I view travel as an investment in my family and my kids. The preparation work is taxing, it’s costly, and it’s always worth it. However, there are ways that you can get your kids excited, involved, and well-prepared for your next trip so that they are invested in the travel and learning alongside you.

Sippin on some sizzurp after a pineapple tour in the Azores. We read how pineapple made its way to the US after we left.

In the weeks leading up to our recent trip to France, the kids and I would climb into bed together and read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a magical book about an orphaned clockmaker’s son set in a Parisian train station.  We’d dream of what Paris would be like, make predictions, and anticipate the upcoming trip. As I write this, a month post-travel, those ‘tuck ins’ were just as special as the trip itself.

For this post I enlisted the help of Mandy Wallace, mom of three, and full-time RV homeschool extraordinaire. Her family is 15 months into their adventure and has explored 32 states, Canada, Mexico, and 23 National Parks.

If you’re like Mandy and myself, we want our kids to suck the marrow out of each trip, so how do you make your trip fun and meaningful (dare I say *gasp* educational) but low-stress at the same time?

We put together a list of some ways to add a deeper sense of understanding and excitement to your travels with your family. The great part: You can invite your kids to do these before, during, and after your trip. Here are our favorite resources and activities (for reference, we’ve used these with 2-9 year old age set):


This is a simple, interactive, and cheap. Learn longitude, latitude, opposing seasons, and have “name that capital contests” over bowls of Frosted Mini Wheats. If you buy the plastic placemats, let the kids write on them with dry erase markers. Here’s my favorite set of 4 placemats from Amazon We used these for years and they saved our table too:)


I was so grateful for this little paperback when I was trying to get my son to understand tea taxes and the Boston Tea Party. My 7-year-old was enraged with my pathetic understanding of the subject so I turned to these books. They have kid-friendly autobiographies about famous figures from the past and present (ex: Jane Goodall, Malala Yousafzai, the Dalai Lama, Harriet Tubman, and much more.) Using illustrations and about 100 pages – this book series tells is great for grades 2-5. Find them on Amazon. The series also explains historical events like the Holocaust, Titanic, Twin Towers, and D-Day. If you need convincing – go ahead and try explaining the Great Depression to a 6-year-old and let me know how that goes for ya.

They also have an AMAZING App and printable quizzes/worksheets that can be found here.


Geography a huge part of your trip? Get your hands dirty and make a salt dough map (here’s the how to from a family that made the state of Alabama.) Architecture more a focus? Make a marshmallow and toothpick model of the Parthenon or Eiffel Tower. Famous artist, piece of art, or collection in your sights? Google the gallery you’re going to and make a piece inspired by a piece in the gallery – then find the real one when you get there!


There’s a lot of downtime during travel and you will be tempted to give out too much screen time during long layovers, car rides, and while eating out. Make kids “earn” screen time by reading.

Kate allows her kids: 1 lovie, 2 books, and 2 activities on trips and her favorites are…Nat Geo! Here are just a few: Ultimate US Road Trip and the Little Kids First Big Book of the World. These include maps, games, and activities for hours of plane or road-trip backseat fun. Another great gift idea.


Check out the local Chamber of Commerce, National Parks, and Library websites in your destination city. You can usually find a list of upcoming festivals, historical points of interest, and events.

Citymomsblog.com has a local syndicate in almost every US city they typically have seasonal lists or “staycation” ideas for their local audience where you can grab ideas. Often googling “family tours [your destination]” or “[your destination] family fun” of “[your destination] with kids” will get you a solid list of places to check out (and some blogs from local parents who can give you the scoop.)


Buy a cheap small spiral notebook and write down a few prompts:
– What was your favorite memory from the trip?
– What did you learn?
– What made you laugh?
– What is something you will never forget?
– What was your favorite city and why?
– What did you discover?
The kids answers will surprise you. It’s fun to read, easy to pack, and more special than any souvenir. You could also do this with prediction prompts before your trip as a fun plane or road trip activity.


Grab your kids an Instagram handle and let them take pics and publish them with captions of facts they’ve learned or the journal prompts aforementioned. Share their ‘gram with family and friends. (If you’re worried about kids getting obsessed too early with likes and comments or wanting your phone all.the.time., pick a time of day that they’ll post and check their feed.) Mandy’s kids post about their creations and discoveries on the road which has been a great way for her reluctant writer (who thinks that journalling is about as fun as swimming in quicksand) to get his observations and experience the power of writing to an audience.


Believe it or not, YouTube actually has some content that goes deeper than ladies opening boxes and describing how excited they are to try the contents. Mandy’s kids are riveted to the storytelling of documentaries through narration, interviews, and video (like this vid of the Mt. St. Helens eruption eye witnesses from A&E.) They love videos made by other kids who are doing similar things. Granted, this comes with the caveat of you probably wanting to preview the videos before showing them to your kids (the descriptions in that Mt. St. Helen’s piece are pretty gruesome!) and definitely de-selecting the autoplay function.


Before you take off, do some preliminary research about the place your destination and what they are known for. Coffee? Chocolate? Pasta? Rice? Tea? What factory or field could you tour? Specifically, what places allow you a ‘behind the scenes’ experience or tasting? Our favorite resources for tours are: AirBnB Experiences, Withlocals (in Europe), and Viator. These tours can also be gifted…wink wink grandparents;)

*Pictured: A private baking class in a French home. We made Madelines, chatted about French customs, and ate on Anne’s rooftop with this stunning view of the Sacre Coeur. We left with a new friend and bags of warm treats that we made! Use my Withlocals link for 30 euro off of your first experience. Withlocals offers a variety of private and affordable tours all over Europe.


Check out an interactive app like Duolingo to help your kids get some basic phrases down before you go. It’s really like playing a game and you can work with each other to use the phrases around the house before departure. Or, head to YouTube again for some kid-focused basic language introduction. Maybe watch an episode or beloved movie in your destination’s language.

Maybe even have the kids make labels and tape them around the house with common phrases and useful nouns (bathroom, I’m hungry, my name is, water, etc.)


Before you go or the day you get there, buy a tourist map or atlas. Find your destination together. Find your hotel or campground. Highlight your route. If you’ve got every day planned, use different colors to mark each day’s adventures. While you’re there or when you get back, retrace your steps on the map with your markers. Then hang up the map as a visual reminder and memento of all the places you discovered on your trip. Retell your story and fold it into the narrative of your family’s adventures.

This is a lengthy list and by no means should you look at these activities as “one more thing” to do. Have your kids pick an activity, app, or book months in advance or weeks after you’re home. It’s not about doing it perfect – it’s about augmenting the learning and reflecting on all of the amazing things that you get to experience together!

*About Mandy: She’s a witty blend of practicality and vulnerability. I can rely on her feed for gorgeous pictures and great book recommendations. Mandy’s creative homeschool lessons range from poetry tea parties to treasure hunts. Check her out on Instagram: @mandy_adventure_wallace & @themagichomeschoolbus, and grab more RV family travel ideas from her site: Now Take Off!, or check out her travel journal from their first six months on the road at Outside the Slides.


Tell us what you do to maximize learning and engage your little ones. As always, thanks for reading and sharing.


Kate and Mandy

I’m ‘baring all budgets’ in this post to let you know that if money is your biggest obstacle to moving or traveling extensively abroad – you’re about to get real pumped!!

Before we made our decision to move to Valencia, Spain my husband and I had to crunch the numbers and I tirelessly scoured for blogs and information about the cost of living in Europe. The problem is that everyone has a different idea of “cheap” and “expensive” as those are relative terms. I couldn’t find an answer to this that satisfied my need to know “how much will this cost?!!”

Your girl Escobar almost forgot to take her coca leaves (for altitude sickness) out of her bag at the airport in Peru! #lockedupabroad

In order to make this blog post purposeful and informative, I’m just giving you the actual numbers. How can you make a life decision without knowing the costs?

This is a transparent look into our finances but I’m so passionate about sharing it and documenting it for 3 important reasons:

1. I showed this spreadsheet to my kids (ages 7 and 9) so that they can understand what life costs. It brought about really great questions and important learning for them.

2. Our priorities as a family are to do things together and those travels and adventures cost money. If we want to go out to dinner, a movie, and buy popcorn – we can’t ALSO go on vacations. Now the kids have some ownership over our money-making decisions and are learning to prioritize with us. See here how they chose to address Christmas gifts this year:)

3. You can do the things you want to do in life if you prioritize them. Our apartment is small but in the heart of the charming old town (cue House Hunters Voice over chick), we don’t fill it with stuff, and we walk everywhere.

So without further ado. Here’s the cost of our life in Spring Hill, Tennessee – where cars and square feet abound:


$2000 House (4 bed/2.5 bath)
$900 2 Cars
$ 360 Health Insurance
$135 Car Insurance
$100 Boxing Membership
$135 Burn Workout Membership
$300 Gas for Cars
$230 2 Cell Phones
$60 Internet
$60 Electric
$60 Gas Bill
$40 YouTube TV                           TOTAL: $4,380


$110 US Phones (we kept these for business purposes)
$1100 Apartment (2 bed/1 bath)
$50 Internet
$50 Soccer Team
$330 Health Insurance
$175 Bank: “Managed Treasury” in Nashville  (The bank receives and deposits our US checks)
$15 Sabadell Spanish Bank Account
$25 2 Cell Phones
$80 Electric
$22 Gas
$ 240 Language Class (2 people 3 hrs/week)        TOTAL: $2,197


So – how’s my dirty laundry smell?

Now you fully understand “how we afford that”.

As you can see, our European dream is LITERALLY half the cost of our Tennessee life. I promise you that I didn’t make these numbers up to come to this. Of course we had start up costs like buying bikes and locks, new bedding, the visa applications (see visa costs here), realtor fees, and the plane tickets to get here. But these start-up costs will balance out as we save money over the next months.

I have not included food in this breakdown. Some people eat out a lot and others cook at home. I left this off as each family is different and this cost is a variant that you can calculate for yourself using a really clever site called Numbeo. This site allows you to compare the cost of living in cities all over the world. Numbeo has prices broken down into categories like common grocery items, healthcare, transportation, and gives price comparisons on everything from domestic beers to McDonalds meals. They also take a look at crime, traffic, and quality of life. Here’s a Numbeo screenshot comparing Valencia, Spain and Nashville, Tennessee.

A reminder that if you choose private schools, most are located in the suburbs and require transportation. That is a budget game changer. We chose public schools – read what’s best for you in my blog on the subject here.

We wanted 3 things out of this move: For the kids to speak Spanish, to travel and bond as a family, and to have a better work/life balance. Our monthly budget reflects those priorities.

For some of my former high school students reading this (over 1,300 of you!): I hope that you write out your monthly spending then write out your life priorities/goals. Compare lists. Make adjustments. I think that most adults will tell you it took them too long to do this and if you can do it early on in life – you’ll be more fulfilled.

If you have any questions – reach out. I hope your family budget reflects what’s most important to you. It’s never to late to start! $uerte amigo$…