BOBW Podcast: Travel (especially to Canada!)

Best of Both World podcast with Laura Vanderkam

This week Sarah and I welcomed guest Jody Robbins to Best of Both Worlds. Robbins writes a lot about family travel, including a new book called 25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit. She shared tons of tips, including:

Why you should bring a cookie sheet with you on a car trip. It’s the perfect workspace for kids, and raised edges can keep crayons from rolling off and getting lost. The cookie sheet might also corral spilled fries should you wind up eating in your car.

Why you should visit the dollar store before a trip. Little surprises can fill a lot of time. Make a goodie bag for each kid with cheap items that they can amuse themselves with. Novelty can go a long way. Screens are great, but are often best deployed a few hours in, when everyone’s getting cranky.

Why you should involve kids in the planning. Older kids especially can be charged with planning rest stops along a route. Give them a map and let them figure out parks, or donut stores, or roadside museums or what have you. When kids know when they’ll stop — and feel in control — this can potentially cut down on whining. Somewhat. Not 100%. But you know that.

Why you should plan for individual family downtime during a group trip. Too many people can overstimulate kids, and sometimes it’s good to have a few hours per day when your normal family rules still apply. I’d note that adults can plan for their own individual downtime too. It might mean waking up early, or using nap time, or trading off with people, but it is possible.

Why you should schedule a massage after you return. Some trips are “duty” trips. Even if there are fun elements, not every moment of a family “vacation” is going to be great. So Robbins recommends scheduling a fun adult activity within a few days of return, such as a massage or a date night for you and your spouse.

Why you should visit Canada! For people with spring break coming up, the mountains around Banff will have “champagne powder” in late March/April. People who are into Vikings might like Newfoundland. And if you want a taste of Europe without the overnight flight, Montreal is a great option. Just be sure everyone’s passports are up-to-date!

In the question segment we talk about what people can do in those little spurts of time while a small child is playing independently. You can’t do anything involved, and you can’t leave, but they don’t really need you either. We welcome suggestions.

6 thoughts on “BOBW Podcast: Travel (especially to Canada!)

  1. Re: supervise playing… read, obviously 😉 also while colouring, I take my coursework with me to the table; they draw and I make colourful notes 🙂

  2. You made a great case for getting everyone Passports at the start of the podcast but I wanted to point out for those living close to the Canadian border there’s another option. The passport card is valid for land (or water) entry into Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. The fee is a lot less than a full passport and it’s wallet sized. It’s only good if you’re driving, not flying, but for those of us who live close enough to drive it’s an easy option. Also if you’re driving into Canada children under 1 year do not need a passport, just a birth certificate. Finally if one parent only is traveling with the children you should bring a letter from the other parent listing the dates of the trip and giving permission. So far I’ve never been asked for it but it is technically a requirement to prevent non-custodial parents from taking the kids out of the country.

    1. @Margaret- thanks for letting us know! This could be a good option for people who live within driving distance of Canada. And yes, when I’ve traveled with my kids and met my husband in the international location we’ve always had a letter from him saying I had permission to make the trip (feels so funny and antiquated — my husband is giving me “permission” to travel, but I know he’d need a similar letter!)

  3. I would just like to offer a rebuttal to Sarah’s comment regarding being stuck to the school calendar for vacations. I’ve been told by parents with older children that until high school it’s fine to take your kids out in elementary school. My girls are in first and third and I pull them out in January for a family vacation each year.

    1. @Alissa- I would certainly say it’s more doable in elementary school than later on. My 6th grader was so stressed out about his make up middle school work from one day this fall that he’s pretty much said “no more.”

  4. Also wanted to mention that I am now inspired to visit Canada. Your guest made some great points about visiting Canada and I really enjoyed this episode.

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