Our family used to not travel much at all. We had four kids under 12 years of age, and just enough income to manage to stay afloat without adding the extra costs of travel. But then one of my friends took me by the hand and made me stare into his eyes, as he told me to travel as often as possible, and to just make it happen. That no matter what sacrifices I had to make with the budget, I would regret not traveling while I was young enough to enjoy it, and while the kids were home and able to come too.
So, I took that advice to heart and saved up enough money to take everyone on a cruise to the Bahamas. It was definitely not cheap to take a family of 6 anywhere, but we made it happen and we had a wonderful time. That was about a dozen years ago, and since that time we have made it our goal to travel internationally at least once a year, and to travel throughout our state as often as possible. We have been all over the United States, up into Canada, down to Mexico, throughout the western Caribbean (with goals of seeing more of the Eastern side too,) and into Central America, all over Europe, and even to Iceland. It hasn’t been easy to balance the costs or the intensities of our children, but I’ve learned some tricks that I can share with you, so maybe you can do more traveling too.
1. USE YOUR OWN CREATIVITY SKILLS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN, TOGETHER
First of all, you have to just make the trip really happen. There’s never a perfect time to take a big trip, so you have to just take the leap and schedule it and then make it work. You may have to take time off work, or let the kids skip school for a week if you want to take the trip during the off-season to cut costs. You may miss the kids’ karate or soccer or painting classes. You might have to take that cranky teenager before he grows out of his “disliking everything” stage. You might need to pull some strings to find the right pet sitter, or someone to check on grandma. But once you put it on the calendar and take the first substantial step towards booking something, you are committed and everything eventually can (and will) fall in line.
This may be a fun thing to problem-solve as a family, and the trip location could be based on something that your children are studying, (such as we once took a weekend trip to Washington DC and Philadelphia while our daughter was studying civics and US history, so as to make the events and locations she was reading about seem more realistic… really, only because we got $40 flights…!) But even if your child/ren are not excited at first, you can read about interesting things to do wherever you decide to journey, and get excited together as you anticipate seeing and doing them.
When we plan our trips, we take our first step usually by finding a great deal on airplane tickets or a sale requiring smaller deposits for a cruise. We pay the initial amount (or a deposit that then allows us to pay installments over time until the event date,) and then we figure we can work out the other details as we go. If we need hotel rooms and rental cars, we book one night of the trip at a time each time we get a paycheck and can spare a little. If it’s a cruise and we need to plan excursions, we spend a little at a time throughout the year, picking things to add to the experience, or saving up for nice meals in each location, etc. It’s important to not feel overwhelmed by the expenses, so you can focus more on the actual trip details so as to plan the best trip possible for your unique family. But every trip is going to cost money, so just bite the bullet and make it work. Once you make it a priority, you can make it happen.
Some people argue that there are families that just cannot make a trip happen because they can barely pay their bills. However, I believe that when there is a will, there is a way. If you can’t make an international trip happen this year, start small. Make it a trip to an in-state location where you can spend a night at a campground and swim in a lake or go hiking up a mountain, or spend a couple days at the beach. Or perhaps join a church group or local nonprofit that needs help with building houses or teaching English to children, or find someone you know who has contacts in another region who might allow you to crash on their couch/floor for a night or two. There’s ways to make this happen if you want it badly enough, even when you really don’t think it’s within your financial reach.
In fact, the whole family can help with the finance plans- set family goals for saving money at the grocery store, clip coupons, give up that latte or late night snack, have kids do chores to save up for their own spending money for the trip, etc. All in all, the most important part of any trip to anywhere is to actually book it and make it happen. And I’ve found that by having a big trip to look forward to every year, our family has something fun to discuss and think about together other than just the daily stuff that can weigh us down at times.
2. GIVE THE KIDS EACH A JOB
Once the trip is planned and you are ready to finally go, divvy up some of the responsibilities. Intense kids prefer to feel like they have some control over the things that happen in their lives, and feel much more comfortable about travel when they know they are helping with something. When the kids have some say in what they get to do during the trip, they are less likely to complain about the time in the car or on the plane, and much more excited about engaging with the location when you get there.
