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With the glizty world of social media prevailing over society these days, it is hard to miss the glamorous photoshoots that make up family travel on Instagram. Y’all know the ones I’m talking about — the ones with the kids dressed in coordinating outfits with their hair perfectly coiffed, everyone smiling and looking directly at the camera while vacationing someplace that’s far away and on everyone’s bucket list.
And it’s great. And encouraging. And occasionally confusing. Why? Because the [justifiable] wanderlust social media creates can often be out of synch with the reality of most average families. It’s so easy to become disillusioned.
A good reality check never hurt anybody so in the spirit of sharing here are our 10 principles of family travel for the everyday family.
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Traveling as a family is phenomenal. In fact, it is the entire reason we built this site. But [for most of us] it is temporary. Please keep that in mind as you plan and budget for your trip [strong emphasis on budget]. A spring break trip shouldn’t wreck your finances for the rest of the year. Scale your vacation to fit your budget, not your budget to fit your vacation. There are some exceptions to this rule [round the world trip, anyone?] and sometimes you have to do what you have to do but really the best idea is to plan, budget, and save then enjoy.
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TRAVEL IS TRAVEL IS TRAVEL.
Local adventures count just as much as the ones abroad! Don’t minimize the value of exploring your own backyard. Remember, the first word in “family travel” is family. That was extremely corny but you get the point! You don’t have to take your kids around the world to feel like you did something special as a family. Neighboring cities and states might hold the treasure of a lifetime or you might even find one-of-a-kind experiences in your own city. Approach each venture with enthusiasm no matter where you’re going.
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BE INSPIRED BUT DON’T COVET.
Everyone’s life situations are different. While I’d love to pack up our clothes, sell our worldly possessions, and set off on the trek of a lifetime, it just doesn’t work for us. And that’s perfectly fine! That doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy following full-time traveling families [and trust me I do]. The same can be true for you! Just mind the line between being inspired and being covetous. If certain profiles make you feel like what you’re doing [or trying to do] isn’t enough then find new online inspiration.
RATION YOUR PTO. USE THOSE HOLIDAYS!
Anyone else wish they had unlimited paid time off (PTO) from work? I sure do! But short of working some voodoo magic on management [or hitting the lotto], our vacation time will always be a balance of available PTO and available funds.
It’s a simple reality that most of us deal with. But it doesn’t have to be the end all, be all. For example, our personal days re-up annually in July so if we are running low on days off from work, we plan our trips around or after they are replenished. Holidays are also extremely helpful to help keep your PTO balance in check. Travel when you already have a scheduled day off to maximize your time out of the office.
LET THE KIDS HAVE A SAY.
I remember explaining to an acquaintance that we allow the girls to have input on our destinations. Her reaction was almost as if I told her I was able to walk on the moon. I get it. The average working family spends a lot of time [and money] to put together a family vacation and you don’t want to put such a huge time [and financial] investment in the hands of the kids.
But letting them feel involved in the planning process increases their investment in the trip overall. Traveling with kids requires a bit of flexibility and the ability to roll with the punches. They’re more willing to do that with you when it feels like their trip too. Let them scroll social media for inspiration, watch YouTube videos featuring other kids, and visit the local library for books featuring the destination.
MAKE TRAVEL EDUCATIONAL.
Traveling with your little ones is more than just an opportunity to leave home. It’s an opportunity to raise them up to be global citizens. Help facilitate the process by equipping the family with tools to help you all learn about where you’re going. And yes, parents that goes for you too! For example, Phil always does a deep dive into the language of the place we’re visiting. He’s now conversational in both Spanish and Italian. He passes on that knowledge to the girls so that they are able to [at a minimum] confidently say basic phrases.
Other examples would be to purchase guidebooks [we are big fans of the Lonely Planet series], eating at restaurants with authentic cuisine, and participating in local activities [like festivals, concerts, and celebrations].
We’ve traveled to way more cities than this website would have you assume. But those places aren’t featured here because [in my pre-travel blogger days] I didn’t prioritize taking quality pictures of myself and my family while out on vacation. I had this notion that if I had time to stop to take pictures [or make the kids pose for some] then I wasn’t living in the moment.
While there is definitely a fine line between striving for photo perfection and just enjoying yourself freely, I learned that having photos and videos of our trip was just as important as taking the trip itself. I won’t even tell you how many times I’ve been soothed by looking at pictures from our trips while having a bad day at the office. And when the girls grow up and their mental images of our escapades start to fade, those same pictures are evidence of the great things they’ve done [and will continue to do].
If selfies and forced group shots aren’t your thing check out Flytographer.
DON’T SKIMP ON THE LITTLE THINGS.
We scrimp and save all year to be able to go on our Spring Break Trips. Because of that, we go through a real effort to make sure we don’t skimp on the little things. From our annual photoshoot to the private transfer from the airport, there are small touches we add to the trip to make it a little more worthwhile. This looks different for everyone so find your special little things and prioritize them. Clearly define your essentials, nice to haves and must haves then splurge on at least one nice to have.
SET REALISTIC TRAVEL GOALS. WRITE THEM DOWN AND KEEP THEM IN MIND ALL YEAR.
I think we all know this but sometimes it bears repeating: not everything we see online is the result of immediate gratification. Some [most] of those family travelers saved [and sacrificed] for years to travel full-time or to take that trip. It can be hard to put all of that into an Instagram caption but trust most of them had to do/give up something to get there. For example, I’ve been saving for approximately 2.5 years now for a family trip to Australia and still have at least that long remaining. When we finally get to go, it might seem like we just up and went but in truth that trip will have been years in the making.
The point is that there is always a back story that they might or might not share so stick to your own story line. Determine what trips you can reasonably afford [or set a stretch goal for ones you can’t], write them down, and work towards them for however long it takes.
This one sounds like it should be a given but unfortunately in the shuffle and planning we often lose sight of this goal. Turn on your out-of-office e-mail reply, stop checking your e-mail, and spend your time engaging with your family and rejuvenating yourself! Do any and everything you can to make sure you and the family have the time of your lives. K? K.
Do you have any principles your family abides by for travel?