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.
You kids are very lucky to have cousins so closely at their ages! I loved this growing up in my big family. I had many cousins my age and loved visiting and exploring with them. My husband and I are the eldest in our families and with sibs having children later, our kids are not close in age. This can have the opposite effect when traveling together – what older kids are interested and capable of is not always an option for the littler ones and the elder one get bored with activities targeting wee ones. Finding a compatible family would be ideal to try match built in family travel companions!
I totally get that – I grew up with cousins much older than me. They were always so much fun and took care of and played games with me, but I can imagine if we were traveling it would have been difficult to do all the site seeing stuff. We do feel really lucky that the girls have cousins on both sides who they are close in age to and have such a bond with.
Perfect advice I think – do a bit of both!! We’ve travelled with friends and their children in the past and now mainly by ourselves and each definitely has pros and cons. Love the picture of all the kids on the train – very cute!
Thanks Joy! Pros and cons is right..and thanks re: the train pic – one of my all time faves!
Great post. We definitely see the benefit of group travel- certainly for more entertainment for Monkey as he can get very bored of us quickly! Great photos
Well, soon he will have a sibling to be entertained by! Hope you’re feeling well :).
Group travel can be fun though the larger the group the harder to get things accomplished.
Very true. Thanks for reading;).
Some of my most relaxing holidays have been when there’s a big goup, to share the childcare etc. The kids always prefer those sorts of breaks, too.
Exactly – it’s all about the shared childcare:)
You’ve convinced me of the need to at least try it, Corey! Can you believe that we’ve never travelled with anyone other than the four of us?
Wow – that’s impressive! I will say that traveling in a group can really alleviate some of the parental stress, but it’s also relaxing to just be with your immediate family too without everyone else’s input. But for walking long distances and site seeing, having the group can be really key.