Last summer, I wrote about travel with my son. Here’s my next installment. He’s a year older and getting more fun to travel with. We started our summer with a two-week vacation to France which was memorable for all of us.
Making travel memorable for a kid can be tough. As adults we take pictures, collect brochures, and file away memories that will last for years. We know that our kids are along for the ride when we take them on vacation, but we don’t always know what they’ll remember. So I decided to help my son keep track of his memories in a way that was accessible to him and catered to his interests.
We read about and talked about our vacation months before we went. (Hey did you know that about 50 tons of paint are added to the Eiffel Tower every seven years?) The Eiffel Tower was, of course, his must-see site and we read quite a bit about it before our vacation. More about the Eiffel Tower later.
I also let him pack all of his own clothing for the trip to give him a bit of ownership in the preparation process. I verbally told him how many of each item of clothing he would need. He brought them to me (and I helped him match outfits together) and we packed them in our suitcase.
My son loves to do arts and crafts, so I put together a Travel Journal Kit for him to keep track of memories in a way that would be meaningful to him. The kit contained 4 simple items: a pad of paper, a scissors, a small bottle of glue, and a package of markers. The premise was that during down time, he could record things in his travel journal. He could draw things, write things (he loves to write when we tell him how to spell things), or cut things out of brochures we collected.
He LOVED it! This was the most important pieces of entertainment (other than a slinky he amused himself with in the rental car for an unreasonably long amount of time) that we packed for him. We stayed in a few apartments due to booking via AirBnB.com. When I was making dinner or in other down time, he would work on his travel journal with my husband’s or my help. He recorded everything from the plane we flew on, to his first taxi ride, to a huge ferris wheel (“fairest wheel” as my son calls it) on the beach overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Marseille, to the fountain show and ballet dancers practicing at the Palace of Versailles, to a hedge labyrinth at a palace, to his rendition of an impressionist’s painting of a lemon at the Orsay, and much, much more.
So, la Tour Eiffel (the Eiffel Tower) did not disappoint my 5-year-old. He had (incorrectly of course) believed that you could actually climb ON the Eiffel Tower and did start to throw a small (hunger-induced) fit when he figured out that you could only climb up/down the staircases to the first two levels. Despite that disappointment, he loved it. After our visit, protesters (explosions, smoke, riot police, etc.) moved in at the base of la Tour Eiffel. We were a safe distance away across the street by the carousel. So, my son’s rendition of the Eiffel Tower in his travel journal reflects this travel reality.
We aren’t huge souvenir purchasers, so this was a meaningful way for my son to have a lasting memento of the trip that he can show his grandparents (and other willing listeners). Since returning, we also have checked out some books on France from the library to help keep some of the memories fresh and to expand a bit on what we saw. We also invited some of our other kid and mom friends for a La Crêperie party. While my crepes are not authentic, they were a tasty stove-top version complete with jam, sugar, or Nutella.
So, readers… How do you make trips meaningful for your children? Would love to hear from you. I’ll need some ideas since my son’s requested to go to Ireland on our next big trip. His requested destination: the Giant’s Causeway.