Taking the kids with you, even when they stay home

My phone, after L decorated it

My phone, after L decorated it

Most of my travel time these days is split between family trips (for this blog and additional outlets) and solo trips (to fulfill other assignments). When the kids come with me, it’s easy to monitor how they’re experiencing and internalizing our travel. When they stay home, however, this process becomes a bit more challenging.

Powerwoman and I have tried a number of solutions to overcome this hurdle. When she went to England with her oldest sister to celebrate their dad’s 70th birthday last year, she wrote the girls (just the big ones at that time) separate letters for them to open each day she was gone. When I traveled to Maui on behalf of Expedia last spring, I Skyped with the girls once a day so they could see palm trees and “feel” and “smell” the tropical breeze.

Both of these strategies seemed to work well. The letters, though asynchronous, enabled the girls to feel like as if were connecting with their mom even though she was halfway across the world. The Skype sessions were more interactive, though the kids’ attention spans always were shorter than I’d hoped.

On my next trip, for which I leave Thursday, I’m going to try something new: Text messages with photos.

This new approach is a direct appeal to spark additional interaction—L has become a wonderful writer and enjoys pecking out texts and emojis in response. The way we’ve planned it, I’ll send texts and images once a day. L will respond to hers directly. R will tell L what to type in response to the ones earmarked for her.

I’m eager to see how the girls respond to the texts. I’m headed to Vegas, a place I’ve covered as a beat for their entire lives, so they are particularly interested in the pictures I send back. (To be specific, they are interested in pictures of the private pool in our kick-ass suite, the giant televisions in the sports book, the bingo hall, and pictures of Daddy playing poker. This is what happens when your dad covers gambling.)

Normally I’d say this setup encourages way more screen time than I like my kids to have. In this case, however, I think the additional screen time actually may be a good facilitator for the kids to experience my travel vicariously.

The goal of all of this is to spark the same sort of curiosity that we spark when we travel with them. So long as the texts accomplish that, I’ll be happy.

How do you interact with your kids when you travel and they stay home?

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