familyonthelooseWe are newbies in the world of international travel, figuring out how to make a go of hopping ’round the world with our four children (ages 8 and under). We’re excited to do it but we have much to learn. Like every other traveling fiend, we’ve spent a fair amount of time browsing the internet and watching Youtube videos of the places we are going to and the places that we dream about one day visiting. We’ve been preparing for this year’s travels for the better part of a year and we’re raring to get going. To help us to further think through the logistics and particulars of the international aspects, we picked up a copy of Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids and gave it a read.

Authors Bill Richards and E. Ashley Steel have traveled and/or lived in 40 countries. They have explored the world with their two daughters, who are now accomplished travelers in their own right. This book was written as encouragement to others to learn/figure out how to travel easily and happily with children. Count us in!

First, we just have to say how much we appreciate their “Can Do” attitude when it comes to traveling with children. We know it can be done and we believe it should be done (even if we’re not seasoned quite yet). So far we have enjoyed countless in-country travels and lots of road trips. Our kids are all pretty fantastic road trippers. We enjoy being a family and seeing and experiencing new things together and so we’re ready to take things to the next level: international travel. When we tell some people of our plans we frequently get questioning looks and discouraging remarks, ranging anywhere from “Are you crazy?” to “But they won’t remember anything about it.” As to the former, we might be but we suspect not. Launching into the online traveling world we see that we are absolutely not alone in wanting to live an adventure with our kids while they are growing up. To the latter, we can only confess that it is true. They might not remember the particulars of a place or an event when they are older, but they will remember that we did fun things together as a family. They will remember building team and the time spent with one another. Our oldest certainly doesn’t remember every detail of trips we went on when he was younger but he does remember certain people or incidents. He knows he went places, even if he doesn’t remember exactly how old he was or what we were doing at the time. That’s enough for us. If they know that their company is valued by their parents and that we care to enjoy whatever time we have together to be family, that is entirely enough for us. The rest, as they say, is just icing on the cake!

Richards and Steel walk their readers through the basics of travel. Family on the Loose is divided into three sections: getting ready to go, going, and coming home again. In each section they address how to manage trips with the little people in mind so that the big people have a fun time of things as well.

Being an early learner in the international process we separated ourselves from what we think we know about travel and read it in such a way as to receive their advice. We were glad we did that because they have a lot of great advice to dole out from everything to raising the excitement levels in the children for the travel to what to pack. In fact, they speak a lot on what to pack, how to pack, and why you want to be as minimalistic in your packing as possible. (This was a good thing to have hammered home.) They offer tips for air travel from playful entertainment to keep the kids occupied to reasons not to be at all upset if you have the opportunity to be bumped from your original flight. Lastly, they follow up their traveling advice by sharing some methods that they have used to ease the journey back home. Of course, they aren’t talking about weekend getaways so they have more to adjust back to. When they travel they attempt to stay at their destination for as long as possible. (We’re doing our best to follow suit.)

Richards and Steel also offer many templates that you can use in helping your children to prepare for the trip. They are big on the concept of allowing kids to own the act of traveling for themselves. Depending on a child’s age, of course, the authors would highly recommend that you teach your children to pack their own suitcases. They offer a template checklist which can be used for non-readers and readers alike. They also recommend involving the kids in budget discussions and encourage parents to help the kids set their own budgets with their own spending money. We had given brief thought to this so it was interesting to hear them speak on this subject. We plan to give our kids a budget and talk them through the set of activities and places we will be visiting so that they can manage their own funds.

On the whole we think Family on the Loose is a really great book to read if you are considering international travel with your kids. Even if you have already gone about the process of country hopping, it’s always a good idea to get a fresh opinion on the how-to of it all and that would also make this book useful to you.

Many thanks to Richards and Steel for being willing to share their experiences and their advice with others so that we too can have a terrific traveling experience!

Learn more about Richards and Steel, their family and travels at their website, Family on the Loose.