Wednesday, February 15

The Worse Family Travel Advice I've Ever Read

My fellow nomadic families and I were pretty ticked off by this ridiculous "travel expert" article that claimed that traveling with kids is hell. The article is really not worth focusing any energy (or clicks) on as the author clearly doesn't have kids; and if she does (poor things), she obviously thinks her job as a parent is to shut them up with fried foods, electronic entertainment, and tons of consumeric purchases.  So besides generating traffic by pissing people off, the only other good thing that has come out of this content-less e-garbage is that it has inspired our community to (yet again) join together and share our truths. So, now, it is my honor to take you from The Worst Family Travel Advice I've Ever Read to The Top Four Uncommon Family Travel Tips You Typically Won't Hear . 

Relaxing on a hammock during an fishing cruise off Tanganga, Columbia

1. Don't Wait 

I spent my entire childhood knowing that 'next year we're going back to Israel'. My parents divorced and neither ever returned to their homeland. Don't wait; please don't. Don't wait for your son to be out of diapers, finish elementary school, or get accepted to Harvard. Don't wait for you to reach that highest point in your career, enough social security points, or the ever-allusive 'just a little bit longer'. If you do, you won't go. You won't.

It's never a good time to pick up and go. There will always be several really good reasons to wait. Besides finishing an academic school year or a degree, everyone being healthy, and having enough money saved; I can't think of any other good reasons not to go. Yes, I know I'll get twenty comments about how insensitive and unrealistic I am to the hardships of life. I am not trying to be cold; I'm just saying that neither kids, nor almost anything else, is a good enough reason not to go travel the world.

In our stardom article (which still gets more hits across the web than almost all my other entries combined), I highlight ten families who didn't wait for the right moment. One family has a girl in a wheelchair, another has a life-debilitating disease, and another is a single mom. They didn't let their situations limit their dreams. They took their realities as invitations to overcome the challenges that are theirs, and hit the road.

So, travel advice number one: Don't wait.

It is in the airports that we notice how much (how heavy) our stuff is

2. Travel Lightly

Packing in our house wasn't pretty. Kobi would research, purchase, and pack everything; I would criticize. When I thumped under the weight of my bag the first time I tried it out, we knew we had a problem. 

We got rid of half of what we thought we needed, and still left Israel way to heavy to be mobile. And today, as we continually do 'cleaning out' and 'simplification' and give our unneeded stuff away to the locals around us; we're shocked to discover that we are still lugging around too much stuff. The kids seem to collect gobs of gifts, do-dads, little purchases, papers,and memories that build up.And 80% of the necessities we brought for them, stay untouched in their bags for months on end. 

Orazi sorting through/getting rid of stuff in Boquete, Panama

We often assume that we need to take with us every conceivable thing that we may possibly need on the road. And so, we do. Don't. We assume we need to carry every form of entertainment (electronic and otherwise) for our children. Kids will play with stones and napkins, write imaginary stories in their journals or their heads, or explore the local fauna or the person to their left when constant entertainment is not shoved in their faces all day.

From one fellow traveler to another, it's easier said than done. I've been lugging around a spiral full of notes for my work site that I was sure I would 'get around to' on the road. Cracked it open only once, and just long enough to know that I didn't want to 'get around to' (so, I'll just keep lugging it around).

3. Wing It

The Big Island, Off the shores of Bocas de Torro, Panama

I'm sitting here in the outdoor patio at the Nomade Backpacker's Hostel in Miraflores, Lima in Peru watching my new gang in the hour before we're about to break up. We've spent this week hanging out, and tonight 3 of our friends (who all met here) are heading out together to our beloved camped-on-the-beach Haunchaco.

They met here, bonded, have decided to travel together for a while, and have figured out how to do it for half the price. If you were to book the 9-hour bus ride from Lima to Trujillo through a tour company, we'd be lucky to get it for under $50; go straight to the terminal and buy a ticket for about $25, or, wing it, and pay $12.  

Buses leave the terminal every thirty minutes starting at 8 pm. None of them want to leave with empty seats. After all the suckers who paid full fare are in their seats, the companies offer vacant spots for half. 

Will this work for all travelers, and especially families with young kids? Maybe not. But, we have found that when we arrive to a location, and do a tiny bit of sniffing around, talking to locals, and finding out the options; we have always found ways to do what we want for anywhere from a third-off, to half-price, to free.

A little bit of flexibility, creativity, and spontaneity has proven both economic and adventurous for this nomadic family.

4. Don't Promise

A few days before we left Israel back in March of 2011, all of my children's school peers were getting ready for 'The Big Purim Ball'. They were so upset that they not could not be a part of it. And so, we got them all gun-hoe about 'The Big Purim Ball' in New York City and how much fun we would have there. We even carried four huge, pink-fluffed fairy wing costumes and two Zorro costumes with us. The evening was heart-breaking; and the first of many times since that I have seriously doubted if this world travel thing is what is best for my children. (Scroll down to "Big Disappointments" to read the whole, painful thing.)

