I realised last year when I was travelling to Los Angeles with my 16-year old that she’s a more confident traveller than I am.
She can easily navigate her way across London on the Tube and having just 45 minutes at an airport to get off one plane and onto the next (which is in a different terminal) doesn’t phase her in the slightest.
For some children, confidence when travelling might come naturally but for others, there are a few things you can do that will definitely give them a push in the right direction. There are lots of things that we’ve done for our two that have really helped them…
We let them take the lead
From the first time we took the kids to London on the train, we encouraged them to plan our route on the underground.
We downloaded an app on the iPad and told them where we were going to start and where we needed to end up and let them plan the journey. We spent time on the train to Kings Cross working it out with them so when we got there, they knew where what signs to look out for and where we were getting off – even though we knew ourselves anyway, we’ve always let them think that they were guiding us.
We allow plenty of time (where we can)
We’ve always tried to make our travel journey’s as calm and as fun as possible so the kids enjoy the journey as much as the trip itself and allowing plenty of time means that we’re reducing the chance of any panic should we experience any delays along the way. By not seeing us panic and by enjoying the journey, it helps them to relax when travelling.
We explain what’s happening and why
We’ve always tried to explain to the kids what’s happening and the reasons why when we’re travelling. The security checks at the airport are a great example as we’re expected to wait in a long queue (usually) and then empty half the contents of our bags into a box on a conveyor belt. As if that isn’t enough, we then have to stand in line to walk through the metal detector machine and then re-pack our bag in super quick time.
That can be quite stressful but explaining why that happens and what being vigilant can prevent means that you’ll never see my children impatient or grumpy about standing in a queue at security or passport control on the other side.
Equally, a plane can make some odd noises during a flight – the landing gear coming up and going down, the noises as the plane starts to descend, the noises that the flaps on the wings make at different stages – all of these can be a bit worrying if you don’t know what they are so I made it a priority to find out so I could explain what they were before they asked. Now they’re pros at travelling and even on our flight home from Cyprus last year where the turbulence and landing were pretty bad they weren’t nervous at all. They actually enjoyed it as they were so confident that it was just a normal thing that happened and that there was nothing out of the ordinary -me on the other hand, I was pretty convinced that something was very wrong!
(I can’t remember the site I used as it’s been a few years since my two have needed an explanation but this is similar)
We take it in turns to choose what we do and where we go
We have at least one family holiday a year, usually in the Summer Holidays and we generally take it in turns to choose where we go. The year before last I didn’t want to go too far away from my Dad so we went to the Isle of Wight which was lovely if not a little bit cold and wet. Last year, my daughter wanted a beach holiday in the sun so we did Cyprus and this year it’s my son’s turn and he’s picked Amsterdam and Holland (don’t ask?!?!).
We do the same when we’re actually on holiday too so when we go to New York (just me and the kids this time) in a couple of weeks, we have all picked out things we want to do. Everyone who chooses somewhere they want to go has to research the best prices, how we get there and what we can all expect when we’re there which really helps their confidence. They’re learning to go online and look for information and then they have the responsibility of getting us all there that day.
We make sure they know what the local currency is worth
They have their own money when we travel and we want them to be able to make decisions about what to buy with confidence. I usually write out a little chart for them to pop in their purse/wallet showing how much 1 dollar (for example) is worth in pounds, how much $5 dollars is worth and how much $10 is. From there they can work out all amounts and can decide if they really want to buy something.
To me, confidence comes from knowledge so the more your children know about travel and what to expect, the more confident they’ll be.