Sometimes, travel is not fun anymore. Sometimes, I am not having the time of my life and I want nothing more than to be back in my own house with my own bed and the comfort of know what’s going on around me in that moment. There are lots of things that can and do go wrong when traveling, but we do it anyway. Long ago a friend of mine taught me that these are the moments that define an adventure. How I deal with the most stressful moments tends to define how the entire trip will be enjoyed and remembered.
Today I am writing on an airplane headed to Costa Rica. We are a group of 10 traveling together with 4 young kids in tow. We got up early, did not get much breakfast and have been eating fast food and snack bars all day. The kids are amped up and we are all a little more tense than usual. Travel days. I know there are plenty of people who believe there is not enough benefit make this worth it, but we hardy few know better. Some parents book red-eye flights or bring familiar blankets and smells. Do you know how you will handle the stress? Kids get sick, parents have long nights and planes will get delayed or canceled. Have a strategy to get through the tragedy (bad poetry).
Here are some of my mindsets and strategies for dealing with the inevitable “adventure” to come along with amazing family travel. Some of them might be inspired by Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
- Don’t Panic. It works for interstellar hitchhikers and it will serve all travelers. Keep yourself and your family as calm as possible no matter the situation. Worry and panic have never produced anything good. Take some deep breaths and remember to think it through the best you can. Every problem has a solution, so unless someone is dead or dying, keep working the problem.
- Remind yourself in the middle of things going sideways that it will make a great story later. It is not fun to get stranded in an airport with tired kids but they will enjoy telling that part of the trip as much as anything else.
- Keep your sense of humor. It is best if you can laugh at the absurdity of a situation. Remember this when you are tempted to lose it on your partner or children. Laugh instead.
- Go easy on yourself and those around you. You are doing the best you can with the situation you are in and so are your kids. Be as gracious as possible.
- Remind yourself and your family that it is a team effort. You will all need to pull together to get through the minor crises that arise while traveling. No blaming, just solutions. I tell my kids that every trip we are on is an audition for the next trip. If they can hold it together and we get through this one then we can book another cool trip next time.
- Bring your towel or anything else you might need to survive the next day or so. If you have an infant then I highly recommend bringing enough diapers, cloths and food for 24-36 hours. Any longer than that and you will be able to find a store. For older kids, snacks and distractions. For the adults (and kids) bring chargers and back up batteries for digital devices, these are for distraction and communication/information.
- Carry digital and paper copies of all your travel documents. Remember to also leave a copy with someone not traveling with you.
- Use your travel agent. If my clients give me a heads up that things are shifting on them I can often get ahead of the trouble and work out a solution or at least offer the best choices for what they can do next. Don’t be afraid to call or text if something is going south.
- Take sustenance when you can. Don’t pass up opportunities to get a meal. Meals can be delayed and not of the quality you might hope for. If you have a layover in an airport and it is not quite dinner time, eat anyway. Three pints of beer are probably an overkill for regular travel but sometimes a calming beverage can be beneficial as well.
- Use your babble fish. If you are in a country where the common language is one in which you are not fluent, keep your iTranslate or pocket translator handy. You can even learn a few of the more important phrases for an emergency. Words like “emergency” or “it hurts” or “where is ____?”.
Other parents have their own strategies and if you have some that work well then please share them in the comments section.
Happy Travels and Don’t Panic.