Travelling with kids can be a blast – it can also be exhausting. I’m not a travel writer that always paints a rosy picture as I try to be as realistic as I can. I even have a “Travel Mishaps” section on this blog! But of course if I didn’t think that family travel was pretty awesome, I wouldn’t write about family travel. So for the most part, it’s an amazing thing – to open up kids’ minds to new experiences, that’s what it’s all about.
Mixed in with all the excitement, however, there can be a lot of weariness and fatigue. That’s where the power of group travel comes into play. Give your kids a few pals to roam around with, and suddenly things seem much sunnier – go see as many museums and churches as you want!
Many of our long distance travels have been with groups, whether they’ve been with relatives or friends. For two summers in a row we went to Tuscany with my sister-in-law’s family, and my two girls had their two kids to play with, all around the same age. We went everywhere and practically left no stone unturned. Picturesque town after picturesque town, wineries, cities, churches, squares, uphill, downhill, we covered a lot of territory. Had the girls not had their cousins (particularly at the young ages they were at – 4 and 6 the first year, 5 and 7 the second) – I’m sure it would have been a much different story!
The kids were so busy talking to each other and playing all the random games kids play, that they barely blinked an eye after a few miles of walking around. We didn’t even realize this until the end of our first Tuscan trip, when suddenly we said to ourselves, the girls have barely been complaining and whining – Hallelujah! They simply were just too distracted to notice things like tired legs and hungry bellies. Of course this would eventually happen (and no trip is free of melt-downs), but it’s like it got stretched out for a much longer period of time. Let’s just say that had it been the 4 of us, snack stops would have been much more frequent.
Not only does group travel facilitate the number of sites you’re able to see, the number of walks you’re able to take, but it’s also like having a babysitter around. The stress of parenthood is drastically diminished, as the kids don’t pay you nearly as much attention! They’re too focused on having fun with their peeps. It doesn’t matter where we are – could be a cathedral or a long, windy road – as long as they have their kind to play with they’re good to go.
We’ve had extremely long travel days, whether they’ve been flying into Milan and then driving to Venice, or flying out to Colorado and then driving three hours, and many times the girls have been distracted by a cousin or friend. The sister fights are practically non-existent (whereas at home it’s a non-stop struggle), we can read our books in peace, and everyone’s happy. It’s all about the group! So if you’re on the fence about a vacation somewhere far away, or you’re nervous the kids could get bored and tired, think about planning your trip with another family or families. I know it seems like an obvious, but sometimes we forget these details as parents.
Having said all that and making the case for travel in numbers, I will say that our family trip to Maine this summer – just our family – was a welcome respite after so many trips with other people. We could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted, with nobody else’s schedule to adhere to. And no trying to cook for 10-15 people night after night, which is always a zoo no matter what! It was an incredibly relaxing trip. So I guess I’d conclude that it’s best to do some of both, and when you feel like a destination you really want to go to may be a strain on the family, consider booking it with other people you know you and your kids will get along with. It can be a lifesaver.