It should come to as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have been secretly plotting our families first trip to Europe since the birth of our first child almost six years ago. My husband has to go overseas frequently for work and a few times we almost pulled the trigger and took our oldest. But for whatever reason it never worked. I mentioned to him that next summer, the summer of 2015, I really wanted us to take an extended vacation to Europe as a family. (he gets like eight weeks vacation, that has to be used, so a few weeks in Europe would be okay)
Queue this summer and it has become incredibly clear there is no way my kids are ready for that intense of a trip.
Now, before anyone tells me that kids can travel and the younger they start the better blah, blah, blah. I know. I also have been traveling with my kids, all over the United States. And from my experience I have learned my kids need a few more years to be able to handle and APPRECIATE anything that might make it meaningful.
We spent six weeks of this summer in Maine. Glorious, beautiful Maine. We spent our days hiking, at the lake and wandering through parks and tide-pools. It was amazing, for the most part. There were several things that made the warning lights for my Europe plan sound off-
1. Handling Change- I don’t know, maybe its in my kids DNA, but they do not handle change well. And by change I mean the first few nights in the hotel, lake house, whatever are rough. And so is nap time. And by the time everyone gets adjusted mommy is exhausted. All I kept thinking about was- it was this bad and there was no jet lag. Factor in the time change and I almost cried thinking about it.
2. Museums (unless it’s a children's museum) just are not that interesting for a six and two year old. I know there is a lot more to Europe than museums. I know that part of Europe is seeing some of the world’s greatest art and you know what? My kids are just too young for it. They don’t get it, they rush through, they are probably rude to other patrons (like having to stand in front to see anything) and quite frankly for them to appreciate the Venus de Milo they need to be a little older.
3. My kids are not awesome when they have to be in the car for long periods. My ideal Europe trip would be basing out of a farmhouse somewhere, with citybreaks built in. We spent the summer on Frye Island, Maine. And we have to drive to get anywhere. It’s a 40 minute-ish drive into Portland for major supplies. And it’s an hour to anything beyond that. We went off the island twice a week- One day for supplies and one day for a field trip. They made my life insane in the car on those days. I get it, no one loves being in the car. But for us to maximize our Europe time I would want a car. And I realize, now, that this might mean long periods of time in the car. And this would not work for us. (I know I could rearrange it so we had fewer long drives= But to save some money staying outside a city and on a farm means a longer trek into a city- so it’s all about trade-offs.)
4. Disney makes my kids happy. I know, I hate it. I mean I love Disney- but I so want my kids to experience the world and to love travel. But for right now, the Haunted Mansion makes them happy. No whining, no car, no meltdowns, a 2 hour plane ride. And Disney has everything that makes Mom and Dad happy- kids clubs, cribs for the hotel rooms, room service, ridiculously oversized ice cream. They do not care about the Mona Lisa, they care about Jake and Doc. Not proud of it, but someplace that makes them happy is fine with me.
5. Feeding my kids has become a nightmare. Yes, even though I vowed they would never eat chicken fingers they do. They eat lobster and shrimp too. But no matter what lobster shack we ate at this summer my almost six year old ordered chicken fingers. And my almost three year old ordered mac and cheese. I am not sure when that happened or it how it happened. But it did. I am not sure they could handle exploring new foods for extended periods of time. And let me just say I know European kids eat kid food too. I know I could always feed them peanut butter and jelly. But the thought of the battle, for an extended “vacation” is enough for me to never want to do it.
I have an almost six year old and an almost three year old. I know that in a few years they will be able to handle an extended trip like this better. I know that a trip next summer would leave me feeling exhausted and frustrated (I spent all this money so they could chicken fingers in Italy?). We are definitely not ready for that kind of trip. But I know at some point, we will be. And this summer I finally made peace with the idea that someday may be farther away than I thought.