Family Travel Challenge 5: The “Please, Please, Please stop talking about Pokemon” Challenge

<insert your kids favorite thing to ramble about here – Minecraft, Frozen, Roblox… you get the idea>

This one is more of a challenge for me than Celine. She’s easy going. I just need to have some silence in my life to process my thoughts, so it’s not about the Pokemon, it’s often just about the ongoing conversation.

On our first train ride in England, we almost missed the announcement about our stop because the boys were rambling to each other about …something?

My mind is always running, so their never-ending conversation often drowns out the conversation in my head.

On a hike it’s often, “Watch your footing. Don’t trip on that rock. We’re almost there,” or if I’m towing our trailer, it’s watching my mirrors, watching my speed, don’t get too close to the guy in front, checking we’re in our lane, what’s the height of that bridge, is that guy really going to try and pass me.”

If I’m working, then I’m focused on whatever I’m writing (since we run our online business from our RV) and I need to ask for quiet or find somwhere quiet to get to – but if we’re hiking and it’s perfectly acceptable for them to be having a conversation, I try and change the conversation by asking questions about what we’re doing or what we’re seeing.

It’s easier to change the subject than to ask them not to talk. Often, I simply need something different than hearing the “pokemon radionstation talk show” I can’t turn off.

Sure, it’s usually NEW silliness (like what’s your favorite knock knock joke) or sometimes it’s “First one to that next light pole wins. Ready? Go.”

I envy people who say “We sat for an hour and watched the sunset in silence.”

Oh, that’s cute. We watched the sunset and listened to 45 minutes about how Tiramisu evolves from Mitsubishi into Tai Kwon Do in the last YouTube fan video – or something like that.

(Side note: If it seems odd that we started with #5, it might be that you need to click here to read about family travel challenges 1-4 first!)

Family Travel Challenge 6: The “Where To Next?” Challenge

Just this afternoon, I said to our oldest, “I can’t wait to get back to Europe to visit more castles. Did you know there are 10,000 castles in Europe?” I said this somewhat in jest because I’m the biggest castle fan in our family. Celine enjoys them, and the boys just come along to see if they can talk me into ice cream afterward.

He said, “I’m kind of castled out.” Right… We visited Europe for 7 months last year and visited 15 castles (only went inside half of them) while we were there and he’s “Castled Out.”

This is Edinburgh Castle in Scotland:

The problem is not isolated to “Where we can go,” but often the challenge is “We can go anywhere, so how do we make a decision?”

There are 44 countries in Europe and it would be nearly impossible to see all of them during our 7 month trip there, so we had to decide where to visit in Europe and what we would leave for our next family vacation.

Right now, we’ve found plenty of petsitting opportunities through the site in Australia, we’ve found some great Airbnb options in Southeast Asia and flights that fit our schedule, and we loved Europe and felt like there was a lot more to do, so we’d be happy to head back there, but that won’t be for a while yet.

(if you haven’t traveled overseas with your kids, here are some tips for traveling with kids on planes)

We met friends who encouraged us to visit the place in India where they spent a month on the East Coast, and other friends who just left for three months to Cyrus and invited us to join for a bit while they’re there.

In the meantime, we’re deciding where to go next in our RV journey. We’ve got friends in 2 different directions from where we currently are, and we’d love to see each of them. Thankfully, since this is our lifestyle and not just a family vacation, we can extend our timelines, or simply decide we’ll meet with those friends the next time we’re in the area.

The challenge of family travel is often about narrowing possibilities.

Family Travel Challenge 7: The “You Have To Do X While You’re There” Challenge

This one is more about explaining to friends and family that we’re not on family vacation. Celine and I still have to work writing our family travel blog and running our web design agency, the boys have to homeschool, and we can’t blow a 7-day “Disney Budget” every time we visit a new city.

We’re not surprised that our family travel makes people think we’re always on family vacation, but while some families save up the whole year for family vacations, our activities have to fit into our ongoing budget.

The “You Have To Do X While You’re There” is usually a special activity that vacationers will splurge to do:

  • Rent a pink jeep to go offroading in Sedona
  • Take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon
  • Rent gear to hike the Narrows in Zion National Park
  • See Penn & Teller in Las Vegas
  • Visit Hurricane Harbor Water Park in Phoenix
  • Take the Hoover Dam “Behind The Scenes” Guided Tour

What if I told you that in the Spring of 2021, we went through Phoenix, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas in the span of 1 month?

