You can get through anything if you laugh, right? Dave Barry might be poking fun at family travel, but the lesson is to just laugh it off. We have traveled with our kids, and our friend’s kids, and Girl Scouts, and school children. In fact, we keep traveling with kids even though ours are adults now. Our daughters grew up traveling. For our oldest, her first real road trip (not a day trip) was when she was five months old. We were all packed into a two-door VW Polo, and we camped all the way through Germany, Switzerland, France, and the Costa Brava of Spain. By the time number two came along, we weren’t counting trips anymore; it was a matter of course. It’s what we did.
By the time the girls were about ten years old, not only were they packing for themselves, but they would pack for us. I’m not kidding. We were living in the great state of Alaska at the time, and we had a truck and camper that we spent almost every weekend in exploring as much of the state as we could. I would give the girls a call when they got home from school, and tell them they had a couple hours to pack the truck. As any mother would, I reminded them of the important things, but to be honest, I didn’t have to do much. They knew what we needed. A little after 5:00, I would get home, check off the list and off we went…to sleep next to another glacier or head down to the Kenai Peninsula for some salmon fishing.
Now people look at my gray hair and they say things like, “Of course you can jet off to Bilbao for the weekend, you don’t have kids!” or “I have to wait to do things like that. My kids are too little.” I’ve learned to watch my tongue, because the first thing I want to say is “Don’t wait! Go now!”
For some reason, we believe that there is some magical age where it will be easier to travel with kids. Maybe it’s after diapers, or car seats, or maybe–just maybe–after graduation. I want to tell them that if you start early traveling with children, they get used to it. They expect it. They enjoy it. They become great travelers.
If you ask any seasoned traveler what the best part of travel is, they will tell you that it is the interaction with the local people along the way. You might remember the Eiffel Tower. Well, you will remember the line waiting to go up the elevator for sure, but the memory that you will treasure most is having that conversation with the lady at the next table in a café. This leads me to the one big secret that traveling with kids brings, interaction with locals!
Going back to that first trip that we took Devon on, Jim and I used to joke that she could write a book about the kitchens of Europe. Why? Because every single waiter or proprietor in every restaurant took her back to the kitchen when they served our dinner. They held her, talked to her, pointed things out, and gave us ten minutes to enjoy our meal. And let me tell you, this is the one thing that we remember and talk about time after time. It’s been 30 years, and that is what we remember.
So, don’t wait! Go now! Travel with your kids! Are you ready?
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