Travel (with Kids) Advisory

Hi Readers! I am on board with this (even though I am guilty of some of the “don’ts” myself!). The list-maker, Darreby Ambler, is a writer and mother of 3 from Bath, Maine. – L. 

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Dear Free-Range Kids: Thought you might like  this old list I found in a drawer yesterday.  When I read the first sentence, I thought immediately of Free-Range! These were the travel rules we used with our kids when they were smaller.  They are now 15, 19, and 21, and travel independently and joyfully around the world. (You can tell from the rules that it wasn’t always this way!  Hang in there, parents!)  — Darreby, in Maine
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Ambler Family Travel Rules and Responsibilities
  1. It’s good to talk to strangers.  The outside world is full of them.  The place you don’t have to deal with them is at home, which is where people who can’t cope with strangers will stay next time.
  2. Each traveler is responsible for finding things to be excited about, and sharing that enthusiasm.
  3. If the enthusiasm of others embarrasses you, pretend otherwise.  Being cool is dull, except in a sports car.
  4. Unusual foods are part of the point.
  5. Staying home is usually more comfortable than traveling, but traveling is more interesting.  Prioritize well.
  6. Travel disruptions are normal and a good way to show your readiness for more challenging adventures.
  7. Remember that your dislikes do not make interesting conversation.
  8. Wash your hands.  You have no immunity to foreign germs.  Throwing up is not interesting.
  9. You have travel in your future that you can not even imagine.  Adhering to these guidelines makes you eligible for such travel.

    Kids: If you travel nicely, you get to see things like THIS. (From one of my favorite countries: Turkey!)

105 Responses

  1. LOVE this. Just had my 5th grader read it in fact, and will bookmark to refer back to before our next trip :).

    ———————————–
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  2. LOVE THIS! 🙂

  3. You are the BEST travel Mommy EVER! Forget the kids – I’M taking these with me when I travel next. Fantastic.

  4. Those rules are precisely why I’d rather travel with my brother-in-law than my own husband (or the rest of their family).

    I will have to print those out and put them in place.

  5. I love these! Especially #7 and #8. 🙂 I’m printing these out as well!

  6. That’s a great list.

    I remember hearing about how my brother’s family went to Mount Vernon and my then teenaged niece walked around sing-songing “booor-innngg” under her breath. My reaction to something like that in one of my own kids would have been (after an initial reaction of letting them know in no uncertain terms that this was not acceptable behavior) to teach them, when we got home, what “boring” really is, by means of having to undertake some necessary but tedious tasks for an extended period of time.

    My philosophy is that not everyone is expected to like everything, but no one is allowed to ruin other people’s enjoyment, and keeping one’s lack of interest to oneself is but the first baby step in that process.

  7. Love it! I never traveled as a kid, but I have to say that I truly enjoyed it once I did – but then, I was born for exotic experiences.

    Planning to take my kids on our first “exotic-ish” trip this winter. It’s relatively safe – Caribbean cruise with island stops – but the next two years, we have “real travel” (in developing countries) on the agenda. Kids need to be ready!

    Traveling and seeing how the rest of the world lives is one of the best things we can do for kids, in my opinion. Too bad that many people are afraid to even try it.

  8. Cool. My parents took me everywhere as an only child. Cancun Mexico, Jamaica, Canada. I traveled a lot out of country and they would fit some kid things into the trip but they also drug me along to adult things. I was good and sometimes I got bored or whatever, but I still had an overall good time.

    For me personally, we plan our trips around the kids. I make it all about them just because that is how I do. We go to zoos, amusement parks, playgrounds, etc. If I want an adult trip with adult things I would rather just not take them with us period and go alone with hubby.

  9. Awesome!

  10. Love #8 and may have to modify it to use in everyday life 😉

  11. Love it!

  12. Perfect timing! We are taking a family trip this coming week – I will definitely print these out for all of us.

  13. Number 7 is definitely my favorite and I think applies to everyday life, as well.

  14. Cool. I will rework some of those for my daughter for our upcoming two-year South Pacific adventure. In fact, I may need to brush up on some of them myself.

  15. That’s getting laminated and posted on the fridge! Awesome! My daughter is an only who gets hauled everywhere with her parents 😉 and we’ve discussed #7 many, many times.

  16. I agree wholeheartedly with every single one of these! I especially love #3. There’s nothing more depressing than seeing a 9-year-old who’s already so concerned with being cool that he forgets to have fun. My kid is not cool. Neither am I. We have a blast.

