How to Make Travel Fun for Military Kids

travel fun for kids

How to Make Travel Fun for Military Kids

Whether it’s a day trip, a PCS abroad, or somewhere in between, the military creates opportunities to travel. And if you have kids, that means you’ll be able to create long-lasting memories together in a way few others get. But can you make travel fun for kids too? Whether it Germany, Italy, South Korea, Japan, or right here in the US of A, here are a few fun activities that will make your Military kids love to travel just as much as you do?

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kids-in-Croatia How to Make Travel Fun for Military Kids

 

How to Make Travel Fun for Military Kids

6 Fun Activities to Get Your Kids to Love Travel

Kids might be apprehensive about taking such a long trip, sad about leaving their friends, and frightened about venturing to someplace unfamiliar to them. I found my love for travel as an Army Brat. My parents created a kid-friendly environment filled with fun activities when we traveled. And now I’ve traveled with my children so many times. I’ve learned one essential thing. Preparation is the key to shaping a child’s interest in travel. Some things work. Some don’t. But the following suggestions, in a combination created especially for your child, may turn your children into avid travelers like yourself.

Read all about the Honor Flight my dad and husband recently took to Washington, DC, to honor veterans.

Share Your Enthusiasm for Travel

After many domestic and international flights, road trips to visit the grandparents or PCS from one duty station to the next, you learn a thing or two. When you get ready to PCS or travel with your military kids, talk to them about the different languages, cultures, food, and fun activities they will encounter. Seek the right balance between the familiar and comforting and the new and exciting. You’ll decide the mix based on your kids. You cannot recreate a home in a box. And why would you? Isn’t that the point of traveling in the first place? Prepare them for what to expect. Be careful not to over-promise. That might lead to disaster when a particular museum or amusement is closed unexpectedly.

Get Kids to Love Travel Through 

Visualization

Visualization doesn’t just work with adults; it is also a great tool to help kids build excitement about their trip. We like to start with picture/ travel books to whet their appetite and spur their curiosity with our kids. Look at a street scene, say the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and ask the kids to imagine standing right there, in the picture. What would they see? What would it sound like, smell like? Then shift to a map and try and find that spot. Where is it concerning our hotel? How could we get there? Older children may be able to navigate the family to that very spot with little or no assistance.

Print an oversized Germany map that pinpoints the specific locations you plan to visit and post it in a prominent location, or the special “Germany” section of the house where they can look at it every morning when they wake up. Take this concept one step further by adding a calendar countdown that marks your departure day.

Engage Them With Books, Music, and Movies

Books, music, and movies are sources for fun activities. Download music inspired by your upcoming trip. Mix it in with music you would normally listen to while driving or eating dinner. Or rent a movie from the library. Try the Sound of Music if visiting Austria or Finding Neverland for England. Pair it with food every Thursday night and invite your child’s friends, so it becomes something to look forward to. Search for companion iTunes audio and video tours for your city, available absolutely free in many cases. Have your child listen to it on a Saturday afternoon outing.

Try watching a movie in its native language without and then with the captions turned on to see how much you understand instinctively. It can be a lot of fun making up dialogue. You’ll all be surprised at how much you will understand from context, hand signals, and body language.

Contact the tourism board or local chamber of commerce of your destination before leaving for your trip. Request travel brochures and tourist information. Arrange these in a folder for easy reference. Let the kids flip through the fliers and magazines while in flight to prepare them further and boost their enthusiasm. Give older kids a calculator and a budget. Then, let them work out an affordable itinerary.

Use Kid-friendly Internet Tools

I bet your older kids can find more information on the Internet about your destination than you can. You know your kid, what would make travel fun for them? Would a trip to the zoo, amusement park, arcade, or mall make a trip abroad more exciting to them? If so, ask them to do a little find and seek. And kids’ attractions fit within the budget and time frame of the trip. Put it into your itinerary.

