10 Uncommon Travel Tips from Pooping to Unschooling

10 Uncommon Travel Tips from Pooping to Unschooling
April 2, 2011 Lainie Liberti

10 Uncommon Family Travel Tips

We have been traveling for nearly 2 years, non-stop since 2009. We’ve been to 9 countries so far, including all of Central America and now find ourselves in  South America. We wanted to share with you some travel tips and travel advice from everything from pooping to learning while on the road.

1. Pooping & Other Stuff You Do in Bathrooms

First and foremost, carry you own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Traveling through Central America and South America you will likely encounter a wide range of ‘bathroom’ options. In the  big cities, you will find quite civilized potty options, but the one thing you need to get used to is throwing the paper in the bin.

There are techniques my son and I adapted, as gross as it may sound talking about it here. Always fold your paper inward after using, and make sure to locate and if necessary relocate the bin, before using the toilet. You don’t want to be playing twister with dirty paper in one hand, bending your body into a pretzel to reach the bin whilst squatting over the toilet trying to maintain your balance. As funny as it sounds, it needs to be discussed with your kid(s) before hand, and then, well, let them at it.

‘Go with the flow’ I always say…or in some cases, ‘flow with the go?’

2. Snackies

Two words: Peanut butter. If you and your child like the stuff and have no allergies, this is the biggest lifesaver when traveling. You are always likely to find a panaderia or bakery and there’s nothing more packed with protein and energy than fresh bread slathered with peanut butter and some fresh juice.

Also, on that note, make sure you order your juice ‘con agua pura’ or  with filtered water. If they do not have filtered water (very important to make that distinction), try the fresh fruit blended with ‘leche’. It’s quite a treat!

3. When Things Go Wrong

When things go wrong, have a sense of humor! Your kids will think it’s an adventure if you think it’s an adventure. The biggest gift traveling offers is the opportunity to be in the present moment, meaning truly experience whatever comes your way and being ok with whatever it is. Travel is truly an exercise in being flexible.

4. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

My son and I actually enjoy long bus  and train rides. One time we rode a bus from Guatemala to Costa Rica which took 30 hours. We are both small in stature, so it works for us and usually are comfortable in the long haul buses. We get cozy with our blow up neck pillows, blankets for the cold air-conditioned busses. We always have a deck of cards, ready but our favorite long haul trips, we play continuous rounds of the “what am I” game. It’s fun, entertaining and creative (and also a bit educational). We always end up laughing as we try to out smart each other.


Learning While Traveling This is a section onto itself, but it’s a huge part of our traveling:

We have taken a radical approach to schooling, actually we are ‘unschooling‘ as we are on an 8 year around the world adventure. Our approach to schooling is what we call “world schooling”, but you don’t have to be on an extended travel schedule to take advantage of its merits. Here are some of the things we do to add an educational element to our traveling.

5. Travel Research:

Research the history of the place we travel. Both my son and I have a keen interest in history and it doesn’t feel like an abstract concept when we are actually in the place we’ve just learned about. My son and I both tend to seek out the most notorious, super and fantastic aspects to keep us engaged. We can tell you the history of pirates in Panama, Bolivar’s liberation movement, the history of torture in Cartagena and a little bit about the famous Mayan ball games in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.

6. Volunteer

My son and I always seek out volunteer opportunities when we travel. We’ve learned so much about our own humanity by giving. We’ve participated in 1 day volunteering all the way to a 2 month commitment. We’ve volunteered with at animals reserves, schools, hospitals and libraries.   The opportunities are there, and the benefits are so rewarding for both you and your child.