· Maybe they can be in charge of planning one of the days’ adventures;
· Perhaps they are good at organizing and can figure out how to get all the things you need into the few little bags you are trying to use to avoid extra luggage charges.
· It’s likely that not everyone in the family will enjoy the same things, but if you want to see a museum and the kids don’t really want to, maybe find out what locals enjoy eating, and put a stop at the local sweets store into the schedule…
· Or if they don’t like sightseeing, make them in charge of the games you can play such as scavenger hunts at science museums or art shows, or license plate hunts along the roads.
· Maybe they can be the tour guide and research the location before you go, and then tell everyone about what you are seeing when you arrive.
It doesn’t take much to delegate some of the tasks, and makes everyone’s lives easier when there is less complaining from the back seat!
3. ALLOW FOR DOWN TIME, AND EAT!
The most exciting trip becomes work when your body is too exhausted to enjoy it. Everyone falls apart when they are tired or hungry. Expect those moments and plan ahead by packing some food to dole out when people start getting snippy. Intense kids are great at pushing all our buttons when they are grumpy, and the first sign that someone’s body needs a break is usually someone starting to complain or cry or just drag their feet. At that moment, pull out a snack and find the best opportunity for sitting down for a little break. I’ve found that the best trips are those where we go strong for the first day or two, but we pepper in several rest stops where we can all zone out and nap or watch a TV show, or play games or read stuff on our phones. Then by the third day or so, we need some real rest time. That’s the day when we just know we aren’t going to make it anywhere really early in the morning and we need to just sleep in a little and take it slow.
Find your family’s cadence and plan for it. If you aren’t sure yet what each family member’s pace will be, build a lot of flexibility into your trips until you know that better. And don’t hold it against each other when you fall apart. Just eat something, relax, and regroup later. Don’t plan on finding the perfect snack when someone falls apart either- just have something with you. When we travel internationally, we find food as soon as possible when we get off the plane, and pocket a few little things like crackers or cookies or chips so we can pull them out later when we need to eat something. We’ve also found that if we bring or buy sandwich items that don’t need refrigeration, such as peanut butter and honey, we can make sandwiches in between meals, and even save a lot of money by not having to purchase 3 meals a day. We’ve eaten a lot of sandwiches on our trips, but there’s something comforting about having that option and not having to stress finding snacks, especially when the gifted 11-year-old is having a meltdown.
4. MAKE MEMORIES AND KEEP THEM
It’s hard to imagine ever forgetting the fun things you do on your trips, but with all the things that gifted people pack into their brains, it actually will happen. There will come a time when the funny things you said along the hiking trail, or the cool sights you saw while kayaking at the beach fade from your minds. So, it’s important to find ways to preserve the memories. I am a huge fan of the “notes” option in my smartphone, where I can talk into it to record little sayings and thoughts along the route, and then go back to them later to remember the fun stuff.
I also enjoy having a built-in camera in my phone, which actually takes decent photographs. I end up being the family photographer more often than I sometimes like, (I am not always in photos unless they are selfies! An issue I’ve whined about to my husband enough that he is now actually taking more pictures too…!) But those photos come in handy at the end of the trip, when I organize them into photo book layouts online and weeks later we celebrate our trip and all the memories all over again, when the book comes in the mail. Years after our trips, we still pull those photo books out and talk about our adventures. Sometimes I get the kids to help me write the short stories that go with the photos, and sometimes I write them to get it done quickly. But there are so many ways you can make memories and keep them, that I wouldn’t feel I did this topic justice without mentioning this important part.
You can create blogs, write letters, send yourselves postcards, and so forth. Whatever you do, do something to commemorate this important part of your lives.
All in all, traveling with intense children can be a challenge, and making trips happen in the midst of all the stuff we pack into our intense lives can seem almost impossible. But by making it a priority to travel and see as much of the world as you can, you will create the memories that make your family feel closer and give you things to talk about for years. By involving your gifted kid/s in the process, they will feel even more intimately connected to the goals of the trip and take pride in the successes. The memories are worth the hassle- just make it happen!
This blog post is part of the Hoagies Gifted Education Blog Hop. You can find other articles on the topic of traveling with intense gifted children by going to this link: