Monday, March 10, 2014

Traveling with Kids - 9 Weeks Beating Boredom

At week 9 I took the time to think about how long we would be in planes, buses or trains. Then I thought about if I have enough patience for all those hours in a small space with nothing for the boys to do. 

My realization? 

Definitely not enough patience. What to do about it? That was my question.
We all know our children and their personalities, likes and dislikes so this portion will need to be individualized for each family. This is what I did to help save my sanity:)

1. My children love to read, watch movies and play an occasional video game or two. I opted to purchase Kindles for them to take with us. There are all sorts of different Kindles from e-readers to mini computers.  I watched for sales and was able to get a pretty good deal. The issues here are that all content must be downloaded before leaving (movies, books, apps, games). I downloaded different movies on each Kindle so that it tripled the movies we had access to. The same thing with the books for the older kids. I was concerned that they would use their devices instead of participating with the family, but since they aren't big "gamers" I won't worry about that. This will help on the flight and bus when there isn't anything to do.

2. I want my children to remember our travels and to document it however they want. With this in mind, I went in search of the perfect travel journal. When I couldn't find anything to fit the bill I created travel smash journals for each child to keep in their backpacks. They are set up to follow our itinerary with the names of the countries, towns, and attractions we will visit. There is plenty of space for them to write, draw, tape postcards and memorabilia inside, and glue photos in. I also included several pockets in which they could place anything in. The pages are different colors and sizes and so it looks fun and it is all theirs to do with what they please. Some pages ask questions like "What is the funniest thing you saw today" or "What kind of food did you eat?" I include other things to make it enjoyable and something they could pull out and fill in on the bus. Here are the finished products:

3. I want my kids to have some immediate photos to include in these journals. My husband and I bought a polaroid camera from amazon for another project and we are bringing it along. They are about $69 to buy and film runs about $1 per picture. The photos are business card size. We will have our nicer camera with us so we don't expect these photos to be stunning, just fun. We will be carefully choosing which photos to take because of how expensive the film is.

4. I put together useful phrases in 4 languages and laminated them. This way, they can take them along and start memorizing and learning a little before we get to that country. This keeps them busy, learning and they will have an opportunity to try out each language.
Bored you say? Go and study those phrases we will be there shortly. :)

5. A must have is a travel pillow and lightweight blanket so that they can sleep as much as possible. I also bring my lavender essential oil to rub on their feet helping them sleep better. I hope this will be the most used of all my ideas because they will be rested for any adventure we may have.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Traveling with Children - Week 10 Passports and Shots

When asked where to take children when planning a European vacation, one well-known traveller said on his blog, straight to grandma's on the way to the airport. While I chuckled at this, knowing all too well why he said it, I wouldn't think about it for a second.

Time certainly flies. As my children continue to grow up I am realizing how little time I have left with them before they head out to make a life of their own. I want to give them memories, experiences and family adventures they will remember for a life-time. I want to take them with us whenever possible. My husband and I will have lots of time together in the future. For now, I want to focus on our family as we travel.

Recently several things have fallen into place for us to be able to start traveling with our children. Up to this point, the furthest from home we have been with them is Disneyland and the beach. Leaving home for a far off destination for several weeks takes more planning and thinking ahead than I am accustomed to.

I began wondering what I could do now to prepare us to have a fabulous trip. This series of posts will be a countdown in weeks to lift-off and it will include all I did to prepare my family for the adventure of a lifetime.

Let's start with 10 weeks prior to lift-off.

Passports are one of the first things you need to get taken care of if you are planning international travel. For a family it can end up being quite expensive to get them all at once and you may need to do this over a period of time. So plan accordingly. It took my family about 6 weeks to receive our passports.

You can get a passport at a US Post Office. Not all post offices offer this service so be sure to visit 
 Where to get a passport and find a local office set up for passports.

What do you need to get a passport? Here is the USPS passport site.
     2 forms of ID
     payment in the form of check or cash
     passport photos 2 in. x 2 in.

Every person must fill out an application. I found it was less hassle to get on line HERE and print the application out beforehand. It saved time during the process.

This will tell you what it will cost to get your passports.

Many European countries do not require additional shots for travel to and from, but if you are traveling to Africa or other third world countries chances are you will need to visit your local health department to get the recommended shots. Some countries, for instance, will not let you in if you haven't had your yellow fever shot and have proof of that shot. In fact, they will turn you away at the border and your trip will be very short-lived. 

How to know what shots I will need? Simply visit the CDC website to find out which shots you may need. 

Get a head start on these two things long before your intended travel dates. And remember that our children are only young once. Let's enjoy them and spend time with them having adventures and making memories. 

Empowerment Experience Month Three

Value of Hard Work

I overheard a groups of my son's friends talking about how in today's society they don't need to work very hard, but instead they need to think hard.

I thought this was a funny statement. As I thought about it, I realized how instantaneous everything is for them. I remember growing up and wanting to play with a friend. I had to call them on a land line and sometimes I actually got a busy signal and had to wait for someone to get off the phone. If I wanted to know information I had to take time to look it up in the encyclopedia or take a trip to the library to see what I could find and no, it was not on the computer...I had to search through library cards. Today all these things are at the touch of a finger. While it is fantastic living in the information generation, I want my boys to learn to work and enjoy the benefits of work.
Teaching kids that life is not all fun and games is a great
life lesson!
We wanted to give our boys an experience with work that differs from the daily household chores and expectations. This can sometimes be challenging when they are too young to hold a formal job. We did find that there are opportunities for them to work when we started to ask around. Few friends their age (7, 12, and 13) work. I thought this might be a sticky point for them. When they found out that they actually get paid to work it became much less of an issue (I didn't have to hear..."Mom, so-and-so doesn't have to work" to which my response is always, "I am not so-and-so's mother").

Back to job opportunities. We found summertime or fall held the best opportunity to find them each a job. We helped "employ" our 7 year old, well,.... because he is 7. The other two were able to pick up jobs at the local community recreation department as referees. My friend's children work at a scout camp while another friend's children get up early and do yard work for neighbors.

It was wonderful to see our kids have some responsibility and get the reward for the work they put in. They both loved being able to have their own spending money they had earned and we took the opportunity to talk with them about saving money, paying tithing (whenever we learn to be obedient to Heavenly Father we are always blessed significantly) and being responsible about what they choose to do with their money.

The reward for this experience was simply the paycheck they received. Nothing else was needed.

In today's society where youth feel entitled it becomes even more important for us to help our children know the reality that they will not get all they want. To teach that hard work is a character building trait that leads to financial security and a privilege we have will benefit them as well as our communities.