Family Travel (or lack thereof)

September 24, 2019

We are going nowhere for winter break this year.

I know, I know — kids are not supposed to get in the way of traveling. I’m supposed to be excited about piling everyone onto a plane (and then car) and showing them the world, building family memories to last a lifetime and REALLY glamorizing that insta feed. That is the mark of a truly confident (or competent?) parent, right?

Trip to Paris with a toddler? Pourquoi pas?

Egyptian pyramids with your newborn twins? Sure!

Grand canyon with your 6 kids from toddler to teen? Awe-inspiring!

Except I’m not feeling it lately. Honestly, the thought of spending thousands of dollars for the privilege of lugging heavy things around, having stressful restaurant meals, NOT having time to work out or do anything for myself in the mornings, and having very little time to decompress has me . . . less excited to travel right now.

So for this winter break, we are staying home. And I’m okay with it. My parents are visiting us instead. And we will take that unspent vacation fund and roll it into the future so that when the kids are older (ie when we are out of toddler-hood) we will have some extra $ to dedicate to our adventures.

Cameron looking out over . . . somewhere. Note glitter tattoo.
Baby G (2018 pic)

Alternate solutions to not-traveling:

  • Leaving G home. Because honestly it’s really the toddler part that makes family travel so challenging right now. And she won’t remember it anyway. I know a lot of families do this but I haven’t been able to get myself excited about this option. Seems like it would feel bittersweet.
  • Bringing our nanny or hiring a vacation nanny. Would absolutely consider this, though I think the latter option is risky — what if they just weren’t good or didn’t mesh with the family?
  • Going somewhere with inclusive childcare like Bluefields or a Disney cruise (though the nursery option is somewhat limited, as are other places with drop-off childcare. Your kid has to be able to cope with being dropped off, and a runny nose can derail you.)
  • Taking trips in smaller groups — actually, Annabel and I are going to be spending a weekend in NC for my sister’s baby shower! I am looking forward to this, not dreading it

We will probably employ a combination of these tactics for the next ~2-3 years, and sometimes just travel anyway, hopefully using the above tactics or minimizing the pain in other ways (staying in places with separate rooms & kitchen, picking places we can drive to for the most part, etc). But we are definitely sitting this current winter break out.

PS: Anyone try this travel booster seat? I am thinking of getting it for Annabel for the NC trip.

PPS: A VERY VERY VERY exciting announcement on BoBW today (or check out our Insta later today!). For the record, Laura is NOT the one I was referring to in my angsty post 🙂 🙂 🙂


  • Reply Cecilia September 24, 2019 at 6:06 am

    We just came back from a week away with an 18 months old… the keys for a rather pleasant trip were: 1) short flight, 3.5 hrs, 2) rent a car with car seat included, 3) hotel room with an apartment feel, bedroom, kitchenette, living room & laundry, and most important, kids friendly pools… more than one! We also decided not to plan to do too much… pool days, beach days & not much else.
    Anyway, we decided these kinds of trips are not going to be happening more than once a year for the next 2-3 years, they are not too relaxing when you can’t completely cold be proof a room and they are young enough to want to eat anything!

  • Reply Kathleen September 24, 2019 at 6:32 am

    Completely understand the work and the challenges for the parents in regards to family travel. We have a couple of local kid friendly hotels/resorts that are close and fun for everyone. The furthest one is an hour away. I also think a good option for y’all (if your house hasn’t sold) is to do a staycation/campout at your old house. Now if it is staged or you are afraid the kids will mess it up, ignore this option. However, with a little effort (getting air mattresses or making up beds) it could be a fun, easy and inexpensive way to feel like you got to go on a family vacation (and you may have to schedule an extra cleaning or eat out to avoid using the kitchen) but it could work.

  • Reply Emily September 24, 2019 at 6:45 am

    Totally with you on the no travel train! I hate traveling with ages 6 months to 18 months. We had a fantastic trip with our single 19 month old, staying in hotels, walking around, but I fear now with two even waiting to 18 months won’t be enough. The best I can suggest is a plane destination where you can avoid cars (and car seats) but the logistics of luggage for 5 might make that unwieldy. We went to Prague and Vienna and took trains, trams, etc but no cars and that worked out well.

    Excited about the announcement!

  • Reply Gillian September 24, 2019 at 7:18 am

    As a family of 6 with a now 3.5 “Baby” we started traveling with my mother or our au pair. This has been life changing! My mother and the au pair are typically enthusiastic. My mother is truly helpful and enjoys getting to spend more relaxed time with us. The au pair is usually happy to see more of the country. Of course this only works if you have a young, able, helpful mother and/or au pair, but for us it has been life changing. We are taking our first overseas trip as a family of 6 next summer, but with my mother we enjoyed trips to Spain and France with the older 2 when they were fairly little.