  17. Another fan of 7 – few things bring one down as much, at holiday or in life, as people who always go on about how much they hate X and Y, or why such and such a thing is rubbish, and what a rotten time they’re having.

  18. What a great list. We don’t travel much, but I’ll have to keep it in mind.

  19. By the time I was 5 I had been around the world 3 times. UK, US, Europe, Asia, Australia…
    My parents would have thoroughly approved of your list and I hope I can impart some of it’s wisdom to my boys – along with a love of travel.

    The world would be a much better place if we all got to know each other a little better.

  20. Like this a lot! And will pass it on!

  21. LOVE it! So true!

    And I had to laugh at the photo–I traveled throughout Turkey when I was 20-something. It looks like the man in the picture is carrying what I believe are called “simit” in Turkish–rings of bread. However, I was told (by the American ex-pats living there that I visited) that they all referred to them as “Hepatitis Rings” due to how often they would tumble down on the street only to be picked up and stacked and perched back on the seller’s head to be sold. So, while I’m all for adventurous eating, there ARE limits! (At least for us tourists without the immunity to local germs!)

  22. That list is PERFECT! I particularly love point number 1. My kids (one and three) introduce themselves to everyone, and I get to meet so many interesting people through them that I would never have met. Can’t wait to really hit the road with them and this list.

  23. #5!!!! That’s the thing to instill in the little ones.

  24. I see the picture of Turkey above.

    I send my prayers to the families and friends in Turkey due to the terrible earth quake.

    Ron

  25. This craziness about safe parenting started only some 20 years ago.We did play all day long outside and talked to strangers, my parents did not let me make dinner – I was supposed to make dinner from time to time.
    It sounds like a very good list of rules!

  26. Travelling can be doable and enjoyable, true, but it all depends upon real, tangible factors, not a philosophical list that’s good to remember and strive towards.

    We just went on a vacation to Louisiana, and while the time there was fun, the travelling was most certainly not. Driving from St. Louis to south Louisiana (approx. 800 miles) with a 5 1/2 yr. old, a near 3 year old and more importantly, 7 month old twins becomes quite unenjoyable about half-way through the trip down and again coming home.

    Is it any wonder it’s been two years since we’d taken such a journey as a family and will probably wait another two years?! Never mind New York – to visit other family – where we have only been as a family when the eldest child was 1. Cost, distance and small children dictate that it’ll sadly still be several years before we attempt such a trip.

  27. I like it. Will be sharing with husband and child 🙂

  28. Required reading for anyone belonging to the human species!

  29. Have you ever traveled on a big trip with 3 kids and just you? I am ready to do it. Any tips? These tips are great too!
    JRL

  30. Loving this! Number two made me chuckle, having travelled a lot with my little ones (now 6 and 9), it’s easy to picture the situations that prompted you to place this particular point on your list!

    Vibeke

  31. I chuckled as a read these tips. We just went on our first trip with two toddlers to Taiwan. A humbling experience. Currently struggling with the jet lag that I totally underestimated (15 hour time difference). But nevertheless, it was a thrill to see my kids in a different cultural context, even if I’m already somewhat familiar with it. I am excited to fill their passports if at all possible (within the realistic limits of our budget) and hope they will grow up to appreciate all they can learn from experiencing other cultures.

  32. Read #7 and was reminded of someone. Next time I meet him, will tell him about this mantra! thanks!

  33. Love this post & love this blog! My son was definitely a “free range kid” and is now a happy & productive teenager. Bravo!

  34. heyyy sıkıldım

  35. I love especially the talking with strangers. “Don’t stop and talk with strangers,” is hardly a new admonishment, dating back centuries at least. Watching little kids, it’s plain that while we are all different, it is a natural instinct for some of us to not only talk to strangers, but seek them out amidst familiar faces in order to talk to them.

    Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

  36. Traveling with kids can be such a pain.. thanks for sharing though.. 😀

  37. Refreshing words. Going to get my kids to read this. Great post.

  38. thats a very good observation about talking to strangers. You’re perfectly right of course. Great insight!

  39. Talking to strangers is fantastic. It’s way more interesting than talking to someone who already knows you tip to toe!

    Love the post!

    🙂

    uponatlas.

