Call it fate, irony, kismet, serendipity, or simply coincidence, but the Hoagie’s Gifted Education BlogHop “Traveling with Gifted Kids” just happens to be published while we are in the middle of a weeklong family roadtrip. As I’m writing this, we’re in the preparations mode. And we’ve been talking about how to keep everyone sane during our 2000+ miles together in a van.
Having 2 therapists in the family, we tend to communicate with all of Team Boorman above and beyond what is probably necessary. But, I do think this is the NUMBER ONE TIP for traveling with your gifted kids: ASK THEM WHAT THEY NEED AND WANT. Both in terms of the activities they want, and in terms of the things they need to keep travel successful.
In an effort to demonstrate the efficacy of this, I’ve picked my kids’ brains to help with this post. So, from the mouths of a few fringy babes . . . here’s what will help your next roadtrip with a gifted/2e kiddo be as successful as possible.
Always practical, KBear, our 9-year-old 2e kiddo with sensory processing disorder, dyspraxia, and probable autism, provides us with TIP NUMBER TWO: BRING UNIQUE BUGOUT BAGS FOR EACH OF YOUR UNIQUE KIDS. In other words, be prepared. Specifically, her suggestions were, “Bring weight (as in weighted blankets, lap pads, vests to reset out of sync nervous systems). Bring something that keeps you calm. Bring something to not get bored, because if you get bored, you’re definitely going to end up in the red zone!” Red Zone, in case you aren’t familiar with the Zones of Regulation (which you should check out, by the way), is melt-down, overload, no longer in control of our bodies territory. And she’s absolutely right. Our gifted kids do not handle boredom well. Spend some time preparing for the trip to help your kiddos determine what will be calming and engaging for them. And snacks. Always have snacks and drinks.
KBear also provides us with TIP NUMBER THREE: KEEP YOUR SAME ROUTINE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. In particular, she mentioned bedtime. Keep a similar bedtime routine. It becomes easy to let the kids stay up a little bit later when you’re on vacation, but remember, they’ll wake up at exactly the same time as usual the next morning. Only crabbier. Our kids need some level of predictability. Find some things from your normal day-to-day routine that you can keep consistent even when you’re traveling, and stick to them as best as possible. Talk about the next day’s itinerary to help them prepare for a new schedule. Setup a particular vacation routine that can be followed from one day to the next.
But, we all know that routine isn’t always set in stone in normal day to day life, let alone when we’re traveling across the country. And so, here comes Cub’s tip, TIP NUMBER FOUR: BE FLEXIBLE AND REALISTIC. Cub is our 12-year-old gifted boy who just calls it like he sees it, “Sometimes you need to stop everything and pull over and other times it’s smooth sailing. Sometimes you’ll have somebody just freaking out in the backseat. Just go with it.” Cub’s got this embracing the fringy family life down, I’m telling you. Better than me, that’s for sure!
Essentially, tear down your own ideal images of family vacations. Channel your inner Griswald and embrace the suck. Be prepared that there will be intense moments. There will be freakouts. There will be sites that you wanted to see, but just won’t be able to successfully get to. But, don’t create a self-fulfilling prophecy, either. There will be good times. There will be laughs. Simply be mindful and allow the trip and the moment to be what it will be. Don’t push it, but don’t sell yourself short, either. Model flexibility for your inflexible kids. As Jon Kabat Zinn famously said, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
And finally, even 4-year-olds have wisdom to share. I asked our Chimp, 4-year-old bouncy little smarty pants that he is, what helps kids on big trips. And he said, “Sleeping.” Which, yes, get your kids the sleep they need (and yourselves, for that matter), but that wasn’t exactly what he was meaning. So, I asked him to clarify and he said, “Sleeping at nighttime while you’re driving.” Ahh . . .yes . . . TIP NUMBER FIVE: TIMING IS EVERYTHING.
I don’t know how many years our aging bodies and minds have left to be able to do this, but we leave right before dinner when we go on a long roadtrip. Jon and I drive through the night, while the kids fall asleep to music or movies or the stars and headlights zooming by. There’s something pretty awesome about driving through the deepest darkest night and watching the sky light up in front of you and then see fuzzy haired and bleary eyed kiddos waking up and stretching to see an entirely different part of the world.
Whether you want to drive through the night or not isn’t really the point, though. Pick your timing carefully. We will never go to Disney during spring break. Our sensory kiddo would be in continual meltdown. We will never schedule long, long days without a break. We’ll be taking one twilight tour of DC. The tour starts at the youngest two’s bedtime. We will do a little something in the morning. Head back to the hotel. Rest, nap, and have a quiet dinner of pizza in the hotel before heading out for the late night. Timing. Think about what your kiddos need and don’t need and plan accordingly.
Of course, there’s other great tips to make gifted travel intensely fun instead of intensely frightful. We chatted about it on the Fringy Bit Podcast, episode 8 - This is NOT a Vacation. And, get a totally different perspective from some other great gifted bloggers at This Month’s Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop.
And remember, no matter what, whether pleasant or unpleasant, you’re creating memories. And sometimes, when everything goes wrong, the best memories are being created to be retold holiday meal after holiday meal with the family gathered around. Happy and safe travels to you!