We here at AKontheGO believe in family travel so much, we’re willing to take one for the team in generous encouragement of your next adventure. This means, of course, AK Fam must communicate our impressions within the world of travel and children; sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating, but always insightful. At least, after we’ve scraped the last piece of gum from the leather seats in the car, or finished a 12-hour road trip that was only supposed to be five…that sort of thing.
Since 2012 is a mere blink away and everybody is talking about intended promises for the new year, AK Dad and I thought we’d share our family travel resolutions in the spirit of traveling moms, dads, and grandparents everywhere. You can hear me expand more on the subject this afternoon on the Alaska Travelgram Show today, heard live from 2-3 p.m. AST, or streamed at 1020koan.com.
Say it with me, AKontheGO’ers. “When I travel this year, I WILL…”
Communicate my needs. Yes, that means actually talking with my family to see if they’d like to visit a dude ranch in Montana, or dive with turtles in Hawaii, or sit around a campfire in Kenai. Round table discussions = great travel ideas. Communicating also means discussing special accommodations I might need with respect to hotel rooms (rollaway beds, refrigerators, hair dryers, and such), airplane seating, and dietary requirements well in advance of my trip. I vow to do this in a respectful manner that will not cause my spouse or children to blush with embarrassment.
Be prepared. I say this a lot, don’t I? But no matter how many times I write, say, or scribe with a stick in the snow, something is always overlooked. Like the family who visited a local tour company from Japan last week and did not bring one.stitch.of.winter.clothing. Nada. Oh my. But being prepared is more than packing; it is doing homework to gather information about when and where we’ll visit, what special gear we might need, and how we’ll get it there. Preparation also means investigating policies and procedures of planes, trains, and automobiles before one arrives at the rental office, train station, or airport, and with proper documentation to boot. I will make sure my child has packed things he actually needs, instead of just the thing he wants. Legos are awesome, but a suitcase has way more room for stuff like underwear if it’s not full of Milennium Falcon pieces.
Step outside my comfort zone. This is hard. Notice I love to travel Alaska and the Pacific Northwest because it’s a place I know, and I’ll wager I’m not alone in this inner battle for vacation comfort. Taking a baby step, or leap, outside the box of familiar travel can be as simple as choosing a different season to visit a favorite place, or as complex as journeying to a completely new destination across the ocean. Start small; try a unique activity or food the next time you’re on vacation, or, take a different mode of transportation to a familiar destination. Who knows, it might lead to bigger things!
Be flexible. I think I talk about this a lot, too. Particularly in Alaska, where schedules can change in a moment or less due to weather, animals, or acts of God, flexibility is the one attribute that will assure a fantastic experience. Pouring rain? No problem. Put on the excellent raingear and take that whale-watching tour, then hit the local cafe for hot cocoa and pie. Why not? You’re on vacation! Plane delayed five hours due to a snowstorm? Break out the Uno and have a tournament, or turn up the iPod and let the kids dance away the hours in a corner of the airline terminal. I also promise to be more flexible with myself. One parent cannot a “perfect” vacation make. An adventure, for sure, but perfect? Nope, and we should stop trying to make everyone around us believe it should be.
Strive to teach my children. I wrote a fun blog post for Kids These Days! Radio last week talking about the concept of stewardship within a family vacation. The world is full of opportunities, even in the most urban or pseudo-reality environments, to engage our children in the wonders of their surroundings. For us, that moment rang true with a clang in the middle of Disneyland Resort, where luscious purple-blossomed trees were blooming during our visit last May, and strange birds sang high up in the branches, hidden from view. All thoughts of Mickey and Goofy vanished for a few minutes as AK Kid walked around this little tropical grove near the Disneyland Hotel, watching, listening, and feeling an environment completely different from his own in Alaska. Wow. Teachable moments are always there, and I vow to find more of them this year in unlikely places.
May your days be merry, bright, and full of travel wonders in 2012. Don’t forget to check out AKontheGO’s Top Trips of 2011, coming this Friday, December 30, right here!