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Challenge: Traveling with Kids

How to determine your family travel bucket list

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The more we travel, the more places we want to see. It seems to be a never-ending list that keeps growing: an African Safari, Heritage Trips to Vietnam and China, climbing the red rocks of Utah’s Arches National Park, digging for dinosaur bones in South Dakota. Then, I’ll see a fellow bloggers’ trip like Where’s Sharon’s trip to Indonesia or Wanderlust Crew’s Alaska guide for kids and decide that they need to be on the list, too. These and several other destinations are all on our Family Travel Bucket List.

But, how do you prioritize and decide when to go and where? A travel bucket list is a good place to start because the first step is just writing ideas down along with potential dates for your trips.

Here are three considerations in determining our travels: age, interest and cost.

Age

At 9- and 12-years old, we are very close to not having to plan trips according to their ages. Currently, my kids are superstars at walking miles and miles through city streets. We clocked 5 to 6 miles a day visiting San Francisco and Paris, but hiking is a totally different story. A 1.5 mile hike through Muir Woods caused whining and frustration (for everyone, although my 12-year old is now much better about hiking – Thank you, Boy Scouts!). Likewise, I am not 100% comfortable about traveling to a more rustic, developing country yet and would like them to be a little older and independent before we do.

However, we have been doing long-haul flights to Asia and Europe since they were 4 years old with no problems. But, my husband’s back would tell you that Tokyo was not great for a small 5-year old because he ended up carrying him up and down hundreds of subway stairs.

San Diego with the zoo, safari park, whale watching trip, and Legoland were ideal when the boys were 4 and 6.

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Legoland, California

Interest

Two years ago we asked the boys where they wanted to visit. They chose Paris and were really excited about seeing the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Notre Dame (before the devastating fire), and eating as many crepes and chocolate croissants that they could get their hands on. That being said, regardless of destination, we have always tailored our family trips to their interests. Again, the boys didn’t choose to go to San Diego several years ago, but my younger son was really into animals back then and my older son loves Legos, so it was a fantastic trip. Likewise, we went to New England one summer break because we love it there and made trips to the New England Aquarium, the Boston Science Center, the beach and did a lobster boat ride.

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Samurai Museum, Tokyo , Japan

I think it’s also important to expose them to things that they might not choose on their own as well. Not on our original list, we ended up visiting the Louvre in Paris, and my eldest was enraptured by the Greek and Roman sculpture garden because he loves mythology (and why we are heading to Athens this Spring Break). And, they will both always remember how their dad had to pick them up over his head to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa over the masses of tourists. The Samurai Museum in Tokyo wouldn’t necessarily have been on my list for a trip to Japan, but we all loved the samurai demonstration and they got to dress up in traditional samurai clothing and headdresses – super cool!

My 9-year old hates the cold, so ski trips may be few and far between, or we may plan a mommy-son or daddy-son trip to Utah with our 12-year old to hit the slopes.

Both of my children are adopted – from Vietnam and China, and they are both eager to go back and see their homelands and experience life and culture there, so both trips are on our bucket list for the near future.

You can definitely find ways to incorporate their interests into your trips – whether it’s the destination or just activities that they like. And, often times, you can slip in a little learning without them catching on!

Cost

Like a lot of families, this is generally the biggest driver for determining our trips. Typically, we plan one big blow out trip where we fly and/or go overseas, and we try to road trip or use frequent flyer miles or credit card points for the other trips throughout the year.

Having your trip destination ideas written down makes it easy to set up “watched flights” on Skyscanner, Hopper or Google Flights, so that you can monitor airfare prices and strike when it’s a good deal. You can also price out hotel rooms/AirBNB accommodations to get an idea of lodging costs, so you know what to expect when it’s time to book. Setting up a vacation fund is another good idea, so that you know how much money you’ll have to spend in advance, and you can determine your journeys accordingly. Here are some tips for saving money before and during family trips to help those dollars go even further.

For me, half the fun of traveling is researching and planning the trip. I’m constantly monitoring airfares and checking out fellow family blogs to get ideas. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.” Both are some of my most favorite things to do.

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