We’re in the final countdown to our Epic Italian Adventure, and to say I’m a bit excited would be just a wee bit of an understatement. Today I spent the evening doing one of my favourite activities, packing our bags. (We’ve already established that I’m a bit strange, right?) And now I not only get to pack my own stuff, but the kids’ stuff as well! So we’re all ready to go, except for one family member who will likely throw his clothes into a bag the night before we leave and shall remain unnamed.
I was talking to a co-worker today at work about travel and backpacking in Europe and it brought back a lot of memories of my previous trips to Italy. But as much as I’m looking forward to this trip, I know that travelling as a family with two small children will have it’s challenges as well as it’s rewards.
I’m hoping that I can have the self awareness this trip to adjust my expectations and focus on what’s really important to us as a family. It almost feels like all of our previous trips; New York, Hawaii, Florida, California, Las Vegas, were sort of trial runs for the big show coming up. I have already learned a lot and adapted my travel practices from travelling with kids, but here are a few big things that I’m hoping I can do to make this trip a great one for everyone:
1) Slow Down!
This is the biggest change for me. I used to travel at lightening speed, spending no more than one or two nights in each city. In the day when I could travel with a Eurail Youth Pass I’d sometimes spend one day in a place, then sleep for eight hours on the train while riding to another city for the next day. With kids, setting too fast of a pace just makes everyone miserable. This policy of slowing down applies not just to the number of destinations, but the number of sights within each destination. Travelling with the kids has helped me to appreciate the value of just hanging out, people watching, soaking in the scenery and doing mundane things in amazing places. I’m still not that great at chilling out and relaxing, but I’m definitely getting better at it!
2) Splurge a Little
I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a cheapskate. I wait for end of season sales, I clip coupons and buy generic products. I used to take travel budgeting to extremes; I never ate at restaurants, I walked for miles to save on transit and I was always alert for the magic words “student discount”. Overall, I don’t regret stretching my travel dollars as far as I could; I couldn’t have afforded to travel any other way. But I wasn’t always smart in my budgeting and I missed out on some great experiences by being too cheap. While I still don’t have enough money to throw it around, I do want to make sure I don’t regret spending a little extra here and there. So this trip I plan to take that gondola ride and eat a few fancy meals along the way.
3) Be Flexible
This is sort of related to number one, but it’s more about letting go of my pre-conceived ideas of what I should be doing in any one sight or destination and just letting things happen. Part of this resolution has to do with the fact that we will be spending part of the trip with a group of eleven family members, most of whom have never been to Italy before and I have no idea how much we will want to do. It’s a pretty big change from solo trips where I had absolutely no one to consider when making my plans! So I want to focus on just enjoying our time together and not worrying about what we might be doing on any given day. I figure that as long as I can check “Have fun with kids in Italy” off my list, the rest will take care of itself.
So now it’s time to tackle the rest of the last minute to do list; gathering up the library books to return, downloading travel guides onto the Kindle, cleaning out the fridge, and gathering a few last items. And yes, I will enjoy that too. Europe, here we come!