Our kids are having a blast during our days on the road, but if you ask them, they will tell you that they’d rather be in Nashville. They miss their across-the-street best friends. They miss their bedroom and their bunkbeds.
Moving into full time travel mode is so different from moving across town or to a new state entirely. I can’t make a promise of meeting new friends – we rarely meet kids on the road. When we do it’s glorious, but those weeks have been few and far between.
I totally get it. I miss my friends too. I miss being able to run into people I know at the store or the library. I miss being the person my best friend calls when she needs help.
To help honor those big and valid feelings, these are some of the things we’ve embraced on our journey. Many of these will help your kids battle homesickness, whether your trip is long term of just for spring break:
Start selling the trip early
Going home for the holidays was wonderful and we tried to leave as much time for unscheduled play with friends as possible. That said, I knew that leaving again to get back on the road would be tough. So we started talking about the things we would get to do early. One of the highlights of this leg of the trip for us will be snorkeling in Los Cabos, so we starting watching documentaries about the ocean and talking about animals we hope to see. We also talked a lot about the benefit of our flexible lifestyle – how we can do school anywhere and anytime while our friends at home have to be in school on certain days and by certain times.
You can also give your kids tools like creating an Instagram account to document their trip in their own words or getting maps and books about your destination(s). For a great list of ways to engage your kids before and during your trip, check out the list I collaborated with Kate on at Hickeys Everywhere.
As much as possible, give your kids a voice in the trip planning. If there are choices to be made and you are ok with either outcome, let your kids give the final say. When we were near Atlantic City, I gave my kids my laptop and helped them find a list of nearby attractions. They wrote the 5 that looked like the most fun to them.
Today we had the promise of no rain and the afternoon free to explore the San Diego area. Another mom had given me a list of ideas, so I picked two that I thought the kids would like: visit a gold mining town and take the tour or go to the coast and look for sea lions. The boys are really into Minecraft right now, so I totally thought they would want to pan for gold, but to my surprise (and delight!) they picked the sea lion excursion.
Suddenly our morning routine transformed into turned into us reading fairy tales about selkies, watching a Bill Nye the Science Guy on marine animals, and doing a quick experiment listening to sound underwater. After lunch we headed out and the kids had a blast finding the sea lions and then playing in the incoming tide waters.
Right now we have a standing appointment to Facetime with our friends once a week. The conversation is mostly comparing recent LEGO sets and then karate/fighting moves that are broken up by giggling and the mute button being pushed on and off. If either family is busy that week it’s no big deal, but the kids look forward to seeing each other via screens.
We have a weekly routine of writing home once a week. We buy postcards or make cards – it’s awesome authentic writing practice and always leads to good conversations about what our friends or family would like to know about the places we’ve seen, things we’ve done, or food we’ve tried.
Every once and awhile I’ll check in with the boys and one of them will say they are happy but they wish their friends were here. We’ll go off on that dream for a bit. Wouldn’t it be so cool if our friends bought an RV and could travel with us? Or if we could meet up one week during their summer break? We’re working on making some of those meet ups come true this year by meeting some friends during their spring break, inviting another family to meet us at a National Park when we’re there, and maybe hopefully meeting our neighbors sometime this summer for a week together. One can dream.
Give an end date
When all else fails, you can make a count down to your trip’s end date. This is not my favorite solution – I don’t want the boys to focus on the end of our trip. This is further complicated by the plain fact that we don’t have a firm end date yet. At one point we thought we’d get the RV and drive straight back to Nashville, but now we’re thinking it will be a few more months because there are places we still want to see.
If your trip has a firm end date, you can make a countdown with post it notes or a paper chain or mark it on the calendar. When your kid starts to fret you can let them tell you about their feelings and, if needed, look together at the visual aid to see when you’ll be home again.
I’d love to know if you try any of these ideas with your kids. For those who have been on the road for awhile, what strategies have you tried to help your kids wade through feelings of homesickness?