The Seven P’s

January 29, 2008 in North America, Travelogue, United States

Fourteen years ago this past Christmas my husband and I celebrated our engagement. Everything was perfect: the perfect man, the perfect ring, and the prospect of a perfect life.My mother and I were excitedly diving into the planning. Friends were coming by to meet my husband for the first time and extend their congratulations.

Enter, Uncle Dick.

After pronouncing my shiny little ring “elegant” he dispensed his sage wisdom on the business of getting married; wisdom that I have recycled for many occasions… wisdom that my life has been ruled by for the past two years preparing for this trip. It is summed up as:

“The Seven Ps.”


Proper Prior Planning Prevents Pitifully Poor Performance… okay, so his fifth “P” rhymed with “hiss”… Uncle Dick is not always rated “G.” Either way the message is the same. The “Seven Ps” are worth keeping.

One of the fun parts of preparing for a trip like this has been talking to all of the curious bystanders. Friends, family, people who find us on the internet and are trying to figure out how to have some great adventure of their own, all asking the same question: “How can you possibly do that with this many kids?”

Enter the “Seven Ps.”

One of the best lessons my Dad taught us was that you can do anything you want to in this life if you are patient and plan and adjust your expectations. He didn’t just tell us that, he lived it for us. He still does.

The key, it seems is proper prior planning.

We didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “Gee, let’s quit life and go overseas for a year and a half… how does next Wednesday sound?” We’ve been at this with monthly checklists for two years.

Even so, I’m waking up at night wondering what I’ve forgotten that might be a life and death issue. We couldn’t possibly have been ready and had the kids reasonably prepared for a trip like this in much less than that two years. Certainly not in six months, or six weeks.

If you are one of the families who’s been asking questions and working on your own adventure my sincere encouragement is to take your time. Heed the wisdom of Uncle Dick, which applies as surely to these small adventures as it does to the lifelong adventure of marriage. What’s the rush? Half of the fun is in the anticipation!

Take the time to really think it through and work through the details thoroughly… it can be the difference between a really fun trip and your worst nightmare abroad… especially with kids!
Below you’ll find a PARTIAL list of things that should be considered before undertaking any major adventure… especially in a part of the world that you aren’t thoroughly familiar with:


Where will you go? Consider this carefully taking into account the ages of your kids and your goals for the trip.


If you know why you are going and can articulate it well it will reassure others of your sanity… at least some of them. It is important not to just SOUND rational, but to BE rational. There are some trips that are CRAZY to undertake at certain stages of life: Example, rafting the Colorado river on a raft you made as a home school project when you have four kids under ten.


How will you pay for the trip and anything left of your life at home? Over budget for EVERYTHING.


Hear me now, people: Gear is important. Make sure you have the RIGHT gear for your trip and that it works for your family. Resist the urge to over buy (you really don’t need that cool looking gadget… but you might really need another light weight tarp.) Don’t just buy it… TEST it. Thoroughly. BEFORE you go. This takes time. WHERE you are going will make a big difference in gear… cycling the deserts of the Middle East (Hi Emily!) will require some specialized planning and gear that our trip, largely free of deserts for the cycling portion, will not.


If you’re leaving your home country then health care will be a consideration: Health insurance, life insurance, water purification, first aid, and proper immunizations are just a few of the things to consider. We took the older girls through a CPR, First Aid, and AED course before the trip to have them certified for any emergency. I would not even consider taking children overseas without the proper immunizations for local diseases… we’re currently taking our typhoid meds and completing our rounds of Hep A & B shots.


In addition to the obvious passports, have you considered carrying copies of immunization records and copies of prescriptions? What about preparing wills, living wills, and powers of attorney for someone to care for finances at home? Someone should have copies of your insurance policies and other important documents as well.

Again, this is a PARTIAL list.

Our planning book contains pages and pages and pages of checklists. Adventures are great. Spontaneous living is great. But PLANNING for an adventure that you can allow to become spontaneous is critical. It will not only make it more fun, it might be the difference between life and death on the road for your kids.

Remember the “Seven P’s”