  40. Fab post! We here at TomTom have just come up with some ideas on how to entertain the kids on long journeys too! Would love to hear your thoughts! Check it out!

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=221503397917273

    Best wishes from TomTom

  41. These are fabulous. We’re big travelers because we prefer experiences rather than things. (We live in 900 square foot apartment so we can take several vacations a year rather than spending the same money on a big house.) My kids (3 and 8) are pros.

    My favorites are talking with strangers. We love to talk with people along the way. Taxi drivers almost always have fascinating stories, as do the people you sit next to on the train or bus, or what have you.

    Number 8, though. I wish washing your hands was all it took. My poor 8 year old got food poisoning in rural Romania. Poor thing. At one point, where we pulled over so she could puke, in the rain, on a dirt road she said, “some day this is going to be very funny.” And you know what? She was right.

  42. Great piece. Well said all parents should read and past to their kids
    Will be sharing with our clients.

    Cheers

  43. Nice, thanks for sharing

  44. I love this post. Reminder of why and how we travel with kids.

  45. These lessons are easily applied to everyday life. Well said!

  46. Suzanne Lucas, your daughter sounds like she has amazing perspective. There are many things in life I wish I had taken with such a great attitude.

  47. I love this list.

    I get so tired of my children asking to play their iPods, or their DSs, or whatever hand-held devices, while we go on road trips. I keep thinking back to the very few road trips I took as a child, wherein our only option was to look around and enjoy the landscape. They think I’m awful for telling them “no” and insisting they look around and play road trip games…but oh well!

    Your list is a keeper. Thank you! 🙂

  48. I don’t have kids, but the thought of letting my hypothetical children talk to strangers makes me nervous. That’s how you end up in a bathtub full of ice and missing a kidney.

  49. Great rules for travel, and life in general. Thank you for posting.

  50. Heather G.–that perspective is something we work very hard to cultivate. I’m naturally snarky and that’s actually required for my work (I’m a writer that writes business advice from a humorous/snarky perspective) and my husband comes from a long line of negative nellies.

    So, we decided we didn’t want that in our home and with our children so we try to point out the humor in situations. It does pay off!

  51. Great advice! I believe people should read these before traveling. 🙂

  52. Love this. Travel and life rules bundled in one! Thanks for sharing

  53. Thank you! Great tips for parents and kids alike for their travels.

  54. I especially liked the one about not being embarrassed about enthusiasm. I don’t think my kids would be…..but I can think of a few adults that could travel with us that might pretend they’re not with us! 🙂 Especially if we were ever to go to DisneyWorld with them.

  55. LOVED this!

  56. I wish I could have traveled as a kid. My parents were homebodies who felt that spending money on ‘experiences’ was a waste. The biggest trip we ever took was driving from Ohio to Orlando, Florida to visit my aunt, uncles and cousins. We went to Disney World for one day and it was the biggest waste of time because my parents wouldn’t let me go on any rides by myself. I was 15 at the time.

    Thank God I met my husband, who loves to travel. I’ve now been to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Virginia and Vermont with him, as well as a return trip to Disney World when I was 27 to truly experience the most magical place on Earth!

    We’re planning our first international trip for 2013. Can’t wait!

  57. I would love to share this with a lot of the adults that I encounter in my travels. But what life lessons this points out!!

  58. Wish we had this list while roving the middle east with our two boys. Especially the ‘your dislikes don’t make interesting conversation’ bit.

  59. Rules/ Guidelines 2, 6 and 7 are my favorites.

    Also.. the Turkish man — is he carrying enormous, salted pretzels or am I very ignorant?

    Aun

  60. “Your dislikes do not make for interesting conversation…” Good advice for children and adults, travelers and homebodies alike.

    I studied abroad in college at a university where there were a lot of other foreign students. One couple in particular did nothing but complain the entire time. Loudly. To the point where the other students could overhear. How sad, that they didn’t appreciate even five minutes of their great experience. We were in England, but you’d think we were staying in the slums of Delhi to listen to those two complain. Yes, England to America is more of a cultural adjustment than one might expect, but you can easily adapt if you try. If you make no effort, take offense to everything, and spend your nights on the common phone in the dorm bitching loudly to your American friends about how awful everything is, having a bad experience will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  61. Great list! Reminds me a lot of the way my parents got us to look at travelling, which was great, since there was a lot of travelling to be done! But it was all lots of fun, and a great love of ours 🙂 Thanks for sharing your list and congrats on freshly pressed!