7. Always talk to strangers.

I know it’s against everything your mother taught you, but in the case of traveling it’s a good rule. If you are guest in a foreign country, ask questions and engage the locals around you and make friends! You will find the majority of the time the locals are just as interested in you as you are in them. Two rules to live by, be curious and always offer back a huge smile of gratitude. (Rita Gelman Golden actually talks about that in this podcast interview)

8. Luxury vs. Local

Seriously, kids don’t require luxury. (If they do, that’s because of something they learned from you, so now here’s your chance to correct that. )

When you are in a foreign country, we have found the most rewarding experiences have been living as locals do.  Or in our experience, living with locals. Opt for a week with a  ‘host family’ instead of a hotel room.  The best way to find a local family is to research the language schools in the area you are traveling to before hand, write them and ask them for a referral. Guaranteed, all language schools have a list of referral families for you to pursue. Most host families provide family meals and a private bedroom! If you are traveling with children, always try to arrange to stay with a family that have  similar age children.
If you are even more adventurous, try Couch Surfing. There you will create a free profile page for you and your family and then start searching couches to surf. There are a lot of families participating in the ‘couch surfing project’ and you may be pleasantly surprised with the wonderful hospitality you are offered. Most of the time, you will be shown the city and share meals. Unlike staying with a host family arranged by a language school which you will have to pay for the room and board, with couch surfing there is no exchange of money or compensation. It is like visiting a friend in another city, state or country, so be prepared to show your gratitude to your host by bringing either a gift or treating your host to a home cooked meal.

9. Get Silly

As in travel as in life, hands down our best memories are always surrounding laughter. Sometimes they are silly things we experience on the road, like the time we sat down on a bench in parque central in Antigua, and just like a scene in a movie, a dog jumped up and grabbed my popsicle and ran away. Or the time we were waiting for a bus to take us to Boquette Panama and we made up our own song based on the sounds of traffic surrounding us.Or the time in Nicaragua, I ordered a plate of fish with ‘eyes’ (ojo) instead of fish with ‘garlic’ (ajo) in my poor Spanish. Whatever the situation, our best memories are always those surrounding laughter.

10. Take the Lead

Kids take their lead from us. Our children will mirror our perceptions and expectations and within the context of travel there experiences will reflect those of our own. If we are content with whatever the adventure has to offer us, our children will be too. If we relax enough to laugh together, not only will you have an enjoyable time together, but the memories will be that much more magical.




  1. Wandering Educators 13 years ago

    i LOVE these!! laughter will always win the day. brava!!

    • Author
      ilainie 13 years ago

      Thanks Jessie! I agree! A day is not complete until we have laughter.

  2. Aroura Alessandro 13 years ago

    This is AWESOME I love everything you write, you guys are so inspiring, I can not wait to start our own adventure around the world next year also as a single mother 🙂 Keep up the good work you guys x

    • Author
      ilainie 13 years ago

      Aroura! Thank you so much for the wonderfully kind words. I am so pleased we could be inspirational to you. If there’s every anything you need, just ask. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to provide support to the amazing and powerful moms out there that want to have power over their own lives. Thank again for the lovely comment and we are family. 😉

  3. Tracy Burns 13 years ago

    Great tips. The fish with eyes one made me laugh – I bet your spanish improved after that one!

    • Author
      ilainie 13 years ago

      You would think it’s improved somewhat since then…let’s just say… a little 🙂

  4. Theodora 13 years ago

    Nice tips. Amen to the travel research one, in particular. And unschooling too, of course.

  5. Anonymous 13 years ago

    The toilet hints are VERY good for peeps who’ve never been to C & S America! Learned the trick about locating beforehand the hard way myself. Also doesn’t hurt to see if there is something like a large plastic ladle. Means you may need to pour in water to help your. . . solids down the drain.

    • Author
      ilainie 13 years ago

      Uh, yep, there’s that.. That’s the after toilet use maintenance.. It’s the during that worries me!

  6. The Dropout 13 years ago

    Lovely tips. nI’ll just add another to your first one. Don’t attempt a squatter with sunglasses on the top of your head. Trust me. It just doesn’t work because at some point you have to look down.

    • Author
      ilainie 13 years ago

      LOL! I can’t believe I’ve forgot that tip.. Yes, I too have experienced that the hard way! So funny, thanks (or no thanks) for reminding me. – I’m still laughing!

  7. Cam 13 years ago

    Some great travel tips – love the first pic. We captured a similar one in KL!

    • Author
      ilainie 13 years ago

      Thanks and I’m so sorry you had a personal experience similar to the first photo. Bleh! 🙂

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