Want to show your kids the world? You can travel, learn, and explore together without completely losing it. We’ll show you how!
When I was a child, the extent of my travels encompassed whatever happened to lie on the interstate between southern California and southeastern Minnesota. Ever stood at the feet of the Jolly Green Giant? I have.
Rarely did we go anywhere else, so important was my dad’s yearly pilgrimage to the Midwest, his birthplace. He still makes that journey each summer, alone, at age 71.
I certainly enjoyed time playing with my cousins, visiting with the Great Aunt Cass, chatting about recipes with my Aunt Peggy or Aunt Sandy, and playing cards or baking with my Gramma John. I learned a ton about road tripping with kids from my mom who tried to bring as much comfort as she could to my dad’s 36-hour marathon drive across country.
At the same time, I wanted to get out, to travel, to see a little bit more of the world besides the same endless miles of cornfields. Like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, I wanted to see a little bit more than what, for our family, was commonplace.
Early on I got the wild idea to visit France. I was five years old. I kept to that dream even when my dad insisted I take Spanish in high school instead of French. Oh darn. Spanish was full by the time I got to the registration table, Dad.
It really was!
I kept to that dream even when a French professor in my sophomore year of college said my language skills were horrendous and how dare I think I could be a student at a French university. I ended up living 10-months in France, studying at the Universite de Bordeaux at a small language school on campus that specialized in teaching French as a second language.
I kept to the dream even after I met Mr. Right-for-Me. He encouraged me to go so that I would never regret staying home because of him. Instead he came to visit me for five weeks at Christmas and later we traveled throughout France on our honeymoon.
I spent almost a year bopping around France, poking my head into Germany, Austria, and Spain, and feeling very cosmopolitan. I celebrated my 21st birthday with my adopted French family at their home in Toulouse. A year later during our honeymoon Fish and I celebrated my 22nd birthday in Paris, eating the most expensive meal of our lives!
(Earlier that day I had helped some American tourists deal with communication issues with the hotel clerks. These older ladies from Virginia shoved money at us on our way into the elevator, as a way of thank you. It was a great birthday surprise!)
Then, I made the audacious statement that maybe I could spend every birthday in France. Ha! We haven’t been back since.
Instead debts and babies slowed our travels down. Poor spending decisions kept us homebound much of the time. For a long time we didn’t have the confidence to dream big, let alone take even a weekend trip elsewhere.
When we did venture out of town for an overnighter, we did so on credit — and it just wasn’t that much fun, knowing we’d be paying for it months after we got home.
Once we paid off our debts, however, we decided it was time to get out a bit. We took our first real vacation ever in the fall of 2010 when we drove up the coast of California with six kids in tow. I was still nursing a baby; all six kids were 12 and under.
Then we started going to Mammoth Lakes every year. Then we started making monthly road trips to see friends and family throughout California. This fall we’re heading to Europe. It’s been two years in the planning; we’re all super excited. It’s time. The kids will be 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, and 17.
What I’ve found is that getting out of Dodge is hard work. There’s packing and unpacking, there’s the inevitable illness — yes, we have done an ER visit while in another state — and there are hard things about travel with or without kids.
But, it’s also totally worth it. We unplug more, we talk more, we explore together. And it’s all part of knowing each other better and enjoying one another’s company, learning how to embrace each other’s differences and let each be himself. We make great memories — even in the mishaps.
This next 31 days I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned these past five to seventeen years traveling with kids. I believe that travel is important for us adults as well as our children. I think that my travels across the west as a child were good. I think I would have preferred a slower pace and a little more variety, but there was still plenty of good to draw from the experience.
You don’t have to take your kids to France or some other country, but I think it’s a worthy goal. I think any travel, even if it’s just within your own county is worth doing. I’m thankful that we’re able to show our kids a little bit more of the world — and do it before they’re adults.
Our experience is certainly not exhaustive, but I’ve done a lot of homework, chatted with lots of people, and done quite a bit of problem solving with our own herd over the years. The Life as MOM contributors will also be chiming in about their own travels with kids. We’ll be talking about how to plan, how to pay for, and how to make the most of your travels with kids.
Sure, you can just hop in the car and go. There is great adventure in a spontaneous trip! But, as we say at our house, you can’t turn an aircraft carrier on a dime. A little research and pre-planning can make the voyage a lot more fun and enjoyable.
I hope you’ll join us as we dream big dreams, plan for vacations, trouble shoot common issues, and otherwise prepare to show our kids what’s outside our front door.
What’s YOUR experience with family travel?
Do you have great childhood memories? Do you have great experiences of travel with your own kids that you can share? See you in the comments!