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Travels with my Children

“You mean you WANT to travel with your children this summer?” asked a friend incredulously. She had just heard we were taking our kids, ages 10, 12, and 14, to Europe for three weeks.

My friend knew the perils of day-to-day living with teenagers. The “Walkperson” could run out of batteries at a critical moment (like at the beginning of one of our long train journeys). Hot water for marathon showers was just not available. And the room fridges, if they existed at all in budget hotels, would not come equipped with the required daily bags of milk her kid seemed to be downing at the speed of light. Microwave pizza? Forget it.

“Why not send them off to camp and go just the two of you?” advised another friend. “You’ll have a much better time.”

In truth, my husband and I like traveling with our children. Don’t tell them, but our trips during the past 14 years across North America, Europe and the Caribbean have been as much fun for us as for them.

Our recent journey by train across northern Italy was no exception. Without them, how else would we have discovered that Italian pigeons like pizza toppings better then the crusts, that local coins (called double doubloons by the kids) could substitute for pirate’s gold and that small crabs live in the Venice canals?

Travelling with kids offers a new perspective. We’ve tried things we never would have on our own: leaping into lakes off sea walls or swimming with stingrays. During an Ontario farm vacation, the whole family helped to uncrate dozens of flying pheasants and urge them into new homes.

Memories are made through family travel. Sure, we’ve lost luggage along the way and experienced bad days with kids in bad moods. But it’s often the mishaps that become part of the family lore, to be trucked out at gatherings or shown on the VCR for years to come. We still laugh about a waiter in San Francisco who would not let us order the Chinese food we wanted. He insisted on bringing us the dishes that he liked instead, spaghetti included. During our last holiday, the kids were ecstatic when gypsy women tried to rob us in Italy. They heard my husband shout words they’d never heard him use before.

Children, even little ones, learn there’s something beyond their own homes and families. Yes, television brings the world into our homes. But it does not capture the sights and sounds of places as they can experience them. Our own kids were skeptical when Jamaican youngsters asked for money to buy breakfast because there was nothing to eat at home. They followed them and were amazed that the money went for bread and meat, not candy.

Now is a great time to be traveling as a family. Tour companies, airlines, resorts and hotels have recognized the boom in taking the kids. The U.S. Travel Data Centre in Wahington reported last year that more than 40 percent of vacationing adults planned to take their children along. Major hotels are lending Sega games at the front desk. Resorts and cruises offer programs for kids from two to 17. Kiddie travel has become big business.

For the last six years, I have written about the best ways of getting there with the kids, how to pass the time with all age groups, and where to find the bargains. I plan to keep researching where to stay with your pets, hot new family destinations such as New Orleans or Cuba, how to bon voyage with teens and stay sane, and how to pack a young child’s entire room in one small suitcase.

The practicalities may change as the children grow. But the memories made during any trip will remain long after the vacation is over.





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