One of the more common questions I get asked by parents who haven’t traveled a lot with their kids is “How do we find activities that both parents and kids will enjoy?”
What parents and kids enjoy while traveling is more similar than you might think. And typically the activities don’t include a clause such as “kid friendly” in their description.
What I’ve learned is to plan the day you believe will be most enriching and interesting for your whole family. Sure, there will be times when the kids are bored and driving you crazy. But even after a long hot day of visiting museums or natural reserves, I have found that all my kids need is one—just one!—moment that transforms the day from boring to one of the most memorable.
I hope you enjoy my latest blog moment!
BRING WATER SHOES
It was unbearably hot. By the time we arrived at our third and final stop for the day, the kids were whining and anxious to go back to our hotel.
There it was—the question we all get to at some point after a long day of touring—do we forge ahead or opt out? More honestly asked—do we give in to the whining or not?
From the parking lot we could see a grouping of thatched huts and a walk-up tourist counter. The landscape, a unique backdrop of desert walls decorated by palm trees. The kids poured out of the car, relentlessly carrying on about being tired and bored.
On the path near the thatched hut scurried a family of small animals that looked like tailless squirrels with funny little faces and beady black eyes. A few lazily cooling themselves on the rocks. Later I learned they were rock hyraxes.
With sweat starting to pool on my forehead and one eye on the kids, I did my best to listen to the droning of the tourist operator, who also seemed tired and bored.
We were in Israel, but at this moment we could have been at any other natural reserve—each with its own beauty and draw. This was the En Gedi Nature Preserve on the road to Masada.
As we began hiking I started to appreciate En Gedi’s beauty. The trail was lined with a variety of vegetation—acacia trees, Sodom apple trees with their twisted yellow fruit, and giant reeds and cattails. The cliff walls were draped with moss and ferns.
But after 45 minutes of hiking, the allure of the rock hyraxes now a distant memory, the kids were again tireless in their whining and I started to question our decision.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and thought I heard the sound of rushing water. I left my family in that moment for a brief and isolated daydream. I was standing beneath a waterfall.
Opening my eyes slowly, likely with a faint smile, I caught a glimpse of my four-year-old daughter running towards what looked to be an innocuous stream. I quickly sought information from my habitually imperfect memory…oh no, did I bring her water shoes?
I was relieved to discover them in the backpack and soon all of us were splashing in cool water, our laughter bouncing off the desert walls.
The day had quickly transformed. While the kids played I stood back to take in the surroundings. A waterfall gushing in front of the semi-hidden caves in the hard desert wall. The landscape, while mostly in tans and browns, was rich with texture and energy.
This moment, just one of millions that tell a story about this place. I imagined spirits veering at us from the caves, and they were smiling too.
And if I stood quiet enough, I could still hear the rustling of the rock hyraxes, watching from their own safe distance, my children splashing in the stream.
Bring Water Shoes is written as a metaphor to remind us to look for and to some degree—be prepared for—that moment. Lurking right around the corner of boredom is a stream your kids can laugh and play in—as long as you don’t forget to bring their water shoes!
I would love to hear about your own experiences...
- What is your fondest unplanned memory traveling with your parents or kids?
- What small planning principles have you adopted that would allow for these types of moments not to be missed?
Hope to hear from you!