Top Five Most and Least Essential Mindsets for Family Travel

After our whirlwind, cross-country, cross-pacific jaunts as a family, we wanted to share a few things that we found to be very essential and a few that were, not-so-essential, during our travels.  Of course, as with any blog post that contains a list, it’s not meant to be prescriptive, but just based on our own experiences. We admit that since we only have one child and we’re not challenged with the dynamics of traveling with multiple children. Bravo to the mommy’s and daddy’s traveling with NOT two, but three, four, or five children or even more!!   WOW!

Since May was Mental Health Month in the U.S., what I am listing are actually NOT ‘physical things’ at all, but “mental” in nature.

 I’m certain there’s plenty of information online about the best luggage, car gadget, smart phone, GPS device for family travel.  I’d rather focus on our mindset for this post.

Most Essential Mindsets:

  1. Patience.  Traveling, by nature, will not go at the pace that you would like.  Ever.  There’s plenty of dead time, waiting, then waiting some more.  Or driving cross-country, to get from point A to point B.
  2. Expect the unexpected.  Yes, very cliché, but true.
  3. Plan as much as you can, and let go of the rest.  Flexibility of mind is important.  If you’re too anal about planning, then you lose out on the fun of ‘getting lost’ in the moment, and discovering unexpected new experiences.  It’s okay to have a few days where nothing is planned in advance, and go explore the new destination blindly.
  4. Keeping a child busy isn’t about money, but about creativity.  You don’t need a built-in DVD player, or an Ipad, or Nintendo to keep your kids busy.  Balance out their time with word games that gets everyone involved.  For our M, we prefer making up new games, including but not limited to:  “M, create a song with these three words, …”  or “Each person names a word that begins with the last letter of the previous person’s word..”  and more.
  5. Allow your kids freedom to have fun.  Okay, this one is about gadgets. For M, having her own camera (any old digital will do), to take shots, make videos, is priceless.  To me, gadgets that foster creativity are better than games and such that are just for killing time.  Low tech “Tablet”:  colored pencils and a notepad.  Dollar store, enough said.

Mindsets to Leave at Home:

  1. Control.  Yeah, self-explanatory, right?  See numbers 2 and 3 above.
  2. Expectations about anything.  This can range from the cottage you’re staying in, or how your kids behave.
  3. Money = Love.  You can’t buy happiness.  If you can’t afford to buy souvenirs, then don’t!  Teach your kids that the experience in itself is a gift, and you don’t need to get a “We came all the way to Thailand and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” shirt, to prove that you went there.  Your memories, photos, and videos can be sufficient.  Buy postcards, instead of the more bulky, pricey gifts.
  4. Maximizing every minute of every day.  It’s okay not to see every landmark listed in the travel book when you visit a far away destination.   You won’t be able to see all of it, so relax, and enjoy what you do see, and be reasonable with your planning or stay longer (do the slow travel).  But, if you want to travel like a contestant on the “Amazing Race,” then go for it, I ain’t stopping you.
  5. Ethnocentrism.  Yeah, I’m going academic on you here.  Yes, things will be different from home, so use that as a teaching moment with your kids.  Role modeling is essential, and teaching kids that there’s more than one way to do things, is priceless in our book.  We witnessed a very large tourist family (both in number, and size) in Chiang Mai, stopping to ask us to direct them to the nearest Burger King,.  Yeah!  You read correctly.  Burger King! My heart sank just then.  It was very hard not to lash out with a multicultural lecture at that moment!
As part of a group writing project, we are participating with other families.  Each family has their own version of essentials and non-essentials.  Please stop by to see what they have to say!

Around the World In Easy Ways

Edventure Project

Family on Bikes

Livin On The Road

Snaps and Blabs

The Tripping Mom 


Wandering Educators

What about you?  What are your essentials and non-essentials?

We Say NO to Status Quo.

Live Green.  Live Small.  Give Large.  Take Little.

Take Notice.  Take Action.


23 thoughts on “Top Five Most and Least Essential Mindsets for Family Travel

  1. I love the “Plan as much as you can, and let go of the rest.” it kind of goes with my theme for life and travel, over plan then go with the flow. Also, as for modeling the way I say yes indeed, that whole actions speak louder than words carries through here. It would be a waste of an experience if you travel the world only to teach your children to be close minded.

  2. Hi, i have included one of your posts in our new “World First Weekly Wander” (pretty catchy name huh) each week we list 10 of our favorite Travel blog posts, this week you post about mindsets for travel made it onto our top ten so many thanks



  3. Great list with a totally different perspective – I love it.

    BTW, I think we passed that Burger King in Chiang Mai – on the way to get one of those awesome banana pancakes from our favorite street vendors!

    1. Hi Amy,

      Yeah, not sure where that family was from, couldn’t tell from their accents, but I could see the desperation in their eyes to find a ‘comforting’ Western eatery. I understand the urge to want something familiar, I’ve had my share of Mike’s Burgers in Chiang Mai, but if one is visiting for a short while, I’d rather seek out as much local food as possible. Sigh, that’s just me I guess.

  4. All fine thoughts, but I dare say – one might easily insert “yourself” in most every point (e.g. “Keeping a child [yourself] busy isn’t about money, but about creativity.”)

    Especially notable is your point on souvenirs. I fondly remember when I set off for an 8 month study abroad in Europe w/ my (then) 8 and 11 yr. old daughters. Before we left I sat them down and explained our shoestring budget (not to mention backpack weight limitations) and asked them to pick a single item to “collect” at souvenirs along the way.

    My youngest (bless her heart) chose “candy wrappers”! Not surprising her choice/preoccupation w/ sweets at 8 yrs. and oh so easy to find/pack around! Indeed, now grown up w/ kids of her own, she still has a lovely framed collage of candy wrappers from Greece, France, Italy, etc. to remember her adventures as child skipping ’round Europe.

    1. Dyanne,

      Thanks so much for sharing the candy wrapper story. Very sweet, and original! And yes, I agree, knowing how to keep ourselves busy can definitely help with keeping us sane during travel. 😉


  5. This is great to start off on a journey, or on life… I tottaly agree that we only need creativity to entertain our kids. Even when they have special toys or eletronics, there´s always the need to improvise and play together.

  6. I LOVE this… it’s SO true! One I’d add in the “essentials” list… a sense of humor!!

    Here’s hoping our paths cross in the real world!


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