This post was written by Nancy, who is a regular contributor. She also runs a blog Savingforadream
My family loves Europe! My husband traveled to London and Paris to study during college. I spent a month in Spain, two weeks in London and two weeks in Italy in my younger years. We had the most wonderful 10-day honeymoon in Paris and the French countryside 12 years ago. Our trip included most of the usual Paris tourist attractions plus Disneyland.
We climbed stairs and walked the streets until our feet were covered with blisters, and we even rented a car to drive through small towns in the Loire Valley to visit castles. I’m amazed we found our way back to our B&B because none of the country roads were labeled, and when I asked for directions (in French) the response I got was way beyond my limited language comprehension.
It was such a great adventure. I love the history, the food, the culture and getting out of my comfort zone.
Dining in a café on Champs-Elysees
We are itching to go back to Europe and in fact, we regret not going on another longer overseas trip before we started building our family. (If you are reading this and you don’t have kids yet—go on a long trip overseas–NOW!)
I see summer trip photos starting to be posted and discussed on Facebook and travel blogs, and it seems like we are one of the few families who are not using miles and points (or cash) to take our kids to Europe. For the past two years I’ve been stalking award flights and almost pulled the trigger once. But there have been some things holding me back, and I really cannot bring myself to make plans for a European vacation anytime soon.
It’s not because of security issues. Terrorism is hard to predict, but I wouldn’t let that prevent us from going to London or Paris.
It’s not because I think my kids are too young to remember it or enjoy it. Heck, if I thought that, we would never go anywhere! My children have seen London and Paris in movies and have asked to go. One of my kids is a big fan of the Eiffel Tower. We have some paintings of Paris in our house, and they ask questions about our honeymoon trip.
Just yesterday, we were watching the movie “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London” and we were all drooling over the scenery. While not every attraction would be interesting to my kids, every city has some attractions that are appropriate for their ages.
It’s not because it’s too expensive. We could fly during off-peak times on American Airlines for 22,500 miles each way or use British Airways Avios for cheaper award tickets between the East Coast and Europe. While it would be difficult to get at least two hotel rooms each night on points to fit our family of five, we could instead rent an apartment through VRBO or Airbnb for a very reasonable price (many are around $100/night—not that I’ve been looking).
So why then?
It’s because we have limited resources, and we don’t feel like we’re quite in the right season of our lives to take our kids on a trip to Europe.
My husband has limited vacation time from his job. He started a new job earlier this year, and because of the way his time off is structured it means we have to plan our trips very carefully. If we traveled all the way to Europe, we would want to spend at least a week there, if not more time.
We have limited miles and points. While it’s true that we can always earn more miles and points, it is getting more difficult. Many credit cards have a once-per-lifetime signup bonus or once every 24 months. Chase credit cards are getting hard to get if you have had more than 5 credit cards opened in the past 24 months. As a family of five, our miles and points don’t stretch as much as they do for solo travelers or smaller families. If we are going to spend a few hundred thousand miles and points, we need to make sure it’s on the right trip.
We have limited money to spend. While we could probably cover flights to Europe with miles and points, international tickets have much higher taxes than domestic award tickets. Lodging, while cheaper with an apartment rental, is not free. We would need to spend money on other transportation, food and tourist attractions that would use up money we could spend on domestic trips or household expenses.
We are not in the right season of our lives right now. This is the biggie. Perhaps it’s because we still have PTSD about a couple of trips with our oldest kids to/from Russia and Korea several years ago. Or maybe it’s because we’re older than the average set of parents. To be completely honest, our kids are still a handful.
I have two that are very picky eaters and at least one that still swears she doesn’t need to go to the bathroom until it’s an absolute emergency. Two out of three still have meltdowns when they don’t get enough sleep, and all three argue with each other incessantly.
We don’t have frequent free babysitting from extended family members, so we don’t get any breaks from our kids unless we hire a babysitter at home or go on a vacation that includes a kids’ club. Last year, my husband and I decided that if we’re going to spend a lot of time and money on a vacation, it needs to include a break for us as well.
If we use all of our resources for a trip to Europe, we won’t have much left for a vacation that fits our needs during this season. While I think a trip to Europe with our kids would be awesome, I predict it would leave us drained and exhausted with no more resources for a more relaxing trip and visiting our families.
We’ve actually thought about hiring or bringing a babysitter on a trip to Europe or going on a Mediterranean cruise to make things a little easier on all of us. In the meantime, we have a few domestic trips planned for the next two years as well as a trip to Mexico at an all-inclusive resort.
I hope that our situation will change in the near future and that we can plan a longer overseas trip with our kids. I’m not waiting for our kids to be perfect because I know that’s not possible. However, I think some maturity and time will help change many of the things that are holding us back from pulling the trigger on a European trip.
Europe isn’t going anywhere. My kids will still love it when they are a little older, and I have no doubt it will be an awesome trip. Someday, just not now.
Is anything holding you back from taking your kids to Europe? Have you already been, or are you planning a trip soon? Or am I crazy for not taking advantage of award flights to travel to Europe?
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