“Traveling with kids is just like childbirth. You dread the idea of delivery. Afterwards you immediately forget what you were so worried about.”
These words of family travel wisdom were spoken by Dana Johnson of Charleston, SC. This is what she said after returning from a Baltic Cruise with husband Matt and their children, Gabriel age 10 and Micah age 6.
Flashback to a year ago, I asked Dana if she could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? “Russia and Northern Europe” was her immediate response. Ever since she studied Russia in school she always knew “someday” she would visit. “If it were up to just me that is where we would be headed in a heartbeat.”
So what was stopping her?
This was followed by a long laundry list of reasons to support her claim. The flight was way too long, the kids were too little to appreciate it and they would probably be bored to tears. Of course, this would mean Dana and her husband wouldn’t be able to enjoy themselves. She was convinced this was the kind of trip that should be postponed until the kids were much older.
Yes, the flight is long but if the kids were given the privilege of unlimited video games the time would fly by. We’d plan an itinerary that included plenty of fun activities for the kids so the kids wouldn’t be bored. We’d include child care so that she and Matt could catch a break and have fun too. I reminded Dana these excuses were the same ones she had given me over the past 4 years when planning their Caribbean vacations. I was confident this would become an adventure they all would appreciate, cherish and remember.
Once concerns were addressed, green light was given.
We planned a few nights in Copenhagen followed by a 9 night cruise on the Norwegian Getaway
Dana later reported the kids had no problems whatsoever with the “long” flights. Sure, everyone was a little cranky from jet lag when they first arrived. Those feelings quickly faded as soon as they started exploring the beautiful city of Copenhagen and visited the real “Little Mermaid”
Full relief came once they were aboard the ship. Dana saw all the other families with young children at the kids club. Gabe and Micah made fast friends with the other kids on board. Families connected in the evenings sharing their experiences and adventures in every port city they explored.
One surprise Dana experienced was the number of fellow adult cruise passengers who commented about how much fun her kids were having. Many had left their own children home thinking their kids would be “too young” or bored. In retrospect, Dana was grateful for the gift of travel they had been able to give to themselves and especially their children. A simple vacation became unforgettable experience that created a very unique bond for this family.
Upon their return, I asked the family what they remembered most about this experience. I always find it fascinating how people experiencing the same travel experiences return with such different perspectives…
- Young Micah said she knows more about the world after our trip. She also made the observation that people in Northern Europe are thin and smoke a lot.
- Gabe, an avid reader said, “I got to visit places I have only read about in books and see what they are really like”.
- Matt said he loved making new friends from all over the world. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to stay in touch.
- Dana’s thoughts, “We were the first people from my family to visit Poland since my grandparents (Holocaust survivors) immigrated from there in 1945. I was able to pay tribute to them while giving my children a better understanding of their own place in our family’s history. Also Russia is a very mysterious place to most Americans and it was amazing to be there. I’m glad my we all had the opportunity to learn first-hand about this fascinating and beautiful place.”
So don’t wait or hesitate to take your children out to explore the world with you. Flights will still always seem long. The idea of family travel will undoubtedly be stressful. Do not dismiss or avoid it. Instead, focus on the positive and the investment that you will be making to your children’s characters and future. Forget the pain and embrace the joy.