On Christmas morning, as present-opening wound down, my daughter spied two more packages under the tree, tucked in the back. The wrapping paper was grey with red and black plaid moose. A metallic red ribbon encircled each package. The last gifts of Christmas.
Inside the boxes, my children found t-shirts, a guidebook, and an itinerary for our first trip of 2018: Walt Disney World.
A few weeks later, as we bumped along a road in an open vehicle on a safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I was happy with my choice. Our trip had been the perfect mix of family togetherness and fun. But it wasn’t until my kids rattled off the facts that they learned while waiting to embark on the ride that I realized our trip to the happiest place on Earth really was more than just a theme park visit.
Isn’t that really how good trips are though? Learning moments folded neatly into gleeful experiences?
Travel is important to me as a parent. It’s an opportunity to show my children the world beyond their doorstep, to help them witness our history and to expand their perspectives. It’s an opportunity to encourage them to step outside what’s comfortable and bravely navigate unfamiliar places. It’s a chance to see how the landscape changes depending on where you are (for instance, we don’t have palm trees in Maine). And, importantly, it’s a time to explore cuisines, cultures, and experiences we can’t get at home.
In 2018, I am making family travel a priority for us.
I’m not alone. According to the U.S. Family Travel Survey 2017, conducted by the New York University School of Professional Studies and the Family Travel Association, 88 percent of families are either very likely or likely to travel with their children in the next 12 months. Of those, 49 percent of respondents said that visiting and exploring new places together is a main priority.
But though travel has always been important to me, there was a time when it wasn’t our reality. When my kids were really little, money wasn’t plentiful (of course, stress was). Traveling seemed like a beyond-my-budget expense. One that just didn’t make the cut when I needed to pay for heating oil and put food on the table. Back then, when the idea of booking plane tickets and hotels was unthinkable, I found little ways to give my kids a taste of travel: summers at the beach with my parents, day trips around the state, and even a few longer trips to Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore. You see, regional travel can be an affordable way to see more of the world without spending a lot.
This year is about seeing more of the world, near and far. From parts of our state we’ve never seen (like the easternmost point in the United States, Lubec, Maine) to cities we’ve never explored (Chicago, I’m looking at you), we’ve got a lot on our agenda.
Next up? We’re headed to Boston to see the Museum of Fine Arts, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. We might just take in a little theatre and eat some really scrumptious food too.
And while we’re doing it, I’ll be so grateful for the precious bonding moments that happen when traveling as a family and the memories we’ll create. Travel is an education, a window into the world, and so much more. And I can’t wait to share more of it with my kids.