Now the “You Have to Do X” list ends up being our entire month’s budget for six days of activities.

Those “once-in-a-lifetime experiences” are the things that make the best family vacations

… but we are always balancing the “Things you have to do” with our budget and energy level. Even if the budget was unlimited, having the energy to go full-bore on ‘touristing’ every day sounds exhausting. The nice thing is that we can expect that we’ll have another opportunity to be back in that area at some point in the future and do that thing we missed the first time.

As an example, here are 9 things we did in Kelowna, BC that didn’t break the bank.

We have to say to ourselves “We’re not going to take helicopter into the Grand Canyon, but we will hike in for an hour, enjoy a picnic lunch and then hike back out. That will be how we experience the Grand Canyon this time,” which leads us to challenge 8:


Family Travel Challenge 8: The “Why Can’t We Do X” Challenge

Sometimes timeline, sometimes budget, and sometimes energy leads to our kids asking “Why can’t we do X?”

This was more our first year on the road, and our boys have learned to switch the question to “Could we do X while we’re here?” or “What are we planning to do when we visit X?”

While we would love to take a Jeep offroading through Arizona to get to the helipad and hop on a helicopter that tours the Grand Canyon, goes over Hoover Dam, and delivers us to the Penn & Teller show in Las Vegas that evening, our boys understand it’s just not feasible.

We have to learn to say, “We’re not going to do that because…”

and we’re really clear with our kids why. “That would be a lot of fun, but it would use up our entire budget for the month. We would rather do these 3 things than just that 1 thing,” or “That place isn’t open until Monday, and we have to leave here Saturday in order to get where we’re going next.”

“Dad, I did some research on a cruise for us.”

Pack your bags. We’re going on a guilt trip.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but over the last few days, I’ve been doing some research. I went through all of the cruise lines and narrowed down the top three cruise ships I would like to try for my first cruise, then I found out where they were sailing and where we’re planning to RV to find times and places that would match up, then I found a coupon code for the best price and narrowed down a 7-day cruise out of Florida on ship with all of the activities I would like, and it’s this amount of money.”

Then we stared at each other in absolute silence. I’ve been in sales long enough to hear many “experts” say that the first person who talks loses.

My son has not been in sales nearly long enough, so he spoke up: “So, which card would you like me to put a deposit on?” (ok, he at least knew enough to ask for the sale, not ask a Yes or No “Would you like me to book it?” question).

It is a challenge when they hear travel stories from other families about a specific area or experience (like a cruise), and we always try and balance that with the reality that there are so many options of other destinations and things to do, and help our kids understand that life is about finding balance among many factors.


Family Travel Challenge 9: The “What if?” Challenge

When I tell my dad travel stories, he says “That would be when you find out if you’re traveling, or a traveler.”

For us travel is a lifestyle, not an event.

The day before we left London for layover in Madrid on our way to Israel, I looked at Celine and said, “Which hotel did you book in Madrid?” and she looked at me and said, “That was your job,” so in less than 24 hours, we figured out we (I) hadn’t booked a hotel for our layover and booked one.

There are a lot of “What if?” questions we get from people who ask about our family traveling:

  • What if something goes wrong with your trailer?
  • What if your car breaks down?
  • What if you miss a flight?
  • What if you get your dates wrong and a housesitting host shows up the day before you’re expecting them? (hypothetically)
  • What if you fly somewhere and the Airbnb or hotel room isn’t what it’s supposed to be?
  • What if the number 21 bus in Glasgow shows up an hour late when you’re on your way back to the hotel for dinner with extended family?

Those “What if?” scenarios are real possibilities, and we’ll have to figure that out then.

We like to have contingencies in place. We rarely spend our credit card points until we have to – we save those points for when we need them.

We try not to lock ourselves into specific plans (like buying one-way plane tickets to Europe so we could decide when and from where we wanted to fly back), and while that would make some people uncomfortable, that’s just the “What ifs?” we choose to live with.

In exchange for that stability, we get to explore more than we could have imagined just five years ago.

In case you missed the first 4 challenges, you can read about them here.

5 Ideas To Save Money And Have The Best Family Vacations: Summer 2023
9 Challenges to Family Travel (and how we pretend we don't mind)