They say kids are like sponges, which has been proven repeatedly with my eldest son. He carries a language book wherever we go and picks up common phrases quickly. What really amazes me, though, is that he can recall them long after we return home. It combines practicing and interacting with those who speak the language in situ. I highly recommend purchasing an inexpensive language program on CD or DVD.

Create Kid-Friendly Food Experiences

Visit an Italian Festival, an Asian market, go out for a kebab, or eat with chopsticks. You’ll expand your child’s horizons, create a fun memory, and maybe you’ll discover a new favorite dish in the process.

If your kids are like mine, they will try anything once, but if they don’t “like” it, you can hang it up; they probably won’t try anything like it again. Let your picky eater know that you would appreciate it if they tried the local food, and if they still can’t find an appreciation for it, you’ll skip over to American exports like McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell, or KFC. These familiar chain restaurants offer a respite to weary American travelers, with kids offering variations on the food you and your kids are familiar with.

Kids get cranky when hungry, so make sure you have plenty of snacks for the in-between times. Since my kids never passed a vending machine they didn’t like, I keep healthy snacks like cereal bars, PB&J, and bread handy to fix a quick snack in the room and have a refrigerator, milk, and lunchmeat as well.

Other Kid-Friendly Suggestions

  • Give your kids a camera, if they don’t already have one, and encourage them to take tons of photos. It is usually fascinating to see things from a child’s perspective.
  • You can make travel fun for military kids by creating a memory book/journal of your journey? Before the trip, get each of your kids a small journal, markers, and tape. Suggest that they journal about their trip by drawing, writing, and taping in pictures, ticket stubs, postcards, etc.
  • Ask your child to collect the addresses of friends back home so he/ she can mail them a postcard before returning home. This gives friends something to talk about when they reunite. Then they can work through the list on the trip.
  • Could you encourage them to start a collection? It doesn’t really matter what, as long as it’s something that interests them. Magnets, postcards, hats, stickers, mugs, dolls, books, pens all work well and won’t blow out the budget.
  • I am a black military spouse with black kids. I must show them positive images of people who look like them as much as possible when we travel.

Things to Keep in Mind

However, great plans fail miserably when it comes to kids. With idle hands comes idle minds when not addressed. Trust your parental instincts when it comes to choosing your kids’ travel toys and books. You can make ravel fun for military kids by engaging your child’s interest. Crayons, colored pencils, and paper can transform into hours of amusement (or at least distraction). If your son can play at home with his Nintendo DS for hours, it’s probably a pretty solid bet it will entertain him on vacation as well. Make sure to pack the charger (to keep it working). And earplugs (to keep it from working on you).

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Comments

  1. Heidi

    We took our kids out of the country this summer, and they are hooked! Exploring the world is so exciting. I wish we could afford to take the kids everywhere.

  2. Hannah Marie

    My kids easily get excited when they hear travel. They can’t even eat their breakfast the morning before they leave. But this is a really good post. Thanks for sharing1

  3. Sarah Fatima

    Great read and helpful piece of pieces of advice. I totally agree with you that nowadays kids have more knowledge about all the things and destination because they use the internet more. I love “Things to keep in mind” part. It is important.

  4. Silvia

    Awesome tips. My kids started traveling with me since they were babies and that has helped a lot. I had to agree that showing them what is the plan and bringing food has saved me multiple times.

  5. Amber Myers

    Nice! My kids love to travel, so I’m glad. They are older, so they are much easier to travel with. Back in the day, I always made sure they had new toys and food, and that seemed to keep them happy. They usually are eager to try new foods, although my son, who has autism, can get weirded out.

  6. Casey

    What a great post. Going on holiday with your loved ones are the best feeling in the world. Thanks for such useful tips, will love to see more of this post.

  7. Scott Gombar

    Good tips here. My kids love to travel and love the journey as well. We try to have fun along the way too. Once had a 6-hour layover in Miami in the middle of the night on our way to Haiti. My son was very entertained until he fell asleep.

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