Newbie to Family Travel? Listen up!


Your life is going to change.

You heard those words during the pregnancy or adoption and begged to differ. But now your bundle of joy is home and dreams of backpacking in Europe en famille have been replaced by dreams of just getting a good night’s sleep.

 Yes, life has changed, but if you really love to travel you’ll find a way to make it work with kids (even if you do lose that backpack).

 Here’s what I learned from 4 kids and 60-plus family trips. Next up – Denmark and Sweden this summer and maybe Scotland in the fall.

You Still Can Do Grown-Up Stuff

Three boys under the age of 10 and the Louvre are not mutually incompatible. I know; I did it. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I bribed them with lunch at Planet Hollywood on the Champs-Elysees. (It could have been worse; they could have picked McDonald’s.)

Go ahead and take the kids to the Sistine Chapel. See Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms. Learn about batik-making in St. Lucia or olive oil making in Puglia. Just keep it short. The boys and I zoomed through the Louvre in three-fourths of a day. And – antithetical to what any parenting expert will tell you – be sure to have a goody bag or bribe ready to go.

Eat Your Words

I wouldn’t be caught dead on a cruise ship.

Mass-market package trips and cruise ships weren’t your thing when you traveled solo. But the conveniences they offer may make you reconsider. Take a cruise ship vacation and you won’t need to pack your own peanut butter for Little Miss Picky Eater who survives on PB&J sandwiches. You’ll be able to enjoy grown-up-only activities like doglsedding on Mendenhall Glacier or ziplining in Honduras while your kid chills in the ship’s childcare facilities. You certainly won’t want to make every vacation a cruise or package trip but it can be the right option when you’re feeling weary or overwhelmed.  

 Start Young

The best time to start family travel is right now. If you wait until the kids are out of cribs, in school, or “when they’re a little older” you’ll never go. Changing diapers or potty training at 35,000 feet isn’t fun. But it will be worth it when you watch your toddler bite into a hand-made chocolate in a Bruges candy shop or search for monkeys in a Belize rain forest.     

Pull ‘Em out School

I’ve received truancy letters from my school district’s lawyer for taking my kids on trips abroad. But I dug my heels in and now the district leaves me alone. If you can’t afford to travel in summer, when’s school’s out, go ahead and take that family trip to Pompei or Paris in the dead of winter, when airfares plummet. The kids will undoubtedly learn more that week than any other week of the school year.      

Make a Commitment to Travel     

The USDA says it takes $269,520 to raise a child to age 17. Social researcher Mark McCrindle says you’ll spend more than a million. Either way, that’s a lot of cash. Unless you’ve got a trust fund, you’ll have to get creative to find a way to pay for all those diapers, daycare bills, braces, piano lessons and take a trip or two.

Decide from the get-go that travel is an integral part of your family’s budget. Maybe you’ll need to pick up a part-time job or freelance. Maybe you’ll need to skimp in other areas, like home furnishings. But if you don’t make travel a priority, the money will get spent elsewhere.      

–Margo McDonough

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3 thoughts on “Newbie to Family Travel? Listen up!

  1. Hi Margo, I met you at the Rick Steves dinner the other night. I love your website. It is very inspirational to people who love to travel and also want to have a family some day (and keep traveling). Can’t wait to read about your trip to Scandinavia!

  2. Hi Margo, I’ve always had a secret desire to take a cruise holiday and I love the idea of it being a great family holiday too. Great blog concept. Love the picture in your header. Keep photos like that coming. Also, I found it a bit hard to find your ‘About Me’ button.

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