Do you strive to raise citizens of the world? As you and your children begin to navigate the planet together, sharing your knowledge, while teaching them to make their own way, will create confidant and compassionate travelers for the future.
Here are a five tips for empowering the next generation of explorers:
1. Preparation breeds confidence.
Involve your kids in the travel planning and decision making process from the earliest age possible. Show them maps, books, web sites and pictures. Stoke their curiosity by discussing the nearby and faraway places you hope to visit now or in the future. When you or other friends or family travel for business or pleasure, make a point to show your children the destinations on a map and discuss geographic and cultural points of interest that will help build their growing understanding of the world.
2. Knowledge is power.
When planning your own journey, chart a road trip using your favorite mapping technology and share the information with the kids. If they are old enough, encourage them to create a suggested routing and to offer options for stops along the way. If you will be flying, show the kids how to navigate the booking process and then check in for a flight on line. Consider making each child responsible for their own boarding pass. (For younger children perhaps printing an extra as back up is a wise decision.) Provide each child with an itinerary and discuss the details before you depart. Talk about preparing for and moving through airport security.
3. Bestow Responsibility.
Discuss your travel plans and encourage your children to create a packing list early. Talk about the importance of having the right gear for an adventure trip or the proper attire for a city visit. Then, encourage them to pack their own belongings. As soon as possible, give them responsibility for making sure their bag makes it from home to the car, train or plane. Discuss the importance of having proper identification inside and outside of their bags and retaining baggage tags once a bag is checked to your destination.
4. Communication is key.
Before leaving home, make sure the whole family understands how you will navigate to your destination. Visiting a city? Make sure your crew has the hotel address and phone number at hand. If you will be traveling to or through a crowded venue like an airport, a theme park or shopping mall, be sure to have a clearly defined plan should someone lose their way. Use the buddy system or rooms designated for families when visiting public restrooms.
Consider bestowing each member of the family with a cell phone and instructions for use. Should challenges occur, share your problem solving skills and solutions with the children. Without propagating fear, encourage your children to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
5. Go local.
Research your destination before departure and discuss how the places you will visit might be different or similar to your own home. Seek out tour operators and lodging options that share your travel sensibilities.
Once you arrive, burrow into the culture and make a point to learn about how and where the locals live, work and play. Visit local farmer’s markets.
Skip the chains and seek out locally-owned eateries, shops and lodging. Seek out volunteer possibilities. If the language is not your own, learn at least a few key phrases and practice them before and during the visit.
In the end, education and experience breed understanding, acceptance and confidence.