Traveling with a tween

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traveling pic 1If you have stepped outside lately, you know it is traveling time. Anyone who can afford to wants to head west or north. Well, I invited my 11 year old grandson, a “tween”, on a men-only road trip. Right before the 4th of July, we headed north to Georgetown Lake, Montana, where my brother-in-law has a cabin.

This was not my first road rodeo.  Over 20 years ago, I packed up my 12 year old son and 10 year old step daughter for a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. They were both good trips, with long-term positive memories.

I learned a few things on that sojourn. The first is to make frequent stops, one every two or three hours. Kids need to stretch,  pee and be curious in the world around them. Kids have energy and if they can get a little exercise in their growing bones, they are happier travelers.

It is also important to have healthy snacks in the car. Children often have different eating rituals and if you have fruit, jerky, nuts, chips, drinks or whatever, it will save you time and grief. It will also save you money. At one gas stop, I bought some jerky for the growing guy and the little bag cost nearly nine dollars! It was good jerky, but I am still not used to new millennium prices.

A couple things before we hit the road. I prayed for a good trip, safe travel and an opportunity to have an excellent trip. In the first 15 minutes it was time for rules on the road. Tweens love music, so we made a deal to change who was in charge of the radio each hour. His music is likable and he loves to change the radio stations frequently which can be annoying. If you agree to a situation, it is easier to handle it. I knew that after an hour, I could listen to my Christian music or classic rock. I didn’t feel like a hostage which is important on a long trip.

Another rule is to “crack the window.” There are two gas problems on a long trip. One is the high gas prices you pay every 300 miles or so. The other is the price you pay traveling pic 2when someone has bad gas inside the car. It is important to teach youth manners when it comes to normal bodily functions, if for no other reason for your own survival. He was good at following the rule and luckily it didn’t have to be enforced so much until the last half of the trip home.

One last thing, which for me is important, but not so much for the tweens who only know about cyberspace travel. We did not use a GPS and I wanted him to learn about maps. I love my Rand McNally maps and as we traversed each state, he was able to not only give me information, but get a view of the world that is less often seen. I think they teach about maps in school, but there is no substitute for using them in the real world. GPS is cool but I am old school and still like my maps.

The trip was wonderful and I am not going into the details. No injuries and we had a lot of firsts (he caught his first fish; he ate pork nuggets; and got to play ultimate Frisbee with relatives from Montana, to name a few.) If you have a chance, travel with a tween. When they get older, they are less interested and not as appreciative of the experience. But even if it isn’t Montana, get the heck out of Dodge, with a child or two, even if it is not as far or long.