Traveling with Kids: It’s Worth the Hassle

"I am a passionate traveler, and from the time I was a child, travel formed me as much as my formal education." -- David Rockefeller

“Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.” — Clark W. Griswold (National Lampoon’s Vacation)

Sometimes I feel like this quote from one of my favorite movies should really say, “Getting there is half the work …”

When it comes to family vacations, it seems like we spend more time packing and preparing for the trip than we actually do on the vacation itself.  You run around like a crazy person for two weeks in order to take a one week vacation. Hardly seems worth it, right? Or maybe your family vacation is a cross-country road trip courtesy of a PCS.  Which is definitely not fun.  Or a vacation.  

I hear you mamas … it’s a LOT of work.  And a BIG hassle, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Why Put Yourself Through It? 

Proof That It Can Be Done – Six years ago, we packed up our SUV, our 2 year-old and our 8 week-old and drove from D.C. to Nova Scotia for a family vacation. People said we were crazy (and we probably were), but we did it anyway. Because the kids were so young, it meant that we stopped all.the.time. Forget about making good time … we had an infant who needed to eat and a toddler who couldn’t stand being in his car seat for more than 2.5 hours. But we saw a lot more along the way, and the drive became part of the experience rather than just getting from Point A to Point B. Do the kids remember any of it?  

No, but I do (well, most of it) — the good, the bad and the ugly.  

And, we proved to ourselves that we could do it and that having young children wouldn’t keep us from traveling. And you know what? The next vacation was a little easier – of course, the kids were a little older (and forward-facing … hello, DVD player!), and we were a little more experienced. But most importantly, I believe that taking that vacation when we did, despite the crazy logistical nightmare that it was at times, laid the foundation for how we travel as a family today.  Now we’re a little more adventurous and take the scenic route when we can because “getting there IS half the fun!”  Well, most of the time…

Pit stop in Massachusetts en route to Nova Scotia

Who Knows When the Next Family Vacation Will Happen – Deployments and PCS moves often make it challenging for military families to take a vacation every year.  If you wait for the right time or for your kids to be the right age, who knows when it will happen? That crazy Nova Scotia trip?? If we hadn’t taken it when we did, it would’ve been 18 months before we would have another opportunity (thanks to a PCS, a deployment and a not so generous maternity leave policy). So, even if you only have a few days or even a long weekend, pack those bags! A change of scenery is good for everyone and breaks up the regular routine. And when that ship gets underway or the jet takes off for who knows how long, that family trip will be some of the memories you cling to.  

New Places, New Adventures – One of the benefits of moving every 2 to 3 years is the opportunity we have to explore new places — both your new city/duty station and where you can travel to from there. We’ve been stationed in Europe for the past two years, so we’ve obviously taken this concept up a few notches.  The travel possibilities are endless, and for every trip we cross off our bucket list, we add at least two more. On the other hand, if you’re not racing the moving truck to the next duty station, you can make the trip itself a vacation by stopping at landmarks, museums or amusement parks along the way. I mean, you’ve already packed everything and gotten everyone into the car, you might as well make it fun! Check out Blue Star Families for a list of museums that offer free family admission for Active Duty families during the summer months or for more information on getting the “America the Beautiful” pass for free admission to national parks.  

Travel is an Education – Now that our kids are a little older (8 and 6), travel has become an amazing educational opportunity, especially during our time in Europe. They’ve seen a lot, but they’ve learned even more. It continues to surprise me how much kids can absorb at such a young age (yes, I may have forced my son to go to the Louvre with me, but he talked about it for weeks afterward and asked to go back, so I’ll put that one in the “win” column!). And for every museum or historical site, there’s always a playground or fun park on the itinerary to balance things out!

“I am a passionate traveler, and from the time I was a child, travel formed me as much as my formal education.” — David Rockefeller

Traveling with kids can be a hassle, but it is also very rewarding, so be brave and take the leap.  And then keep doing it!  The whole family will benefit from new experiences, and you’ll raise some pretty seasoned travelers in the process.  I can only hope that the traveling we are doing with our kids now will shape them into adventurous, smart and emphatic adults who will pass the travel bug onto their own children someday.