I admit to having travelust! I love traveling and have quite a long wish list of places I still want to visit. We traveled a lot before a child and continue to travel a lot since our son was born. In fact, his first trip was when he was 8 weeks old. Even with having a child who is a poor sleeper and has an overactive brain, we’ve still managed to travel the world while maintaining our sanity! Traveling is a necessity since we live in TX and our immediate family lives in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Hawaii with friends and extended family living in many other states and countries. Despite having food allergies and sensitivities in the family combined with 2 family members being overthinkers, we still travel. In fact, traveling is part of our homeschooling and road schooling philosophy.
Roadschooling is literally homeschooling or learning on the road. And, we are notorious for doing that. I wrote a blog back in 2014 highlighting one day of road schooling to demonstrate that so much learning can occur outside of the home. Part of road schooling for us is travel. And thanks to having friends or family in far away places, we have gone to some special places. I have 4 previous blogs on world schooling in which I discuss where we went, places visited, and special things we learned: New Zealand, Germany, England, and Hawaii. I know Hawaii is not really international but it is not part of the mainland and offers some unique cultural experiences. In addition, getting to Hawaii requires multiple flights making it a long-haul trip.
Due to my overthinking and the need to satisfy my son’s constant curiosity I am quite the planner for our trips. On every trip, even when visiting family and friends, I travel with a list of museums, zoos, or parks of interest. I also denote which places our membership have reciprocity for or links for discount codes. When traveling with our friends abroad we tend to come up with an itinerary and places we want to visit before we leave. Of course, we have lists of back-ups if the weather doesn’t cooperate. And, I’ve surprised myself as well as others with some of the places we have found. If nothing comes up on my list of reciprocity organizations I will google the towns near where we are staying to find something. In fact, some of the small towns have museums that are free and run by local volunteers which are often very friendly and willing to ask the 20-100 questions my son will ask. The only downside is that some of these small town museums do not have websites so you are just left with an address, phone number, and hours.
Here are my top resources for planning activities:
- Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Travel Passport Program Our children’s museum is a member and it gains reciprocity at 100’s of museums across the US and some foreign countries. We have found that many museums honor the pass for the same number of guests we get at our home museum, saving us and the friends or family we are visiting money.
- Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Reciprocity Program Our zoo participates in the AZA Reciprocity program and gains access to 100’s of zoos and aquariums across the US and some foreign countries. Like the ASCT program, this is a money saver when traveling.
- Factory Tours USA has a list of over 500 factories offering tours. Some tours are free and some are for a fee. Some have age restrictions. We have taken several factory tours such as dairy farms, cheese factory, chocolate factory, vineyards, breweries, fire trucks, etc. In a couple years he’ll be old enough to do the hard hat tour at Harley Davidson.
- Roadside America allows you to search your state and highways you will be traveling for a variety of roadside attractions and oddities. I admit to making several photo-stops at strange places. It also helps for finding places that could be used as a rest stop when driving across Texas. It is always good to have more than one option for breaks.
- Find Your Park allows you to find national parks by state. I previously wrote a blog on the national parks and the free 4th-grade pass offers (they were still running this offer). In my blog, I provide links to various lesson plans and junior ranger programs the park offers. We try to visit the national park system yearly. There are also lists of national forests, national wildlife refuges, national historic monuments, world heritage sites within the US, and BLM land that has hiking or camping. The park pass works on all of these.
Here are apps that we use for those long-haul flights or drives (we have more that we use at home for homeschooling):
- Minecraft Pocket Edition (when on free wifi we play multiplayer as a family)
- Google Hangouts (how we text the grandparents, other family members, and friends)
- EE Toolkit
- Google Keep
- Brain it On!
- Crossy Road
- Flow Free
- Mega Jump
- Circuit Scramble
- Toy Blast
- Mega Run
- Khan Academy
- Desmos (awesome graphing calculator app)
- Here Maps & Google Maps (on our phones and very entertaining while flying)
- Google Camera (on our phones and used as a magnifier by our son)
Here is a list of things we pack or have packed for any travel adventures (easy airplane carry-on):
- Boogie Board is our new must have item but not available at all stores. It is a tiny LCD writing pad and reminds me of the old etch-a-sketch. Our son draws complicated designs or does his algebra on it. When travelings his friends and cousins like doodling on it. We have the cheapest one in which stuff is not saved, so we do take pictures of neat projects. But the fun part is the doodling and then one button click it’s blank again. We are no longer packing a ton of art supplies.
- Sticky Mosaics is found almost at every craft/hobby store, Target, Walmart, and online. There are several varieties out there. And we have found girl, boy, and neutral kits out there. They are the perfect quiet activity and travel easily. Our son is now 10 and just started to outgrow them.
- Scratch paper is also found in a number of places. This one is still fun. And we’ve learned, you don’t need a special stick (most come with one) as you can scratch it with coins, pencils, and just about anything. Our son has received scratch paper activity books as gifts in the past. These too make a great quiet activity.
- Color Wonder Markers & Papers were a huge hit when our son was a toddler through about 8 years old. He was given a travel set which came with a case that carried 4 small markers, blank papers, and some activity pages. The best part is we could sneak in other things into the travel case to make packing simpler. Although not reusable paper, at least with color wonder markers you do not have to worry about colored marks on your child’s clothing, the rental car, the plane, or whatever you are traveling in. There are so many kits and designs out there as well as blank pages which make this an easy to pack art activity.
- Clipboard of any kind. We have a relatively flat version so it is easy to pack. It is used as a hard surface for writing or drawing. We always have some blank papers of various types packed in it. And makes writing easier for our son when he is doing his writing journal, a junior ranger activity book, or any other workbook.
- Eye Loupe or Magnifier is small and easy to pack. Our son was given a great eye loupe from his grandfather but there are lots of varieties out there. Small magnifying glass will also work. We take ours everywhere as my son loves looking close up at just about anything. We have even purchased tiny magnifiers that attach to my phone. And, Google Camera has a magnifier feature for phone cameras.
- Refillable water bottle is a must. When flying we go through security with them empty and then fill them as soon as we get to our gate. We have been on some flights that had no in-flight service due to turbulence. And, we also don’t want to purchase plastic bottled water at every stop. It is so much easier to travel with our own. Drinking water can also help with ear pressure during takeoff and landing, just like eating food.
- Our own food is always packed. I have food allergies and our son can’t eat certain foods due to his reflux and currently dealing with expanders. It is easier and cheaper to pack as much as we can. I have a bag of food for the 3 of us that I pack in our carryon. And, I always pack a stash of gluten free foods and my son’s favorites in our checked luggage. On the return that space is filled with any goodies we pick up while traveling. We will hit the grocery store when we arrive as we find cooking our own food the easiest way to make sure food is safe for me. We found gluten free travel is very easy in New Zealand, Canada, and England. Thanks to an amazing friend who was willing to translate everything and talk directly to the cooks, Germany was doable. However, in the US we have found it difficult in some rural parts. We also know that airlines can’t accommodate all food allergies. Aer Lingus and Air New Zealand were the best by far for having gluten-free and shellfish free meals! Their meals had the biggest selection. However, on US airlines we have not had good luck. Thus, we have to pack our own food. And, I have not had any troubles bringing my own food through security.
Seriously, go and travel with your kids. Experiential learning is the best kind!
This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Traveling With Gifted Kids.” I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions. Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser: