In no particular order, here are my thoughts on what information could be shared with families who are planning to attend the 2012 Heritage Tour. I was thrilled to be able to take my girls back to China

1. Make sure to bring tummy meds even if you NEVER have stomach issues. Fast melt Pepto Bismol was needed by the majority of our Dragon bus family at one point or another. Even if your family does not need this med, you will get that warm feeling by being able to help someone else in your group.

2. Carve out some evening time with the kids to review their thoughts privately as well as around the dinner table. Some kids open up more than others, but all have thoughts and feelings. 

3. Mix it Up – follow the National Mix It Up Day – which means sit with someone different at lunch. Take that idea and be open to meeting someone else on the trip you may not have considered talking with before. Most of you won’t know anyone on the trip, but if you’re fortunate enough to travel with a family you previously knew, please be open to meeting new people. The experiences will enrich you and you’ll set a good example for your kids.

4. Talk NOW with your kids/family members who are joining you on the trip. Talk about how the temps will likely be hotter and more humid than you’ve ever experienced and that we all may need to work together at some point on the trip to keep each other’s spirits up. For example, we know when Janelle is hungry she may become a bear. Work to create a code word or just be aware that this will happen (not may happen, but WILL happen) for even a brief time on the trip. Plan now for what you will say to each other when you notice someone is extra tired or not feeling well. Sometimes a diversion is all you need to help someone get through a temporary stressful time.

5. ALLOW your kids to OPT OUT of certain things. Please don’t push them to do each moment of each outing. Yes, we all want to get the most out of the trip, but sometimes being a parent means you have to miss out on something you really wanted to do. For example, if it’s been a very long and busy travel and/or touring day, why not let the kids have one or two hrs of doing something THEY want to do? Letting them swim in the hotel pool will do them a world of good and help their mood for the next outing. 

6. On the trip you are constantly finishing one trip/outing and immediately getting ready/packing backpacks and snack packs for the next day. Make sure you get clothing AND money AND papers AND snacks AND cameras all set up the night before so you are ready to go at the designated time. The trip runs like a well-oiled machine – when everyone cooperates.

7. Shelf your ego – leave it at home. Get a visual in your mind or write yourself a reminder note so you remember this could be the trip of a lifetime. Make it the best you can – and that takes effort when people are hot, tired, hungry, etc. Allow yourself to bring joy to another family. If you see they need something, offer what you have. You’ll feel good and so will the other family.

8. Sometimes you need to volunteer to watch another family’s kids. Do this with joy in your heart. Kids are great. We had a single mom with a fairly serious health issue for a few days of the trip. Since we were going to the outdoor concert, it was NO PROBLEM at all for the little girl to sit with us and have my kids entertain her. Kids adapt to all situations quite well, when we let them. If I know I’m taking my girls to the pool and I see another family having an issue with a parent not wanting to go to the pool- needing some ‘down time’, it’s no problem for me to watch them, too. 

9. Please hydrate. Drink, drink, and drink again. If you know your kids don’t like drinking water, start buying flavor packets NOW and let your kids try several flavors so you know ahead of time which flavors each person in your family likes. I brought a TON of these and was happy to pass them along to families. Staying hydrated is vital, and we all know we’ll drink more liquids more quickly if we LIKE the flavor of the drink. Lemonade, fruit punch, green tea, raspberry, etc. all made the trip to China and I had SO MANY people thank me for introducing them to this idea. They don’t take up much space in your luggage, travel well, and taste wonderful! Sometimes you get tired of plain water.

10. My two girls are extremely healthy, however, the 14 yr old became ill on the flight landing in China. Perhaps plane food (special meal request), but for whatever reason she was so sick on the plane AND again the next two days in the hotel. The 9 yr old became ill while walking in the drizzly mist of ‘Old Town’. Ah, we laugh about it now, but I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND having every family member take an air sick bag from the plane when they exit. Place these in your backpack, outside pocket, and you’ll be all set when your little angel is heaving alongside the road. 

11. Again, adapt to anything. Expect the unexpected and know you’ll still have the time of your life on this trip! If we were at our home and Janelle became sick, I would not be walking around town with her. However, when in China you don’t have your tour bus at your beck and call, so if your child gets ill make the best of it and keep going (within reason, of course) expect to keep walking around, holding up your child – helping them walk along. 

12. Think on your feet. We parents know our kids best and can usually find a diversion or something to keep their moods up and help them pace themselves.

13. If you stay behind with a sick child ALLOW YOUR OTHER KIDS to go on the tour as scheduled! Trust me, the other families on the trip will be happy to help out (at least my Dragon bus families were all wonderfully helpful/kind).

14. BRING POOL TOYS! I brought 2-3 beach balls, different sizes, as well as diving sticks. As it turns out, I am fairly certain we were only one of two families who brought pool toys. These were small and were well worth the space in luggage. My girls loved it when the other kids came over and asked to join in the fun. The more the merrier. Yes, kids can swim in a pool at home, but kids are kids and need some release time, especially when we have them so busy traveling/touring the majority of the days. We only had 3 days to use a pool on the tour. The kids used that time to bond with others and release tension at the end of the day.

15. Don’t bring ponchos – too hot for plastic.

16. Do bring umbrella. They are cheap in China, but when you need one, you need one that works.

17. Keep a family journal

18. Take notes on the tour when the tour leader is talking – sounds easy, but you are may be so tired it’s hard to focus.