The Reality Of Traveling With Kids: Routine Can Be Good

In an earlier post I wrote about how we involved our kids in the planning process of our trip. ("A New Beginning") We all voted for the top places we wanted to go and our preferred things to see and do. We also talked about what we didn’t like about our 2005 six-month trip through Central America and Spain. The consensus number one dislike was “packing and moving too much.” We were all in complete agreement that we wanted to slow it down this time, to take a deeper dive into the cultures around us instead of just collecting stamps in our passports. In addition to experiencing more of the culture, we noticed that our kids just enjoy it more when they have more time in one place. They seem to thrive on a little bit of routine.

A 4/29/10 Wall Street Journal article by Nancy Keates observed that “Slow Travel is tied to a burgeoning movement to return to a time when life’s pleasures were savored, to a time when people appreciated the going as much as the getting there.” The article continues, “But slow travel isn’t only about the mode of transportation—it’s also about the way people are traveling. Instead of moving from one big hotel to another and racing to cross off one tourist attraction after another, slow travelers rent a place to stay, often off the beaten path, and focus on interacting with locals and sampling new customs.”

So while we are not alone in slowing down the itinerary, the added benefit to our kids is that they enjoy being one place – even if only for a week – and savoring the things that come with settling into a semblance of routine. We spent 10 days in Cairo and the kids really enjoyed getting to know the hotel staff, ordering their 24/7 complimentary tea like “regulars” and going to our favorite falafel place (Al-Tabeh) just around the corner. It’s hard to have a “favorite place” if you’re only somewhere for 2 days. We spent 6 months in Cusco, Peru and at least once a week my daughter would say, “Let’s go for gelato,” at La Dolce Vita near the Plaza de Armas. There is something comforting in having a favorite place, particularly when you travel frequently from place to place. We spent a month in Florence in a great apartment and the first thing my son did was start rearranging furniture. He knew we weren’t going anywhere for a while and he was setting up his space just the way he wanted it.

There is a great temptation when planning a trip to see as much as possible. Even in the middle of a long one like ours it is sometimes unavoidable: It’s not that far from where we’ll be. We’ll just stay there one night. Famous last words. When we were in Southwestern Turkey we had planned to see two of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World: The Colossus of Rhodes and the Temple of Artemis near Ephesus. My daughter successfully lobbied us to take a detour to go see another “wonder,” the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum, which would allow us to see six of the seven wonders on this trip. We’re glad we did it but at the time it was not fun racing from town to town. It wasn’t until we got to Athens, where we had an apartment for a week that we felt that we could kick back and relax.

Even though the word “routine” has negative connotations – staleness, boredom, sameness—in the context of traveling around the world with a backpack, it can be a good thing. For us we’ve found that a little bit of routine for our kids is a really good thing.

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