Guest post from my wife
Judy wrote this 17 years ago; the advice is still on point. Enjoy.
1. If you can, involve the kids in pre-trip planning.
2. Never underestimate the value of postcards and local guides
Upon arrival in the airport, while you are waiting for bags, one parent can pop into a newsstand and buy a few postcards of places you are likely to see. You can use these as a sort of treasure hunt when motivation seems to drag along. In Costa Rica, you can buy wonderful waterproof field guides for the rainforest in the airport, and the kids can use them all over the country. This also works at the entrance to a museum– stop by the gift store and buy postcards of things within, and then embark on a treasure hunt to find everything.
3. Have them record the experience however they can.
Travel art kits can be wonderful for long bus rides– think watercolor pencils and a brush with a water-fillable base to draw that scarlet macaw or statue. Bring along a small scrapbook and a glue stick and tiny pair of blunt scissors and let them glue brochures and maps right into their journals. Encourage some time each day for reflection, drawing, and writing about what you saw and what made you laugh.
4. I have a bag of tricks...
Every child should know “Hello”, “Thank You”, and “Please” in the language of your host country. It is amazing what doors those words can open. Encourage your kids to ask questions on buses and subways, in gardens and on tours. If you are lucky enough to have a wonderful guide like CRE provides, get your kids to come up with three questions for the next day. Four years later, my three can all give you the names of the tour guides who introduced them to the magic of the rainforest.
For some reason, our kids lose teeth in every country we visit. It’s great fun to have the tooth fairy bring new coins. Older children should try to manage currency and purchasing in the host country as well– from making change to calculating tips, they can learn a lot from being involved. Our 11 year old learned the art of barter in Zimbabwe and has never been the same.
This is important for everyone in our family. We need to remember to schedule some time to just play. My kids have made friends in playgrounds all over the world with kids who don’t speak a word of their language, and had a great time. Our trip to London (when our oldest was four) involved a visit to two playgrounds a day, often with a picnic. A swim in the pool can accomplish the same thing.
Four years after a great guided trip with Costa Rica Expeditions, my kids are torn between wanting to return to places they have been, and wanting to explore new territory.
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