Today's guest post is by #DCTravelTweetup regular and Meet, Plan, Go! Ambassador Jennifer Parker (bio below). If you'd like to meet fellow travelers like Jennifer who have great advice, tips, and tricks to share, come out and join us for MPG DC on October 18!
If you’re a traveler and a parent, there is no doubt you struggle to manage your love for both. Balancing that trip to Europe against the rising costs of day care seems a daunting task. Not to mention the plain day-to-day monotony of life…soccer games, piano practice, school work, etc. I know how you feel. I did it for 23 years and have just recently come out the other side with my youngest now in college.
Bottom line, you should make every effort to remain true to your passions (travel and your children) and make it happen! You will want this for your kids; they will thank you for it later. Personally, we raised our kids traveling their entire lives. Exotic destinations and visiting new places was how our family spent our time. Whether it was local or international, my kids were traveling. As an individual, I have traveled to over 14 countries and many, many of those were with kids in tow (and sometimes in lead!).
Indulge me for a few minutes while I share the fabulousness that comes out of raising travelers. My kids are the most socially adjusted kids you will ever meet; they don’t know a stranger and adjust to all levels of conversation. It’s beautiful to hear them order food in Spanish and then watch them plan trips with their friends. Our daughter, now 23, is taking a year off to live abroad before moving to New York after college. I might add that she knows absolutely no one in New York. She has targeted Paris for that year in between. Knowing how expensive Paris can be and how dirt poor she is, she still has no hesitations, “I will just make it work, Mom.”
Our son, upon graduating from high school, decided to travel through Europe for 2 months (on his own dime I might add) prior to beginning college. He is not traveling with companions; he is comfortable that he will meet people abroad traveling through local hostels. And, of course he will. I came home from work one day to find had planned his entire trip, day by day. He is starting in Portugal, on through Spain, then up to France and finishing with a stint in Germany. All planned out down to the Euro rail stop in each city. He put together a budget of the costs (breaking it down to the daily meal level and Euro pass costs) and determined a monthly savings plan for himself between now and his departure.
Another example of the beauty of raising travelers is an Italian exploration story. I am divorced (now remarried for 11 years) and the kids traveled with their father to Italy last year. They were 22 and 17. I will never forget receiving that call, “Mom, we are in Venice!” As the conversation progressed I realized the group they were traveling with had decided to stay in for the day. My kids, realizing they only had one chance to experience Venice, took off on a train to conquer it alone. Hearing this, I literally must have fallen out of my chair and immediately went into “mommy” mode. Do you have a jacket? Do you have a map? Where are you going? Do you need me to google anything? They laughed at me and said, “Mom, we got this!” And, so they did. They called later to talk about all of the places they visited and the bar they drank in…uh-hum! They had discovered Venice together, like a sister and brother should. I remember hanging up the phone and thinking that I have never been more proud of them!
As a traveler and parent, this is absolutely what you want for your kids. And, you already know they learn through our guidance. Therefore, it is almost your job to introduce them to the world so that they learn the skills and get comfortable in a travel setting.
So, what next, money? Yes, the big thing is the cost. I am not going to say it’s easy, because it isn’t. It takes a bit of planning, prioritizing, budgeting and watching the specials. You will have to budget at home during the year to make travel happen. And, you may have to cut things out. Don’t think of it as “cutting,” think of it as trading. Trade a little shopping, a few nice dinners stateside for dinner in Belize….it’s worth it!
Yes, there is more airfare involved when the whole family travels together, but hotels are the same cost for one king versus two doubles. Meals can be somewhat reasonable by finding bargains. Eat from street vendors; it’s typically cheaper and tasty. Consider getting a VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) or house swap, instead of a hotel. If you buy groceries, after you land, you can eat breakfast before leaving each day and occasionally, after a long day of exploring, make a dinner or two.
Other ideas of how to not break the bank are to have picnic lunches on the mountainside and hike around town instead of going to the theatre. Lay on the beach with crackers, cheese and wine (for the parents). Also, enjoying some of the little local amusement parks in Europe always brought us tons of joy at a reasonable price. We ended up meeting really great people and explored funky rides like a flying Panda bear ride in Germany or large water filled orbs that bounce down the side of the mountain in New Zealand.
At the end of the day, you may not be able to attend all the plays, eat at every restaurant and take in all of the guided excursions. However, you are doing something so much bigger. You are introducing future travelers to the world.
When your kids are married and have children of their own, just think of the amazing experiences you can have together raising another generation of travelers!
Enjoy and relax – you and your kids deserve it!
Jennifer Parker is a recovering corporate executive who loves to travel the world with her family. She has reviewed hotels and writes travel related articles for various sources. Her passion is expanding the minds and educating people to explore the world outside their own front door. She has traveled to 14 countries and over 440 cities around the globe. Jennifer is an endearing wife, loving mom, travel addict, friend to many, wine enthusiast and a career gal who has never met a stranger. Catch up with her on Twitter at @jenniferparker3 or via her blog Traveling Through Life.