I was thinking about things (as you do - well, as I do for all I seem to think about at the moment is getting stateside and what we shall do once there) and it struck me that although the kids will enjoy themselves there's not really a lot for them to do as such. While my travel buddy and I will be happy to sit and let the world go by I think they may find after a day or 2 it's a little boring for them so I am working on a quiz for them. I'm going to break it down into sections that follow our route - thank goodness for google as I shall be able to find the answers before I leave. I shall make sure the answers can be found in a visitor centre or the info boards when we reach certain spots - if for some reason there are none when we get there I'll let them cheat and google it when we get to the hotel later. Part of the reason for wanting to do such a thing is to make sure they interact with everything and their surroundings. If I get them looking for a certain wild flower, bird or type of rabbit they will scour their environment far more than if I just said to them "wow, look at that view". By scouring for clues they will inadvertently take in all the beauty there is to see which will hopefully give them some wonderful memories for years to come. If they are learning something at the same time then even better. The more we can learn about our planet and the life on it, the better we can protect it. I did a treasure hunt with them in a local forest once and they loved it so I think if I can break it down into sections and get them doing some research it will make the whole thing more interactive and enjoyable for them - healthy competition between siblings is never a bad thing either. They love each other dearly but always enjoy it if I set them little challenges. I'm planning to try and do 20 questions per day and the one at the end of the day who has used the internet less to get all of the correct answers I shall give some kind of reward to. As they won't have phones with them (I say they but my nephew doesn't have one and my niece's is an 8 year old hand-me-down on PAYG - she has a little part-time job outside of college hours so pays for her own) so the only wifi they will have access to is whatever our motels offer then they really will need to pay attention when we are out, for it's while out they will get the answers they need. I've found some great trivia sites for most places that I'm utilising for my questions. I'll be honest, I'd like to be able to take part myself :) I'll get everything ready before I go and will give them their questions for that day after we leave the motel - so there can be no cheating beforehand (I know what they are both like!!). I was going to make them up a little booklet with each days route and questions in so I didn't have to carry too many sheets of paper but they would sit in the motel the first evening, google every days set of questions then pay no attention while we are out and about. I did realise it would take me quite so long to work it all out though. There's a lot of hours gone into it already and I'm still only up to Yellowstone. I think when we get back I'll put them out on the Internet for other people to download if they wish to when they are travelling with younger people in the same places. It would be a waste of my time to keep it just us; I won't do it before though as I don't want my 2 cheating and finding the answers somewhere :)
I'm also going to print them off a list of all the animals, reptiles and birds they can expect to see - these will go into the little guide book I'm planning for them. I've colour coded them into Common, Not-so-common and Rare categories :) Where a species has multiple members of the same family I've put the most common name next to how many other sub-divisions there are. If they see a duck I want them to tell me what kind of duck it is. I want to know if the bear they see in the distance is a brown or black bear. I want them to see the difference between a wolf and a coyote (I am that confident we WILL see wolves when we are out there). I want them to know which snakes are venomous and which one's aren't. I want the trip to be as interactive for them as I can possibly make it. They're not young children (I'm working on them being 18 and 15 when we go) but aside from their days out with me in our local woods they've never traveled. I think the only time they've been to a zoo was when I took them 5 or 6 years ago. I took my niece to a wildlife park when we went camping once as well as to Legoland with her older sister when she was younger. Her Mum did used to take them on a caravan holiday once a year but they had entertainment on site (a kids club, pool and amusements) so they've never actually been out and about to explore places. In fact other than those couple of trips to the parks with their Mum and the places I've taken them they've never left their home town. My nephew has been on a train just once - I took him to the Isle of Wight for his birthday and we caught the train the ferry terminal; my niece has never been on one (she's 17. How is it even possible not to have traveled on one at that age). Oh, I think their Dad and his wife took them to Turkey the year after their Mum died - the only time the man has ever taken them anywhere, ever, in their lives and I am sure if he thought he could have palmed them off on someone he'd have gone without them.
My niece loves taking photos - only on her phone. I have a 10 year old entry level canon that still takes a decent photo; there's a dust spot in the top right hand of the mirror thing that can be removed in a photo app and isn't too intrusive. I'm going to let her borrow it while we are away - my travel buddy is an amazing amateur photographer so he can teach her how to take a good photo, so not only will she be taking great shots she'll be learning how to use a camera too. I want them to take lots of photos, not just for the memories but I think getting them to snap off a shot of something which ties into their question sheets will help to keep it interesting for them. Alas, my nephew has a habit of breaking things so he won't be allowed near anything quite so expensive but I'm sure someone I know might have an old digital camera they are thinking of getting rid of - if needs be I'm sure I could pick up a cheap 2nd hand one on ebay for him. I really do want them to learn as much as they can without making it seem as though they are on a school trip. I want them to experience as much as is humanly possible for them. It won't be all educational either; I am going to add some random fun questions to each day also.
The only thing I want them to get bored of is me when I keep asking them the same questions, not just every morning, but every time before they are allowed to leave the hotel or car, even if they've only traveled 3 miles they will not be allowed to get out until they've told me the answers on the "Do's and Don't's" list and how they should behave if they have a wild animal encounter. Their safety (and that of any wildlife) is paramount. Nothing is more important on the trip than keeping them safe and ensuring the wildlife and all natural habitats are kept safe and undamaged too. The "Do's and Don'ts" list will be on the first page of each new day in their guide books.