I have been a mom for a long time, almost 21 years now. I have been traveling with kids for almost all that time and blogging about some of those adventures for over 10 years. I have learned and seen some things, which is why this growing trend to “glamorize” family travel is not a trend I can get with.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE seeing the world through my children’s eyes. Traveling with them is one of my favorite things to do. Taking them back to a place I experienced alone makes the whole place new again when I revisit it with them. I get giddy from it. I enjoy the many conversations we still have about our favorite trips, things we’ve eaten, seen. Places we’ve stayed at, new friends we’ve met along the way. I have no doubt in my mind that my kids are better people because of our travels. But they are still kids after all, and we’ve been doing this for a few years now.
There have been tantrums, fights, and illnesses. One time, I lost my then 5-year old on his first trip to Disney. Another time, my then teen and I had a full-on fight while in the mountains of beautiful CO over my denial to let him go on a weekend trip with his girlfriend. I once walked away from my entire family during a road trip, they got me so angry. Not to mention we are FIVE people and travel in such large numbers is EXPENSIVE.
When they were little and we tried to visit family in Wisconsin, they were so restless and people on the plane so mean and rude to us, that we resorted to only doing road trips. This was great because it is how we traveled across state to Montana, Seattle, California, Texas, and Wisconsin and all the places in between. Now, they are much older and we can travel however we want, take long, challenging hikes, and sleep under the stars without concern that someone will cry or wander away in the middle of the night. We’ve even taken our road trips abroad. But it also means having an adult child who has his own life, and is taking his own trips without us. It means having a tween who wants to be with his friends and prefers the stability of home over the constant movement of travel. We have to plan more and prepare better and be more considerate of our children’s lives.
Anyone who has seen me traveling with my kids will tell you, I run a tight ship. Sure, I am fun too, but I am the mom who makes sure they change out of the t-shirt they’ve worn for 2 days, and the one who makes sure they don’t order soda with every meal, and the one who doesn’t allow jet lag to be an excuse for disrespectful tones and attitudes, and the one who makes sure that we all consider what everyone else would like to get to do on a trip. This machine doesn’t run itself, people.
So, listen, I want you to travel with your family. Take your kids on a road trip. On a plane, see the world. Go to Venice…but maybe go off-season. Or stay closer to home and do some local trips, which are also really easy and nice.
Travel. But let’s not pretend it is perfect. I mean, it is as perfect as families can be. Just go into it fully prepared for arguments, mishaps, dirty laundry, and slower schedules, and be aware that your time traveling with them is very, very limited, so embrace the laughter and hugs and intimate conversations.
And for those of us who write about it? If you don’t want to share the ever-present, not so pretty family details of traveling with your kids – cool. But let’s also not glamorize it or make it seem as if we’ve reached peek parental perfection in having executed a flawless, tantrum-free family trip. It sets unrealistic expectations and can actually discourage people from going out themselves. Because whose kids are always Instagram willing and ready and perfect in every way? Certainly not mine. And I doubt any of yours either. Whatever this new trend is it needs to stop. Let’s leave that fantasy out of it, though I get it’s what publications like and what they think sells.
One of the most beautiful things about travel, and the stories about the same is the authenticity of it, especially when it comes to traveling with our kids. Let’s keep it real, so they also have real memories to look back to.