Advice for Family Motorcycle Travel

A list of Dos and Don'ts

Bordens in Key West
While traveling on the road, many decisions are made as a team, like whether or not to visit once-in-a-lifetime sites, such as this Key West landmark.Photo by Sandy Borden

Recently we hosted another motorcycle family who asked to pitch a tent in our yard for the night as they made their way to South America via California. They were only four days into their yearlong journey and desired an evening of food, friends and fireside Q & A. We had met them briefly at our April 2016 Portland presentation, and they were thirsty for more advice on how to travel abroad as a family of three on two motorcycles. Who were we to say no! After a night of questions and calming of nerves, I decided to compile a short list of “Do’s and Don’ts” for all family members in hopes everyone can stay (relatively) sane and enjoy their time on the road.

Terry and Jack Borden with tents
Separate family tents gives everyone their own space yet are still close enough if anything is needed.Photo by Sandy Borden

DO have two tents. There’s one for the parents, and one for the kiddos. Why? You are going to be spending A LOT of time together these next several months, and everyone will want to have his or her own space. There’s also parental “Date Night”. If I need to explain, you’re doing it wrong.

DO learn how to communicate with each other. Yelling doesn’t help any situation and is a complete waste of energy. Instead, turn your arguments into a controlled discussion. You LISTEN to each other, you RESPECT each other’s opinion, and you TEACH your kiddo how to handle a problem without coming to blows. This is a life skill that all of us need to learn.

Jack Borden tired on the motorcycle
Checking in with your pillion means you know when you stop or keep rolling. We enlisted “safety stops” early on in our riding days to make sure riders and pillion were rested, watered and properly fed.Photo by Sandy Borden

DO make decisions as a family. Whenever we would come to a crossroads be it a right or left turn, even what to eat for lunch, it was a group decision. Each member of your group should be able to give their two cents on whatever the situation. You’re teaching your kiddos how to work as a unit which is another very good skill to have in life.

DON'T let impatience take control. It's getting dark and you really want to get to that stop you had planned that's still 50 miles away. The line at the border is longer than you expected and you just want to shove your way to the front to get that paperwork stamped. Your lack of patience is your problem, so don't make it everyone else's. It's time to slow your roll and make the safe decision. Why not take the room at the next hotel that gets you and the family off the road before dark. Let's just take a deep breath, keep your place in line, and be grateful you made it safely to the next country. Patience is a beautiful thing.

Terry, Sandy, and Jack at Iguazu Falls
Taking a moment between thunderstorms to grab a family photo at Iguazu Falls.Photo by Sandy Borden

DON’T pass once-in-a-lifetime experiences because of money. This was a very good piece of advice given to me by a fellow traveler. He stated, “You can always make money, but you can’t get back the experience.” You don’t want to look back on your adventure with regret. That would be too bad, wouldn’t it?

Terry, Jack, and Sandy Borden in Florida Keys
It was a group decision to ride the Keys even though the heat and humidity were a bit of an issue. We knew we couldn’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.Photo by Sandy Borden

DO keep snacks, toilet paper, baby wipes and water within reach. On our journeys, the boys know where I have each of these items stashed in case of emergency. Hungry? Top left lid bag. Thirsty? It’s the canteen on the back of the rear pannier. Nature knocking on your bladder? You get the idea.

DO give everyone a job. On all of our adventures, each one of us has a job, something that is ours to handle at the end of the day. For me, it’s cooking, laundry and meal planning. For Jack, it’s camp setup and bike unloading. And Terry? He’s the mechanic, dishwasher, and all things in between. Once kickstands are down, we all have our chores to do before nightfall. The work is done quickly and the rest of the evening is for enjoying.

Terry and Jack do laundry in a stream
So, maybe Jack and Terry do get the laundry done every once in awhile. A clear running stream means work is to be done.Photo by Sandy Borden

DO savor this time together as a family. Two years before we made the decision to leave the suburbs and ride to South America, Terry posed only one question to me and Jack, “If we don’t do this, will we regret it in ten years?” It was a resounding yes by all. Making the choice to spend 15 months with my family riding through 15 countries and experiencing the world and what she has to offer was a gift. Leaving our home of so many years and the daily routine we had grown accustomed to was a bit of a struggle, but we knew that those 15 months would pass no matter if we were punching a time card or releasing baby turtles on the beaches of El Salvador. Treasure this time together.

Did we have arguments? Of course. Did we learn a lot about ourselves? Absolutely. None of us know it all when it comes to family travel, but we do learn what works best for our unit. It takes time and a bit of tweaking, but you’ll get there. Hey, we’ve been traveling together for ten years now and we haven’t killed each other yet! I’d call that a small victory, indeed.

Jack and Terry Borden father son talk in Brazil
Daily walks through the various towns (like this one in Brazil) became the norm. It gave us time to slow down and talk about what we’ve done so far and make plans for the future.Photo by Sandy Borden