One of the easiest ways to build some continuity into your family travels is to start a travel tradition.
Because you are visiting new places each trip, it’s easy for some kids to feel anxious in the face of so many new experiences. But by keeping a few traditions that stick with us no matter what our destination, we have been able to create the sense of routine and balance that helps even the youngest kids feel relaxed and in control on vacation.
These traditions can be anything, but the most important thing is to keep them simple enough that you can be sure of keeping them up from year to year. By far our kids’ favorite tradition is our rock jar. Every trip, we find a beautiful or unusual rock to bring home to remember what we loved about that place. These rocks (or sometimes seashells) are labeled with a sharpie marker and added to a special rock jar on our fireplace mantel. The jar is a daily reminder of our adventures, and also a great conversation starter.
Other traditions have grown up over the years as our kids have decided on their own collections–Lemmy always buys a snowglobe, Leafy Isaac looks for cool necklaces. My world-traveler sister and her husband always buy a book related to the place they are visiting–Confucius in Beijing, Shakespeare in Stratford.
Many of our friends buy Christmas ornaments distinctive to their destinations, and others bring home tiny bottles of sand. Keychains, playing cards and refrigerator magnets are other low-cost souvenirs that are usually easy to find in most tourist shops around the world. Some friends have built a collection of CDs they have bought from the street musicians they encounter around the world.
Other souvenirs can be created from things that are useful both during and after a trip—my friend Karin’s family purchases reusable grocery bags on their travels, others buy a special beach towel from each beach they visit. One friend buys t-shirts which she plans to turn into a quilt. My youngest sister buys one article of clothing on each trip so she can remember her experience every time she wears it (and enjoy the reactions of people when they ask where she bought her boots and the answer is Ireland.)
Your chosen traditions might have to do with the pictures you take. My sister and her husband were tired of never getting photos together as they traveled, but didn’t like asking strangers to take their picture. So they started taking pictures of their feet in each destination, strategically positioning their feet together over their favorite views. The resulting pictures are artistic, unusual and, frankly, adorable.
But my current favorite travel tradition was started by my cousin Stephanie’s family, who get a short video clip of them dancing on each stop of the world-tour-that-is-their-life. (And can I just say, I am so mad I never thought of this myself. I could have made such a good music video with all of those . . .)
Whatever travel traditions your family chooses to embrace, it’s a wonderful and simple way to create lasting memories and a common thread through your travels.