I’m fresh from shepherding 100 1st Graders through the wonders of Washington, DC. The entire field trip was a terrific lesson for what to do and what NOT to do when traveling, especially with your own kids.
- The bus left during rush hour, so what would have been a 30 minute drive at 10AM was a 90 minute drive at 9AM. Lesson: be aware of transit times when you plan your days.
- When we arrived at 10:30AM, we spent 15 minutes at the WWII memorial, which the kids enjoyed for reading off the state names and sticking their hands in the fountains. Lesson: be prepared for your kids to be interested in stuff they can relate to at attractions, which may have nothing to do with the point of the visit.
- We then walked 15 minutes to lunch on the grass just past it as the kids were already a half hour past their normal lunch time and grumbling loudly. We spent 20 minutes eating lunch and 5 minutes getting the kids back moving after ducks came by our picnic spot. Lesson: Carry snacks and water or be prepared for an early lunch! Kids need to eat more often than you do.
- By now it was 11:30 and the buses were leaving to return to the school at 12:45. We still had three monuments on the list! Lesson: Don’t overschedule!
- But before we could get to the Vietnam memorial, a bathroom stop was needed. The line to the ladies’ room was 20 people deep BEFORE our class arrived. Lesson: If you see a free bathroom and no line, make your kid use it whether they have to go or not. By the time they need to go, you’ll be faced with the line.
- At 12:00 we arrived at the Vietnam Veterans memorial, which took 5 minutes as the entire visit consisted of the kids marching through while being yelled at not to touch the flowers people had left for their own lost loved ones. Lesson: Think hard about what is REALLY appropriate for your kids to visit. Will they be a distraction to other people?
- At 12:10 we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial. This was a big hit with all of the kids, and was the first Memorial they connected with for reasons that were consistent to the attraction. From Lincoln being on the penny to his size to the step where MLK said “I have a dream”, the kids “got it”. However, we had to leave at 12:20, meaning we were at the Memorial itself for only 10 minutes, 5 of which were marching up and down the stairs. Lesson: Be willing to shuffle and/or drop an event if you find something that touches your kids.
- We dragged the kids away from Lincoln and marched them to the Korean War Memorial. This one they also enjoyed, the boys because the statues had guns and walkie-talkies and the girls because of the etchings. The girls were especially happy to see other women featured, although I had to explain that Amelia Earhart didn’t fly in Korea. Lesson: If you have a girl, try to find other women in history…even at this age the girls understood that they weren’t represented.
However I skipped the biggest lesson, which is in the photo above. It’s of an inchworm, although this specimen wasn’t even a half inch long. The kids found it during the bathroom stop climbing up a tree and marveled at how this tiny little guy just kept going higher and higher. One girl even called him “brave”.
Lesson: It’s the little things that make a trip special.