5 things that make traveling with kids easier

All three of my kids were born abroad, and traveling is one of our family’s favorite hobbies. Here are a few traveling tips we’ve picked up over the years.

1. Get a portable crib

Peapod cropped

I’m not talking about the old port-a-cribs. I’m talking about something that weighs 2 pounds, pops up in seconds, has a cover from the sun, and zips closed for mosquito protection. We bought a Peapod travel bed a year ago, and I can’t believe it took us so long to discover this. Amazing. We take it to the beach, pop it up in the walk-in closet, or whatever. If your kid can sleep in something like this, it is AWESOME. (The Peapod Plus is a bit bigger. We got the smaller one for our baby, but may upgrade to the bigger one someday).

2. Itinerary Management App

TripItFree_iPhone_SOHP_CroppedThese are pretty awesome. All you do is forward your confirmation emails to a predefined email address, and the app will organize all of your itinerary details for you. This is a must to keep straight your flights, hotels, car reservations, etc. all in one place. I’ve used both TripCase and TripIt. They both work pretty well. These also make it easy to share your travel plans with your spouse or anyone else that you may be visiting.

3. Stay somewhere with a kitchen

Maybe your kids are different than mine, but for us, going to a restaurant is usually not the most relaxing thing in the world. There are lots of ways to get a kitchen, but Airbnb is our go-to option. Not only do you save tons of money, but you often get a nicer place, meet locals, and have a tour guide you can email before you get there for some sweet insider tips.

4. Remember that kids operate on their own schedule.

When I was single, or newly married, I’d take whatever flight was cheapest and travel at the craziest hours. That makes for some fun stories and tired days, but it makes for ruined trips when you try to do it with kids. We try to do a few of the following in order to make our trips more fun with the kids:

  • Take flights during hours that are reasonable
  • Schedule time to stop off at the grocery store on the first day
  • Don’t pack the schedule too full
  • Take joy in the journey. Don’t focus too much on the destination, or you’ll stress the whole time and then wonder why you got there.

5. Get a hand-held luggage scale

We said goodbye to stressing over luggage weight after getting this. Just do it. Here’s the luggage scale we use. It’s light, amazingly accurate, and totally worth a few bucks.

I’ll post more tips later, but I though this was a decent list to start.

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You must abstain from consuming to create

We were built to create. However, in our modern day (and especially the US), we are taught that we are here to consume. We must stop consuming so we can start creating. 

Try consuming less of the following:

  • Media
  • News
  • Email
  • Shopping
  • Surfing the web

So you can create something like:

  • Deeper relationships
  • Art
  • Value for others
  • Goodwill
  • Develop new talents
  • A new business
  • A plan

Sometimes it is easier to abstain completely than to try to consume in moderation. Try abstaining from your phone or news for an hour, a day, a week, or a month, and when you do, decide what else you’d like to create in that time.

To kill a dream

It’s easy to kill a dream. All you have to do is tell someone it’s not possible. That it’s not worth it. That they are wasting their time. 

To some, that will kill it immediately. Others need to hear it a few times. And some have the instinct to persevere in the face of doubt, clutching to something they know has hope. 

If a dream will be killed, why not let someone else do it? 

Instead of making a judgement, ask an open ended question. Who knows what will come of it. 

Being rushed vs. being late

Being rushed. It’s something we do. Most of us don’t even think about why we are rushed–we just are. Sometimes, we rush because we have a certain appointment on our agenda.

Being rushed implies more than just moving quickly, there is a component of elevated stress. Especially when things that are out of our control are not being cooperative (e.g., that red light, or the slow driver in front of me).

I’d like to make the case for analyzing the consequences of being rushed versus being late. Rushing will usually increase our stress levels, cause us to act in ways that are less charitable towards others, and potentially put the safety of ourselves and others at risk. Furthermore, we will probably carry our stressed attitude into our next appointment, which may have some serious negative consequences. 

Being late can also have consequences. We may miss a flight, bus, or train (which would cause us to be late to something else). We might make other people wait for us. Or we might feel sheepish as we walk in to something that has already started without us. 

I’m not saying that we should never speed ourselves up to avoid being late, but we should think about what is worse. Perhaps we could send a message telling people we are likely to be 5 minutes late instead of tripping over ourselves only to arrive 2 minutes late anyway. 

Why the US public education system needs an overhaul

What is the purpose of a public education? Is it:

  • To give people the skills and knowledge they need to create value (and therefore make money)?
  • To babysit children so the parents can go to work, and the kids stay out of trouble?
  • To give everyone a common experience?
  • To teach kids guiding principles and values which can act as a compass throughout life?
  • To teach us how to be happy?

I’ve been reading an education manifesto which argues that not only is our system broken, but mass education was created in the early 20th century to make people obedient. It does that very well, which is really good for a society that needs obedient factory workers. I’m using this post to think publicly about a lot of the issues that were raised in that manifesto.

It’s currently pretty rubbish at giving people the skills and knowledge to create value in today’s market, as most things which are taught in school don’t apply to the jobs that can’t be outsourced to the cheapest labor market out there, or to a computer, or robot.

It’s pretty good at taking care of kids during the day.

It’s decent at giving people a common experience, although there’s a huge gap between those educated in the ghetto’s public schools and those educated in a wealthy neighborhood.

It teaches the value of obedience pretty well, and competition.

Um, the happiness one is just ridiculous.

So, if we don’t know the purpose, or if it’s not living up to it’s most important purposes, what should we do about it? Try to change the institutions? Make sure that we, as parents, teachers, administrators, and community members are making up for the weaknesses? Withdraw from the system? Create a new one?

I don’t have all the answers, but I think these are good questions. A wise professor once told me that the question is often more important than the answer. Once we have the answer, we stop learning. The questions are the beginning of learning.