  62. If we don’t give some legroom for the kids to talk to strangers, how are they going to learn how dangerous some strangers could be, I ask you? Right?

  63. Super Liste! Vor allem Punkte 4, 5 & 7!

  64. I think I’ll be printing this off and carrying this with me when I travel to keep myself in line…great adivce!

  65. This is good advice for free-range adults too.

  66. “Travelling can be doable and enjoyable, true, but it all depends upon real, tangible factors, not a philosophical list that’s good to remember and strive towards.”

    Gotta disagree on this one, at least as far as the stark contrast (“it all depends”) that’s being drawn. Sure, real, tangible factors can make a big difference, but if you start out with the right mentality, it’s going to make a big difference in how you handle those factors when they’re less than lovely. Granted, real, tangible factors can make a disaster out of a vacation that’s beyond any ability to redeem, but with the right attitude, you can handle a lot more external difficulties than you can with either a bad attitude, or just without a commitment to make the best of everything.

    I think it’s a matter of seeing the list as something you incorporate into your thought process, rather than as something you look at now and then, or get out and wave at your kids when you don’t like what they’re doing. If you make it part of your mindset, and commit to reflecting that mindset to your kids and encouraging it in them, it makes a HUGE difference.

  67. Donna, in preparation for that S. Pacific adventure, you might want to read up a bit on “third culture kids.” There’s been a lot written about the special challenges kids face who spend an extended time outside their birth culture and then return, with parents who are also not from the culture they’re going into. It’s not dire, but I guess issues come up, especially in transitioning back “home,” and missionaries and diplomatic families have had a lot of experience with this kind of thing so there’s been quite a bit written about it. Maybe because it’s just going to be a couple of years it won’t be as big an issue for you, but depending in the age of your child, it might affect her (? sorry, I don’t recall) more than two years at another age would.

  68. @natasiarose – you ARE kidding, right?

    *kicks snarkmeter to see if it’s malfunctioning*

  69. *its* (spelling fail)

  70. *it’s* (omg need new IV of caffeine, stat!)

  71. What a great list! It’s great for kids to know that trips are not tailored for them only. It teaches them to be much more well-rounded and tolerant in all areas of life. Great post.

  72. Good rules for everyone!

  73. Love this, and it’s true for everyone regardless of age in reference to traveling.

  74. Loved this! I spotlighted this particular post on http://www.bleditor.com. If you want even more traffic to this great blog, you should check it out! Keep the posts coming!

  75. What a great list! I moved to West Africa a few years ago and it was actually suprising to see that kids there routinely greet us instead of hiding or ignoring us (this happens even if I’m walking alone–creepy single male, you know). Kids roam all over the place and I have come to believe after living here that kids need to be allowed to solve many of their own problems as a way of learning. I see kids fishing or gathering sea urchins in the ocean quite a lot. Then they build a fire right there and cook what they found. They sometimes argue and occasionally fight (though there are usually at least a handful of adults around to intervene). They climb up on the cliffs and among the rocks and sometimes get cut. In particular the boys’ legs are covered with the signs of past ‘learning experiences’ learned the hard way. But most of all the kids seem really happy to be living like this. They roam all over the city in groups, never causing trouble, just seeing what is there. And the news is not full of children being snatched. I can’t even remember if I have even once heard about it here.

  76. I totally agree with this particular list!

  77. Love it!!!!

  78. #3 is my favorite, but I think my single most critical rule for travel is travel with those that you love. We have yet to have a disappointing vacation despite massive delays at an evacuated airport, disappointing sleeping accommodations, and more simply because we have fun with each other (and our kids now that they’re here) no matter when and where we travel. HAVE FUN. IT’S VACATION!!!

  79. I promise to give due credit when I pass these rules around to my kids (and husband).

  80. Mostly unrelated to your post- but Turkey is one of my favorite countries too! I spent 6 weeks there this summer and didn’t want to leave.

  81. I think this list is great, but with a few caveats:

    Re:
    #5 – “Staying home is usually more comfortable than traveling, but traveling is more interesting. Prioritize well.”

    Comfort is a state of mind. Few people feel comfortable changing their routine. Any routine change for many people is UN-comfortable. If you DECIDE to enjoy a routine change, then you’ll find traveling more enjoyable. It’s all about attitude. In fact, all of life is about maintaining a good attitude.

