Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling With Kids
Did you think your travel days were over when you had kids? Think again. This guide – a complete guide to family travel – not only debunks that myth, but shows how family travel can inspire a whole new worldview – that of creativity, reflection, intercultural learning, and looking both near and far for life-changing experiences.
I firmly believe that one of the best ways to teach your kids about the world is to travel and experience difference. For international education is more than just learning about a people and place – it’s also about expanded worldviews, ethnorelativism, and learning about yourself. But many people feel that travel with kids is exhausting, filled with battles, and not very fun. I disagree – as do Bill Richards and Ashley Steel (our Traveling with Kids Editor). Bill and Ashley have penned the BEST family travel book I’ve read – Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids. It’s an inspiration! Packed with humor and good sense, this complete guide should be an essential part of any family’s travels.
If you’re just starting travel with your family, this book is full of great tips and suggestions to get going. If you’re a seasoned family traveler, you’ll still find plenty of suggestions to make travel more fun, and to pursue travel adventures that will stay with your family for life. And let’s dig into the E word – Education. While many think of educational travel as something boring and undesirable, The Art of Traveling with Kids takes all those schooly assumptions and turns them on their heads. It provides real suggestions for an enhanced journey – and growing worldview – that incorporates the joy of discovery and learning.
What you’ll be surprised by is how MUCH genius is packed into this book. It’s not only a guide to family travel – it’s a complete guide to being an interesting, engaged, and intercultural family.
We caught up with Bill Richards, to get the backstory of the Art of Traveling with Kids – and some family travel tips. Here’s what he had to say…
Please tell us about your book...
Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids is our way of encouraging parents to step away from their routines and show their children that there is a big world out there of different cultures, foods, languages, politics, philosophy, ecology, architecture, etc. The ideas in the book are not about WHERE to go with kids, but HOW to go on a travel adventure with your kids as near-equal travel partners; it’s about building inspiration, expectation, and education into the discovery of new places.
Photo op in Paris
What inspired you to write this book?
Both of us traveled quite extensively before we were married and wanted to continue exploring the world after we had children. We enjoy being with our kids and wanted to share with them the joy of learning that comes with traveling to someplace different. Ashley has a background in science curriculum development, so we were thinking up “educational” activities before, during, and after each trip. After several trips with little kids, the idea of melding travel and education in a more formal way took shape.
What do people think is so difficult about family travel?
I think many parents get so absorbed in the daily details of everyday family life that taking daily life on the road doesn’t look like much of a vacation. Combine those frustrations with an expectation that kids won’t want to do
the things on a trip that the adults want to do, and the expense of any adventure, and parents start leaning away from family travel and toward a simple vacation. Many travel guides even hint at leaving the kids at home. As daunting as the first trip might seem, traveling as a family is fun and well worth the effort. I think the biggest key to successful family travel is truly wanting shared experiences with your kids.
Sculpture in Budapest
What are your best family travel experiences - and what influences them?
My best travel experiences are when I am learning about something new and fascinating and I look over to find one of my daughters equally engaged in the discovery. It’s sharing that newness and difference with my kids. An example that jumps to mind is the afternoon that I spent in a sculpture park outside of Budapest with my eldest daughter, who was then about 9 years old. It was a small challenge to get there, first of all, but then both of us developed a fascination with the bold communist-era art. Of course successful travel experiences don’t happen in a vacuum. I had to set the stage for her well ahead of time: What is communism? How did it influence art? Why were all these sculptures moved from the center of town? But excellent shared travel experiences don’t have to be so exotic or educational. They can be as simple as trying a new flavor of ice cream together.
Do you have any tips for helping families include their kids in travel planning?
Well, firstly, they should buy our book. That’s the topic of the whole first section. I guess the underlying philosophy is to not only develop an expectation of what will happen on the trip, but to give your kids the context they need to understand and enjoy what they’re experiencing. Also remember to ask your children what they want to get out of the experience and allow them the power to make some of the decisions.
In front of a mountain spring that feeds the Vienna water system
What are your top tips for maintaining harmony while traveling?
To be honest, we get along so much better as a family while we are traveling than we do at home. It’s not that we’re miserable at home, but when we’re on the road we have a shared purpose. We generally like being together and there can be less territoriality on the road. And when our kids have a little extra decision-making power, they’re generally more agreeable. Maybe it’s a testament to the amount of traveling we have done together, but it’s really not that difficult for us. That said, in the book we talk a lot about preparing the kids, preparing yourself, and managing expectations for the day, the week, and the whole trip. We also talk about strategies for dealing with less-than-great behavior on the road because that’s just a reality of family life.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
My favorite quote is by Robert Louis Stevenson, “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” The journey is everything.
Bill Richards is co-author of Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids, available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/RPzxCd. Read his blog at www.familyontheloose.com and follow him on Twitter @familyonloose.
Photos copyrighted by Bill Richards and E. Ashley Steel