    Amazed and excited about Laura’s news! As a mom of 4 my hat is off to her!!!

  • Reply Anne September 24, 2019 at 7:23 am

    I am a downer, but family travel with a climate crisis… I haven’t took a plane since 2014, try to book vacation less than 4 hours (in a car) and I am planning to buy carbon credit each year for my car mileage. And Disney cruise or cruise in general are so bad: just google « Disney cruise+pollution » and you will be scared of their impact on oceans… 🙁

  • Reply Lori C September 24, 2019 at 7:37 am

    I do not get excited about family travel with my 4 and 2 year old boys… unless it’s in the car to Storyland (cheap local version of Disney with storybook characters, has dinner with Cinderella and such). The past two years we’ve done a few couples trips which have been great and satisfy my travel itch (Dallas for a weekend, Ireland for 5 days, Paris for a long weekend this past Labor Day… yeah, it’s really not as bad as you’d think- pretty much same flight time as a trip to the West Coast). That seems to work best for us but we are blessed to have ready willing able parents that live nearby and can watch the kids. I think if we had to pay a nanny we may have made a different choice. I’m also considering a trip to FL with my oldest next month just for a weekend, and maybe even leaving the little one home for a trip with the 3 of us this winter. But, as you said, that doesn’t feel right. I would love not having to chase a wild toddler but it wouldn’t be the same without him.

  • Reply Heather September 24, 2019 at 7:57 am

    Mifold travel seat is great!

    • Reply Erika dollard September 24, 2019 at 12:47 pm

      Agreed! We use this for carpool.

  • Reply gwinne September 24, 2019 at 8:19 am

    It sounds like you know what you need. Kudos! Really!! I’ve learned I really don’t enjoy traveling….and especially when it involves extended family. It took me a long time to get there mentally.

    Why do good kid memories need to involve travel? (Not saying that you’re saying this, but there seems to be an assumption that this post is in response to.) We will also be staying home, or just taking car trip to see grandma.

    • Reply ali September 24, 2019 at 8:30 am

      We have a similar age spread to you, and I am with you on major travel being more trouble than it’s worth. What we typically do are long weekend trips that aren’t too far away. Our “big” summer vacation this year was a long weekend at Dollywood (3 hour drive for us). It was perfect for the place on life we are. Relaxing? No, but it was good for a break from the routine and the kids had a blast. We would’ve gone crazy had it lasted longer than the long weekend though. That is just the sweet spot for us as far as travel goes these days.

  • Reply Jen September 24, 2019 at 8:39 am

    We normally go somewhere during my husband’s week off during summer, but this year the thought of taking our 18 month old away with us and dealing with interrupted sleep, the stress of figuring out what she can eat or taking ridiculous amounts of food with us (she has a few allergies) and dealing with her on car/train/plane journeys to get there was not at all appealing… So instead we stayed at home but went on little trips every day to the local zoo, aquariums, the beach, big parks, and we all had a great time! Plus saved money!

  • Reply Beth @ Parent Lightly September 24, 2019 at 9:44 am

    We tried the mifold seat only version and it was weird. The kids complained that it was too small for them to sit on comfortably and the seats slid around all over the place, at least on leather seats. Maybe they would be better on cloth. My vote is for the bubblebum even though I have to inflate the darn thing every 24 hours. At least it’s kid butt sized. Mine are 5 and 7 and neither really fit on it. But maybe the version with a back is better.

  • Reply Laura Vanderkam September 24, 2019 at 9:49 am

    I just bought one of the mifold grab-and-go boosters for the 4-year-old on trips. Looks like it could fit in a carry-on pretty easily, which is the key thing (also, to avoid paying $15/day for a booster or something ridiculous like that from a car rental company). I’ll report back! I’m sure it’s not perfect but is probably fine.

  • Reply Katy Rotman (@katy246) September 24, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Mifold is absolutely great! The best idea for carseat solution when travelling with kids

  • Reply Rachel September 24, 2019 at 10:40 am

    We just got back from a family resort about 3.5 hours drive away with a 4 month old and 2.25 year old. Fortunately our in laws came with us and they were hugely helpful and kept the kids a lot so we could have dates or one kid so we could have solo time with another. The 2 year old was an unbelievable disaster the first day because drive ruined her nap. This is our first trip ever with her. I don’t quite see the appeal of traveling on big trips wth kids, because they love going to the neighborhood parks and pools at this age and it’s really for theadults but like you said, it’s far less relaxing in many ways for the adults than being home. I’m not sure we’ll travel again till the younger one is 2, which is a shame because we traveled a ton pre kids but gosh once they are mobile, so from about 6 months to 20 months or so, traveling would have been a nightmare with my first.