    Regarding: “traveling is more interesting”

    Not necessarily.
    Interesting is a matter of “what you think” not “where you are.”

    Staying home is extremely interesting, fascinating, and exciting, if you’re doing and thinking about something you find fascinating and exciting.

    Kids forced by parents to travel do not find travel “interesting” because they’re still thinking about topics they find MORE interesting.

    I wonder how many parents do enough motivational preparation with their kids to break their enjoyment of their daily routine by inspiring them to look forward to an upcoming trip.

  82. Thanks, pentamom. I’ll look into that.

  83. Loved this! I’m going to tuck this list away for future travels. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  84. As expats, we have traveled a lot with our 7.5 year old twins (9 countries) and they are superb travelers. We have stayed in tents and 5 star hotels and everything in between. To us travelling is an adventure and dealing with the unexpected is all part of the fun. One of my proudest moments was when my son (who I know does not like sweet potatoes) ate an entire sweet potato and asked for another all because he did not want to offend our Omani guide who had graciously invited us into his home for a meal. The kids have learned to try everything, because you never know if you are going to like it or not. Travelling also helps to teach kids that there is a time and a place for everything and that you need to modify your behavior to fit the surroundings. Great rules and we will certainly adopt them as a family.

  85. During a journey from Rome to Naples on a VERY crowded train, my then 10 year old brother spent the time drawing pictures then writing the English word for the item next to it. He showed his work to the Italian gentleman sitting next to him. The man then took the sketchbook, wrote the Italian word under the English one. The three hour trip, spent in the walkway between cars, flew by for both of them and provided amusement for the rest of us.

    GREAT list!

  86. I LOVE THIS!

  87. Standing ovation!

  88. LOVE the “talk to strangers”…EVERYONE we see is a stranger until we talk to them. How boring would it be to NEVER meet anyone new?

  89. Thanks for this. Such a joy to read through. And actually whilst reading it, I started thinking “Yikes! I need an attitude adjustment!” Great ways to enjoy travelling. 🙂
    Great list!

  90. twinmom, not wanting to offend someone from another culture is the ONLY reason I could possibly eat an entire sweet potato, and I’m not sure I could ask for the second! So huge kudos to your son.

  91. Love it!

    My family’s rules for traveling were:
    1. Don’t Panic
    2. Never pass up a chance to use a toilet
    3. Always bring a swimsuit. (This was mostly for me, since I would get very grumpy if there was any chance for swimming and I was unprepared.)

    We mostly did camping trips and visits to family growing up, which I loved because both involved lots of running around outdoors (my extended family is mostly rural, and I was a city kid). As an adult I’ve also had the privilege of going on trips where things like “unusual foods” and “foreign germs” come into play; I hope my kids can experience such things, too.

  92. I like #2 and #7. Nothing is boring if you choose it to be otherwise. Excitement breeds excitement and complaining and unhappiness kills the spirit. Great rules! =)

  93. […] at Free Range Kids provides a great list of travel rules for […]

  94. Suzanne Lucas, your daughter sounds like she has amazing perspective. There are many things in life I wish I had taken with such a great attitude.

  95. Have you ever traveled on a big trip with 3 kids and just you? I am ready to do it. Any tips? These tips are great too!

  96. What a great list. We don’t travel much, but I’ll have to keep it in mind.

  97. My rule for my kids when they were too young to understand what was and wasn’t okay with adults (ie preschool and early elementary school ages) was that they could talk to any stranger their size & smaller unless I was with them. That way they as they grew up, they naturally moved onto talking with strangers of various ages as they knew what to avoid ( at age 8 1/2 my sister was once offered $10 to go into the bushes with a strange man back in 1970 but knew enough to say no).

    My kids see me talking to strangers all the time, so this has worked well for us. Conversations with strangers are one of the best things about travelling.

  98. send them on ahead and enjoy a peaceful drive LOL

  99. Couldn’t agree more – I should have read these to my boys before our recent holiday. Now I am debreifing via my blog as a cheaper version of therapy……and a great way to use my 2500 travel photos!

  100. […] Free Range Kids we came across these rules for travel with kids to help them travel independently and joyfully. I […]

  101. […] experts) may not know matters need attention when travelling with kids, but on FP, we can get it: Travel (with Kids) Advisory. Some other life tips and suggestions by non-experts bloggers are numerous on Freshly Pressed. You […]

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