Back when they were mini-makers, we homeschooled our kids, which meant that everywhere we went was a field trip - whether it was to the grocery store or to the Grand Canyon. To make the most out of our big family trips, though, we created a customized vacation itinerary that included everything from travel distances and directions, to historical information, and recommended stops along our way to see things that we thought our diversely minded little tribe might enjoy.
Putting the itinerary together was as fun and instructive as using it on the trip, even when we didn't adhere to it all that closely when we traveled, because of the nature of travel with kids. But I still have those itineraries, and our now grown kids still remember them, so I thought others might enjoy getting a look at the idea, too.
Step 1: The Basics
All our itineraries started with the basics - departure and arrival times, rental car info, hotel info, etc.We traveled in the days before tablets and iPads, so we had to make sure we had all the necessary info with us in hard copy. Including it in our itinerary was a good way to do that.
Step 2: General Plan
General Plan was always subject to Admiral Reality. We had no real expectation of staying the course too rigorously, but having a general plan helped move us along. Most of the time, we were pretty close. Sometimes we just had to wing it. But even if we deviated from our plan one day, having the itinerary on hand helped us move forward on following days.
Step 3: Places of Interest
Our itineraries are full of far more places of interest than we ever got to, but they often made for interesting reading along the way - especially as we passed a place we had considered stopping at.
Step 4: Looking Deeper
Commercial travel guides typically provide high level looks at different areas. Doing some homework ahead of time can reveal some more interesting historical, artistic, or economic details that the books leave out.
Step 5: Know the Lay of the Land
When traveling with young people, especially in outdoor areas, it a good idea to know the lay of the land. We've always loved hiking and exploring, but our travels took us outside the Southern scope of our environmental familiarity. So it was important that we had some idea of trail lengths and difficulty levels.
Sure, you can usually get that information at the parks or preserves to which you might be traveling. But if you can identify beforehand the trails, routes, or sites that might be the most accessible, safe and enjoyable, you'll waste less time on site trying to gauge the situation there without any foreknowledge.
Step 6: Enjoy the Journey!
Having a customized travel itinerary can take some of the guess work out of traveling with kids, but your itinerary is just a map, not the territory. A travel itinerary should just be a guide, not something that should be so rigidly adhered to that you overlook or miss out on the many wonderful, spontaneous and serendipitous opportunities that can arise on any journey.
So have fun planning, but have more fun journeying!