You actually can enjoy your Italian vacation – or European vacation or island vacation or some-sort-of-nice-destination vacation – with your kids. I’m living proof. I’m the last person to say those words lightly, and I never would have had I not experienced it for myself. On this vacation I discovered many things not the least of which was that traveling with teens to places I actually want to visit is possible. My family traveled to Rome and Venice and while the cities were beautiful and enchanting, perhaps the singular best part of the trip was that my kids never once bickered. That’s 8 days and 7 nights of non-stop togetherness in fairly close quarters. It was so surprising, unexpected and delightful, it inspired a meme.
Part of the reason I think I enjoyed the trip so much was that it in no way resembled my regular life. I don’t just mean I was in a new, beautiful location (although that helps) in carefree vacation mode (that helps, too). I mean my life abroad was so unbelievably pleasant it was unrecognizable. From the time I got in the car to head to the airport to the moment I touched down back on American soil, my life was trouble-free, something with which I have no prior experience.
Is this really how some people live? Could I live this way if I relocated to Europe?
The spell, I was sure, would be broken soon enough, but I still wanted to move to Europe to find out for certain.
Upon my return when my parents enquired about the trip, I replied, “The kids never fought once.”
“Out of every thing you did,” my father remarked, “that’s the most memorable part of the trip?”
Yes. It was. Because if the kids argued or complained or were sullen or grumpy, it would have marred everything else, making our wonderful Italian vacation miserable. But the kids were happy and agreeable. Something I never saw coming.
Before we left I had serious reservations about the trip. In fact, I was against it. At 13 and 15, my kids were old enough to travel abroad, but were they old enough to appreciate the trip? If not, we were laying out a lot of cash to listen to them complain in another country for a week. But this trip taught me my kids are eager and enthusiastic travelers. Like me, they delight in adventure.
Going in, though, it was a gamble, and I was convinced the trip was going to be a disaster. So I wasn’t actually eagerly anticipating this vacation. But on this trip I learned a few things, and these things that I’m about to share with you are guaranteed to make any vacation a success.
First, the best thing you can do to ensure a fantastic time is to dread the trip and not plan a single thing for it. That’s what we did, and it’s undeniably the best approach to travel. That way when things work out, you’re completely astonished not to mention thrilled at your good fortune.
Although we’d known about the trip for well over a year and kept planning to plan for it, we never actually planned for it. At least not until the date on the calendar indicated our trip was 3 weeks away, and my husband and I became fairly certain we were embarking on a one-week stint to be homeless in a foreign country. That’s where the beauty of Airbnb came in. With T minus 20 days, we whipped out our laptops, logged onto Airbnb and launched simultaneous frantic searches for accommodations in two cities on our side-by-side laptops.
After some scrolling Kevin found the most beautiful, two-bedroom apartment in all of Rome. It was way nicer than anything I called up in my $99 searches. When he turned his laptop toward me to reveal the photos of what my life could be, I gasped. I sat, starring at the screen in stunned silence. When I could speak again, my first words were, “Contact Lorenzo immediately.”
With bright, sun-filled rooms, romantic antique furnishings, and stunning floor to ceiling windows that opened onto a rooftop terrace, I had to have that life – if only for three days.
The place was slightly different from the one we stayed in during our first trip to Rome 17 years earlier. Before we were married or had any money, my husband and I travelled together to Rome. I did most of the planning and research and booked a room in a great location near the Spanish Steps. It was in a pensione and while I had no idea what that meant, after staying there I think it roughly translates to English as Motel 6.
This time with Airbnb, we were moving up in the world, but since we’d never used Airbnb before I didn’t know if it was just a way to swindle people out of their money when they arrived in a foreign country and no one showed up to meet them with the key and their increasingly frantic emails were suddenly left unanswered. But it wasn’t. Lorenzo did, in fact, have waiting at the apartment his representative who, as he let us in through the little door cut-out of the massive, original door, informed us we were staying in a famous apartment building. Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister – you know, the one involved in all the sex scandals with young women and prostitutes – had an office in the building. I was honored. I kept an eye out for wild parties and orgies the three days we were there, but I never saw a thing.
With one apartment down we turned our search to Venice where we found not quite as lavish an apartment but one right on a canal. As thrilled as I was to be staying on a canal I had no inkling of what that meant for us other than it was very Venetian and that if my kids grumbled or fought I would toss them out the window into the fetid water. Aside from that, I had no concept of what view lay outside the window.
This was the view. Every afternoon before dinner I sat in the window with a chilled glass of Soave gazing out as the gondolas lazily floated by. I doubt I’d ever get tired of that view. It hardly looks real.
Our apartment in Venice was on the aptly named Calle del Paradiso. Everyday as we navigated our way through the maze of narrow streets and single-width alleys, Kevin and I marveled at the beauty and questioned our reality. We half expected to turn the corner and run into Goofy or Donald Duck or some D-list cartoon character because we were actually in a Disney resort engineered to look like Venice instead of the city itself. The scene was all too perfect.
Paradise it was.
I’ll have more travel tips for you next time, but I think I’ve said enough for one day. Maybe I should call this series (or my blog) the Practical Guide to Traveling with Kids. There’s so many travel articles out there, but none of them tell you how to survive and thrive with kids. Here, I give you bonafide, proven strategies guaranteed to get you that vacation you’ve always dreamed of but never thought possible – a pleasant one with your family. More on that next week.
If you like this, you’ll love, I Just Want to Be Perfect, the fourth book in The New York Times best-selling series. It doesn’t have anything to do with travel, but it is funny. And, I’m in it. What more could you ask for? Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or order a signed copy direct from me: info @ onefunnymotha (dot) com.
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