Hindsight is 20/20. I have learned a lot from traveling with young children. I can bestow my knowledge on others and help them plan more effortless vacations, but I would not change any of the travel decisions we have made.
Our trip to Italy in 2015 with almost two-year-old twins was trying at times. We were traveling around Italy with two strollers, yet had decided upon some of the hilliest towns and mountainous regions to tour. Even our visit to flat Venice was a bit of a mistake as we had not considered all of the pedestrian bridges crossing the canals, most of which did not have ramps.
If I was now advising somebody on where to go in Italy with young children, I would suggest our trip to the Puglia region in October 2017. This region is much easier to travel with strollers in tow. The boys were over four years old at this point and could have made it up the steps of the hilly places we had visited in 2015, not to say they would not have complained about it!
Despite the trying moments that we experienced and the lessons we learned during our 2015 Italy trip, I would not have traded the location of our first international trip for a very special yet heartbreaking reason. While I was in Italy in April 2015, my mom entered the hospital for the last time. Luckily, there was no indication while I was gone that this would be her last time in the hospital. After an overnight delay at the Dulles airport, I made it home to her on her birthday, May 9, 2015. The next day was Mother’s Day, and I spent most of the day with her in the hospital watching HGTV and reliving my trip through my photos. Everywhere I visited during my trip was somewhere I know my mom would have loved to experience, and I think she did experience those places through me on the most important Mother’s Day I will ever have. The day when a mother and daughter connected over their mutual love of travel, culture, and the sea for the last time. A day when a mother could laugh with her daughter as the daughter relived getting two strollers up steep stairs in the hilliest parts of Italy and over the never-ending pedestrian bridges of Venice. One of the last days a grandmom would call her twin grandsons her “blue-eyed, beautiful baby boys”. A day that a mom would marvel that her daughter could handle this type of travel with twin toddlers and would repeat her favorite saying for describing the way her daughter handled mothering twins “you’re amazing, have I ever told you that?”. All of these special moments were created because a girl and her husband dared to tour Italy with two strollers.
Not only did our first international trip give me a cherished memory from my last days with my mom, but it also gave my family our own cherished memories. I have heard people say that there is no point in traveling with young children because they do not remember the trip. Maybe not, but my kids watch the videos and look at the photos so regularly that they think they remember all of our past trips. Not only that, but I know that travel has played a roll in the people they are becoming. They are interested in other countries and other languages. Their exposure to other cultures is forming who they are, and I am so grateful for that.
I understand that not everyone has the means to travel, but there are others who simply do not prioritize it. I encourage you to always choose experiences over things. I often hear people saying that they will wait until their kids are older or wait until they retire to travel. Losing my mom much earlier in life that I expected has taught me to make the most of the time we have on this Earth. Do not take time for granted. Make your bucket list and stop making excuses.
We have made mistakes in our travels with young children, but the lessons we have learned make for good stories. Our trip to Italy when the twins were not even two was far from perfect, but it was perfect for us. It reinvigorated us and gave us the confidence to start thinking about our next trip. I think many people are lacking the confidence to book their first international trip, they are overwhelmed by the logistics of the itinerary and how to handle any issues that arise during their travels. I want to give those people the confidence to travel far and start crossing items off of their bucket lists. Don’t wait. Just Go.