

My mom refused to get on an airplane, so that was that.

Allison said...

LOL, thanks for including a prompt for those of us without kids...


Queen Scarlett said...

Love vacations with kids....

Greek Goddess said...

Hurray, I did another assignment. Here you go: http://californiamuse.blogspot.com/2009/10/traveling-as-kid.html

Greek Goddess said...

PS, does anyone have any favorite rest stops between CA and UTAH? I'm sick of the McD's at Mesquite, I don't like Vegas and I have kids. HELP?

KJ said...

how wonderful to go with your kids as teenagers, and that they earned it. I can't wait until we do it. Can't. wait. My advice": don't EVER expect to do anything quickly. Allow for plenty of extra time getting to and from, and during your activities. And if you don't end up needing that extra time, well, it's like having a windfall to use at your leisure. Also, snacks. lots of them.

~j. said...

Writing this made me want to plan another getaway...hm...