Whether it’s your first home exchange vacation with children or your 10th, preparation is critical to maximize the enjoyment of your trip. In part one of our three-part series on home exchange with kids, we look at 5 key elements you must address before embarking on your trip. Follow these tips and your family outing will be remembered more for photo ops and connecting than domestic discord and objecting.
Prepare Your Kids to Be Mental Giants
The age and maturity of your children determines the extent of mental preparation. A child under three may need very little preparation, whereas your seven-year-old may need pre-trip counseling sessions with premier psychologists. (Or maybe just Dr. Phil). If you have a child in junior high, just give up now and accept the hormonally-induced ups and downs.
Review with your children your travel expectations. What unique customs might they encounter? What will the weather be like? What is the brief agenda for the trip? What fantastic adventures are in store? What elements of the trip might be boring and/or unattractive?
Have a frank discussion with your progeny and begin the trip with open lines of communication.
Prepare Your Kids to Get Physical, Physical
In the days and weeks leading up to the trip, adjust your children’s schedule and habits to match your travel scenario. For example, if the kids will be forced to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor, try it out a few nights before departing to help them adjust. Or perhaps there will be unusual foods or spices your kids will be forced to eat. Introduce these items in the diet early to help ease the “newness” of it all.
And for heavens sake, the day you leave, be sure to start out with good, nutrition meals and drinks. Nothing can melt a kid faster than coming off a sugar (or caffeine) high at 40,000 feet elevation.
Pack Like Your Crossing a Border (Illegally)
Pack light! No, really, pack light! Especially when you are traveling with the kids. You are already going to be carting around a myriad of plastic contraptions (booster seats, baby wipe containers, toys, etc.), so do yourself a favor and don’t add dead weight to the mix. Remember the following:
-You are exchanging into a home that is (usually) lived in. Meaning they will have most everything needed for life. If you get in a bind, a quick call to your exchange partner will most likely garner approval to use anything you forgot.
-You will be able to purchase most anything you forgot and/or realized you needed.
-All of us (including the kids) can live for a very long time without absolutely every convenience of modern society.
-You are traveling, therefor life should be different for a while!
Everyone Likes to Get Mail…
We here at HomeExchangeUniversity.com are big fans of mailing things ahead. We focus on items that are disposable and most likely will not be returning with us. For example, disposable diapers, wipes, snacks, old clothing you know you will not want after the trip, etc.
Another option is to mail larger items like booster seats, playpens, toys, etc. Most airlines charge fees for these extra items, so you will pay either way. Might as well benefit from not having to lug it all around and instead, have it there when you arrive. This may not be an option for transcontinental travel, as the cost to mail items my be higher than checking additional baggage.
Another home exchange advantage: your host family will likely receive your property a few days before they depart, and have it secure and ready for your use upon arrival. (Be sure to negotiate this into your agreement).
Be Sure to Pack (Entertainment) Heat
Splurge a little and depart on your home exchange well-armed with entertainment options for the kids. Games, music, books, blank paper and pencils, hobby-related items, portable DVD players and even (gasp!) portable video games are all viable ways for the kids to pass the time during travel. You may exhaust all or part of a full day getting to your destination, so be sure to plan for such potential boredom.
My personal recommendation are games that the family can play together and that don’t require electricity. I have vivid memories of automobile and plane rides filled with all sorts of clever made-up word games. I encourage you to make these memories for your children, starting with your next trip.
Next week we will take a look at Part 2 in our series 5 Keys To Maintaining Sanity While Traveling With Kids by focusing on the “during” phase of your trip.
Deren S. Monday is co-founder of HomeExchangeUniversity.com and father of two. He also dabbles in on-line marketing planning and implementation. Deren can be reached at dsm_at_homeexchangeuniversity_dot_com.