traveling is broadly associated with folks in their 20’s, people that are somewhere in or just out of their education, young people, free people, folks that are not having a family yet. But in fact, there is (almost) no reason for excluding longterm travels or journeys on rather unbeaten paths from your globetrotting possibilities once you’ve started a family.
In my series Traveling Families I am interviewing families that did not drop their traveling plans and neither ground down their wanderlust but decided to continue their journey together with their kids.
For the 7th edition of my traveling families interview series I had the pleasure to meet Melissa. She is living with her husband and their 2 children in Los Angeles and I am very excited to follow their adventures because our traveling styles and ideas seem to be pretty much alike. Check out their recap post about their world trip!
We started traveling when I was on maternity leave with our older child, and we’ve never stopped! It was never our intention, but family travel has become a central pillar of our lives. Friends and family have always sought our advice on how to travel with kids and I love writing, so we decided it was time to start chronicling our travels more formally. On The Family Voyage, we love sharing information about places we’ve loved, our best tips for traveling with kids, and recommendations for gear that makes family travel easier.
Name: Melissa from The Family Voyage
Home Base: Los Angeles, CA
Tell us about your family We’re a silly, loving bunch and view our little foursome as the ultimate team. We enjoy a mix of outdoor activities, time spent with family and friends, travel and good food.
What’s your preferred travelling style? We consider ourselves “in between” travelers – you’re more likely to find us in a rented apartment in Europe than camping in the wilderness or lounging on the beach at a luxury resort. We love destinations that offer both interesting history or culture and great outdoor options. We try to take one big tip abroad each year, with shorter trips in North America in between.
Which countries/regions did you explore with your kids so far? Canada, Puerto Rico, Italy, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Israel… and we’re heading to France and Croatia this spring!
Thinking back to your past travels, which on was the best and why? That’s tough! We really loved our trip to Ireland last year. It was such a departure from our hectic city life in Los Angeles and offered a great variety of outdoor activities and historical and cultural exposure. On a more personal level, it was the first big trip for which our daughter was walking so it was really special to see her exploring more and interacting with her surroundings. And now that our son is a bona fide “big boy” he has really taken on a leadership role when it comes to showing his sister around and taking care of her.
Do you have any advice for traveling with kids? Take your time. So many people plan a “European tour” kind of trip that hits five countries in ten days. That style of travel is sure to lead to real challenges when traveling with kids. We generally visit one country on each two week trip, and we rarely stay in one place for fewer than three nights. Everyone has a chance to feel a little settled and we don’t have the pressure of rushing from one attraction to the next. We usually try to plan one or two high-priority activities per day (not necessarily “major” sites, but experiences important to us) and anything else we manage to squeeze in is a bonus. Sometimes we’ll spend a few hours just strolling around the town we’re visiting and enjoying its unique charms and that contributes to our travels feeling like a vacation, not just a trip.
What is – for you – the biggest challenge when travelling as a family? Feeding the kids, without question. I wouldn’t say that my husband and I are adventurous eaters, but we generally enjoy trying local cuisine. Our kids have become progressively harder to please as they’ve gotten deeper into the preschool years despite our best efforts, though thankfully we seem to be turning a corner in time for our upcoming trip!
The kids are generally well-behaved in restaurants, but tend to grow weary of dinner out every night on a long trip – and since they’re often picky, they get tired of pizza and chicken fingers. We generally eat a quick breakfast at our apartment and bring sandwiches and snacks for a picnic lunch so that we can limit their restaurant time (and our restaurant budget!) to once per day. That seems to strike a reasonable balance between keeping the kids happy and scratching Ronnie’s foodie itch.
As with all aspects of our travels, I’m sure our approach to this challenge will change over time. When we eventually take a longer trip, I’m sure there will be many evenings we cook at home or go for a picnic since we’ll be on a tighter budget and we’ll have more time to experience the cuisine of each locale.
Traveling is always as well a learning path; what did you learn from your family travels? We have all learned great lessons in flexibility. Sometimes the sleeping arrangement isn’t what we expected and we have to make do. Other times, we miss closing time and have to decide if we’ll visit again a different day or prioritize visiting a different place. Often for the kids, they have to be more flexible about what foods they’ll eat (though this is one of our greatest challenges when traveling!).
What do you think is the best benefit for your children from your journeys? I think the greatest benefit to our children is the intense bonding we all experience. While we interact with locals as much as possible on our travels, we are in many ways a self-contained unit. We have very few distractions on the road – limited obligations, less electronic connectivity. There’s so much time to really foster each relationship in our family – between the kids, parent-child, and between Ronnie and me.
Thank you, Melissa! I hope you guys will have a wonderful time in Paris!