  • Reply Rachel September 24, 2019 at 10:43 am

    So curious if the toddler age with G feels harder than when A and C were little or about the same? Did you travel when A and C were little? I don’t know how lagliv and others make it look so easy because gosh, it’s a STRUGGLE

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 24, 2019 at 11:53 am

      We had some trips that in retrospect were pretty bad (NC with the kids in 2015 with the kids 1 and 3). I think toddlers are hard, period. And sometimes big kids can be too! It’s absolutely a struggle. Sometimes worth it but sometimes maybe not!!

  • Reply Megan September 24, 2019 at 10:56 am

    We’ve done multiple international trips from 1 week to 4 weeks with two kids (now ages 1 and almost 3) – from Japan to Cuba to Australia to Argentina to Iceland. Getting to the destination is by far the WORST part of the whole thing, but once we’ve arrived, I find that if we have very simple expectations for each day – for example, 1 hike and then pool time – it makes the trip very enjoyable. We generally skip restaurant meals and get Airbnbs to cook breakfast and dinner and then pack lunch to go. It’s less stressful, cheaper, and healthier – and our oldest LOVES grocery shopping so it becomes an “event” in itself, especially if there are unusual things to see at the store. It has been so much fun to see our almost 3 year old get excited about planes, exploring new places, and having her talk/ask about things she doesn’t see at home. 1-1.5 is definitely the hardest age in my opinion – mobile but not verbal! But once we’ve passed that hump (at least with our oldest) it was relatively smooth sailing! Maybe my opinion will change with our next trip… planning Taiwan over Thanksgiving 🙂

  • Reply Natalie31 September 24, 2019 at 11:17 am

    I have an 8 year old and an 8 month old at home, and after an exhausting beach trip this past summer I am dreading all travel with my youngest in the near future. He didn’t sleep and the entire time was spent trying to prevent him from hurting himself.

    We definitely do a lot of divide and conquer in our family when it comes to traveling. This winter I’m headed to Disney with my 8 year old as a special “girls trip,” while my husband stays home with my son. It is such a breath of fresh air to be around my older child– the good news is that I know the insanity of caring for an infant/toddler is temporary, but the bad news is that I got a taste of freedom and how awesome big kids are!

    As an aside, with measles outbreaks happening around the world, international air travel with an infant seems even less appealing to me now than ever. I say, stay home and enjoy time as a family, then do mini-trips with the big kids whenever possible!

  • Reply Nikki September 24, 2019 at 11:56 am

    I hear great things about the ride safer vest for travel too!

  • Reply Caitlin September 24, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    A way to reframe “staying home for winter break” is to remind yourself that you live in a place a lot of people visit on their winter breaks, to escape the cold and snow 🙂

    I also think it’s worth remembering that all kids are different, and all parents are different, and while vacations with small children might not be relaxing, there should be enjoyable moments. If that’s not the case there’s nothing wrong with not traveling or not flying, regardless of what other people do. And just like everything with Instagram–I’m sure there is stuff going down offscreen that is not nearly as pretty, and even the parents taking their toddler to Paris are having difficult moments.

    I also think it’s a matter of perspective and available income and vacation time–we take one week to go to the (nearby) beach each summer with family, and maybe a few long weekends away (with friends or family). I use the rest of my vacation time on myself or to do things with my husband while we keep our daughter in daycare for the day. That just feels like the best use of my time and money right now.

  • Reply Momm September 24, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    I think holiday season should be at your home when your kids are little so that you can establish your own family memories. We didn’t start really travelling with our pack of three kids until my youngest was 4. So, I totally hear you, and it’s totally ok.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns September 24, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    I’m with you on not traveling with kids. We only have one but we haven’t traveled much with him. I’m in a mom’s group and several of them have taken big trips, like one took her 14-month old with them to Australia. Hard pass on that! It’s one of those ‘you do you’ type of things. I know they say the more you do it, the easier it gets. But it feels like a waste of money to travel and then be kind of limited in what you can do. We did take one trip to Florida last April when our son was about 1. We brought my parents which helped. And we are going back to Florida again in February for 4 nights. My parents are coming with again and I think they’ll be able to help more as my son is a tad bit less clingy. We live in Minnesota, though, so we have decided that we absolutely HAVE to go somewhere in Feb/Mar so we don’t lose our minds. Our winters are soooo freaking long so we need something to look forward to! Our trip to FL wasn’t so bad last year. We stayed in a VRBO which worked well. This time we got a 3 bedroom one so the toddler will have his own room, which will be nice. When we go to Florida, we don’t plan to do much besides hang out outside and soak up the vitamin D. So it’s a ‘toddler appropriate’ vacation I guess?

