Our little family is now in the final stages of preparation for our 6 month bickepacking adventure. For many people the idea of rough travelling with children is an impossible one, but this type of paired-down travel can be hugely enjoyable and beneficial for people of all ages. In this post I aim to shed some light on a process that so rarely involves children, and hopefully encourage more parents to take the leap and wander. Read on for hints, tips and advice on making the planning process as simple and enjoyable as possible.
Helping your child to mentally prepare for a big trip is the key to overall success. With a little forethought and consideration you can ensure that your child is not only ready to manage the practical preparations, but will enjoy it all too.
A good place to start is to have a group talk about expectations Vs reality – what each person expects each phase to look like; from the planning right through to the return journey. Making sure that everyone is aware of and understands the realities of your plans is essential for stress-free traveling, particularly when you’re traveling with children.
Talk about the wide-ranging benefits of travel – what they will directly gain from the experience. The opportunities to learn about nature, environment, history, geography and culture; meeting new and interesting people, and the quality time together shouldn’t be underestimated or undersold. Children generally enjoy the kinds of active learning that travelling affords and often don’t even register that they are learning, to them it’s just fun and interesting play that comes with the added bonus of your time and attention.
If you find that your little one’s are still less than enthusiastic about your travel plans – which may be the case, they’re sacrificing a lot of ‘norms’ – it’s important to show them that you take their concerns seriously. Discuss any worries and present positive solutions, using a simple ‘pro’s and cons’ chart is a great way to promote the positive aspects in a visually stimulating way.
Encourage your children to participate in the route planning. This is something that even very young children can help with, and the feeling of being involved will boost a child’s good feelings about the journey.
Older children can actively engage with map reading, route plotting, and area and attraction research; while younger children will be content with ‘helping’ you to plan, and being given the opportunity to contribute ideas.
This phase of the preparations is a fantastic learning opportunity for children of all ages. The scope for learning is large and varied, and adaptable to suit the capabilities and interests of each individual child. A variety of topics can be covered in a hands-on manner including geography, maths, history and English.
Skills in research, planning, time management, visualization, problem solving and teamwork can all be built and honed during this phase of preparation; and all you need to do to take advantage of these opportunities is simply allow the children to get involved.
It is of course vital to physically prepare your children as well as you prepare yourselves.
If you’re planning a self-propelled trip, ie. Walking or cycling, it’s important to make sure that everyone knows everyone else’s physical capabilities. A travelling group is only as fast as it’s slowest member. Knowing and accepting this early on will save a lot of grief later, and should also ensure that you’re schedule and route plan are realistic and achievable.
It’s a good idea to start these preparations with a local day trip, travelling with your group in the manner in which you intend to on The Trip; monitoring your time spent moving vs distance traveled, food and water consumption. This will give you more of an idea of what is needed and how much distance your group can comfortably cover over the course of a day – but keep in mind any additional weight that will be carried on The Trip. The emphasis of a first outing should be to have fun as this is the time when any unconvinced children will be brought on board – if it’s done right! Make sure that you plan and prepare as thoroughly for this short trip as you would for a full treck, and make the destination one which the children will be happy to arrive at. Allow for regular rest/snack breaks, keeping in mind that a child will tire and become hungry sooner than an adult, and make the journey itself as fun and interesting as possible. There are lots of fun games and competitions that you can take on the road – we particularly like quizzes like “what am I?” and nature hunts such as these Spotting Sheets from The Wildlife Trusts. Field guides and pocket guides – we love Collins Food For Free – are also great for en-route learning and foraging (separate post on foraging coming soon!). Keeping children engaged will prevent the nightmare boredom from setting in while also providing unique learning opportunities that they just can’t get in a classroom.
The next step is to venture out for a weekend. The planning required for this is similar to that of a day trip; the primary difference being the nights, where you will have to plot a site to pitch up. The information gathered on your day trip should set you up well for ensuring that this trip goes smoothly, just bear in mind the need for additional resources to cover the additional time, and the logistics of setting up camp. As with a day trip, keeping the children entertained and engaged is important to ensure that your group of campers is a happy one.
Leap Of Faith
The final phase is really exactly as the title suggests – a leap of faith! Now, I know that you probably don’t want to hear that…that what you really want is for me to tell you that as long as you follow my foolproof steps you’re trip will be the best, most awesome, no-fuss immersion into the wonderful world of travelling with kids. But that, my friend, would be a Big. Fat. Lie. No amount of planning and preparation will guarantee you a niggle-free trip, but please don’t panic – what I also know is that you don’t really want that. Honest. The niggles and issues that you will undoubtedly face during your trip are not problems, they’re opportunities. Opportunities for learning, adventure and unity. So go on, take that leap of faith!
We would love to hear your stories, tips and advice for travelling with children (and/or pets!) – leave us a comment below! You can also follow us on our new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lovelearnwanderblog/