It took that experience and several others until we finally learned not to get our kids psyched out for anything, but anything. We either don't share with them our plans until we are literally a second away fulfilling them; or we tell them that we plan (operative word here) to do this and that, but that we know that the results may be very different. We tell them this is the idea, but that, together, we'll see if this historical site, this event, this hostel, this living arrangement for the next two months will be awesome or awful. We tell them to get ready for whatever may come; and that, together, we'll experience yet another learning adventure on our trip as a family.

after being stranded at 1 am in foreign (and scary) Monterry, Columbia, a stranger turned friend hosts us for the night

This has helped relieve so much of the stress and disappointment we were used to experiencing. If my kids say, "Mom, that really sucked," I say, "Yeah, glad we were ready for whatever would come. And once we get over it, we'll all laugh one day looking back."

What have you learned in your travels? What profound travel lessons have changed the way you travel, have dramatically improved your travel experiences? Sharing your wisdom and experience greatly widens all of our collective family travels and the chances that it will bring to us all that we hoped family travel would.

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It is a great honor to be a part of a community of like-minded adults who are traveling the world with their children. Be sure to read their words of wisdom and reflections, also carved on the international road (and road bumps) of experience.

A King's Life: The Surprisingly Easy Truth of Traveling with Kids 

The "Secret" to Traveling with Children by Susan W (like to keep my last name off) 

Debunking cnn's rules for traveling with kids by Mary @Bohemiantravelers 

How Do you Travel with Children? by Alisa @ Living Outside of the Box 

5 Rules of Travel With Kids: A Traveling Child Responds by Jennifer Miller 

CNN's Ridiculous Rules About Travel With Kids by Corinne at Have Baby Will Travel (@hvbabywilltrvl) 

Shocking Tips on Traveling with Kids That Went Unnoticed...It is Time to Demystify The Five Rules of Traveling with Kids by Claudia Looi @travelwritingpr 

5 Amazing Reasons To Travel With Your Kids! 

French fries and chicken nuggets are travel essentials: The worst family travel advice ever by Nancy Sathre-Vogel @familyonbikes 

More Than French Fries by lisa Shusterman 

Rules are What You Make Them: Paving Your Own Way Through Family Travel by Jessica @Suitcases and Sippy Cups …-family-travel.html

Why "Easy" Travel Options Aren't Always the Best for Kids- a Rebuttal to CNNGo "5 Rules of Traveling With Kids" by Jody Halsted; Family Rambling @iatraveler 

CNNGo Five Rules of Travelling With Kids Are You For Real - 

Myths, NOT rules, of traveling with kids by Kate Rehkopf, Experiential Family @experientialfam 

My Reality (Not Rules) When Traveling with Kids by Keryn Means/Walkingon Travels (twitter: @walkingontravel) 

"Yes ! It is possible to travel with children of all ages" by Susus 7!/


Great tips Gabi! Really enjoyed this read. I'm wth you don't wait!!

Well said Gabi - I enjoy listening folk who actually get up and DO something instead of advising others NOT to!! You rock - go family Klaf!!! xx

"We tell them to get ready for whatever may come; and that, together, we'll experience yet another learning adventure on our trip as a family."

That's a gift of patience and perseverance you're giving to your kids that will benefit them long after the travels.

Not making promises is a GOOD piece of advice. We truly never know what could happen from one day to the next (happens in travels, but also when you're not traveling!) and it is much harder to deal with disappointment than with surprises when things DO happen. Great advice!

My daughter was 11mos on our first trip, and I'm sorry I waited THAT long. And it gets so much easier, doesn't it - when you start them early?

It's so true...about waiting and finding cheaper ways to do things. But you're right, sometimes as a family it is trickier to find a larger quantity of extra seats, and such! Also, I know what you mean about promising things. We've also learned not to talk much about something until we are THERE. Then again, sometimes a little bribery doesn't hurt...unless, of course, it doesn't pan out!

I like your relaxed out look on life and travelling. It sure helps to be ready for whatever adventure is about to happen! The CNNGO article was so not right on so many levels - travelling with children is the best thing our family could ever do...wish we had done it sooner!


Tip #1 reminds me of the arguments that people have just to have kids. We still have friends that are waiting for the "right time" to have a child. They have to be financially secure, have a house, have the perfect career, etc. I used to think that way and then I finally listened to people who are already parents. There is never a right time. The same goes for travel. You just need to make a decision. Don't be scare. Just do it. Best decisions we ever made were to have kids and to take them on airplanes to see the world. I have no regrets!

Day 2 and I'm still getting around to reading all of our posts. I love tip #1 - Don't wait. There is no perfect time to up and leave the life you know for a life of the unknown, especially with kids. You have to adopt the Nike slogan and just do it!

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