    I wish that I felt ready/interested in going on a trip with my husband without our son but I just can’t do it… I am away from him about 50 hours/week between work/commuting so I guess I just feel like I don’t see him all that much so don’t really want to go away for several days. My husband would go on a trip in a heart beat. Plus it’s hard to leave our son with my parents as he’s, well, a lot of work and they are in their 70s. They are healthy but I feel like it would be pretty exhausting for them to care for him for multiple days!

  • Reply Allison September 24, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    I’m with you and it’s nice to hear someone else say it! We’ve pretty much contained our travel to California to visit family (awful flight from FL but worth it long term) and…Disneyworld, since we live in Florida and our toddler is go go go so it ends up being a very easy trip because he’s so distracted. If I went to Paris I would want to drink wine and go to the museums, not…chase a cranky, unnapped toddler. We don’t have a lot of discretionary travel money so I’d rather save it. We’re expecting #2 this fall and we’re just ok with not taking any crazy trips until the kids are easier. Haha.

  • Reply Andrea September 24, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    I’m one of those rare people that doesn’t care for travel in general. I have zero wanderlust. I’m happy to go to a resort where I can lay on my back, be comatose and be waited on hand and foot (hah) but I have no desire to tour around or sightsee. So definitely no desire to do that type of thing with kids, either! I think the internet and social media skew how many people actually enjoy travel with young kids – it’s by far and few the minority that really thrive on that sort of thing. I believe the majority of people don’t enjoy traveling with young ones and that is completely NORMAL! You’re not “supposed” to feel any way – just do you!

  • Reply Jenn September 24, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Honestly we almost never traveled when my brother and I were kids! We grew up in a one-working-parent household and the extent of our travel most years was a week-long camping trip during the summer. And my childhood was amazing. The winter break was usually spent at home making gingerbread houses, decorating the tree, baking together, dancing around the house to Christmas music, and visiting grandparents that lived close by – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I do enjoy traveling now but just wanted to encourage you not to feel any guilt whatsoever at choosing to stay home – your kids might love it even more than a trip away!

  • Reply Dvensk September 24, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    I don’t have kids yet but I think your reasoning sounds really sensible. Why spend money on something that will just stress you out? It’s true that children don’t remember these vacations! I don’t remember anything my parents took me to before age 12, really.

  • Reply MBC September 24, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    It’s ok because we’re coming to see you for winter break!! Ok, not YOU specifically but Florida. I’m actually super excited about it. While I’ll have a 4 year old and 10 month old along for the ride I think it’ll work because of two things. 1.) direct flight. 2) meeting grandma+ grandpa and (hopefully) Aunt+Uncle there. 6 adults to 2 kids seems like I should get *some* time to myself. Not excited about the car seats and rental car but we can leave behind snow suits so that’s something!

  • Reply omdg September 25, 2019 at 10:37 am

    We use the mifold for travel too, and it has worked great. We also use it to Uber Dylan around the city.

    I totally hear you about family vacation hell. We went on vacation when Dyl was 20 months to the Jersey Shore, which was 90 minutes away, and where we rented a house. It went reasonably well enough that we repeated this 2x over the next year and a half, but it was always super low key, meaning we made our own food, went to the beach and other local activities (e.g. Ocean City, Cape May zoo). My intern year I remember feeling like a total loser because I spent 1 vacation week at my parents, one as a stay-cation (it was actually really lovely — I took Dyl to Please Touch, the Academy, the Zoo, an indoor playground, and the Aquarium by myself, and we got some much needed mommy-Dyl time), and having surgery.

    We didn’t go on a vacation requiring a plane until Dylan was 4, when we finally bit the bullet and took her to Italy. I was so worried about the jet lag and overbearing relatives who don’t speak English! But it turned out completely fine. Therefore we repeated that vacation my CA2 and CA3 years as well intermixed with stay-cations. This year was the first time I had ever tried to plan kid-friendly vacations to anywhere we didn’t also have family. Thanks to YOU we decided on Miami beach (thank you for all your recommendations), and Vancouver (which you also recommended). It’s stressful for me to have to plan (husband rarely helpful, and only if given specific tasks), but I’m glad we did it.

    I can’t even imagine the stress of planning for a family of five across a span of age ranges, all with different wants. I feel like I can barely even keep my family of 3 happy a lot of the time! I get so worried about spending a ton of money and then having the vacation suck. But, so far we have done ok. I’d hardly call us adventurous though.

  • Reply Anu September 26, 2019 at 3:54 am

    I’m normally gung-ho about family travel and we’ve taken our two year old on trips to Spain, Italy and India (two of those to visit family and with family help though) but currently on our trip to India the baby came down with a stomach bug and all of us have colds so I’m vowing to stay close to home for winter break. But I’m sure the travel itch will get me sooner or later 🙂

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.