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Secrets For Turning A Family Trip Into An Experience of A Lifetime

family trip, planning a trip, family travel, family vacationNever in a million years would I have taken my young children to Europe. Until I did.

My husband and I are world travellers. We’ve travelled together across France, Germany, Austria, Scotland, Italy, the Czech Republic and more, and we’ve loved every second. But with kids? I thought it would be a nightmare. What if the time change screwed up my daughter’s already screwed up sleeping patterns? What if they hated getting dragged here and there to the sights and we ended up stuck with two bored, miserable children and unable to see anything?

Then a few years ago my parents offered to take the entire family to Spain, all-expenses paid. How on earth can you say no to that? We said yes, and for my then two-year-old daughter’s very first trip on an airplane, she flew from Atlanta to Barcelona. It was there that I was relieved to learn my children love to travel as much as I do. All of it. The restaurants, the museums, the cathedrals they’re game for anything and they behave like champs.

This is why I am fully confident that this June, when the four of us head to Paris, it will be the family trip of a lifetime.

For a family of four to travel anywhere is an enormous expense. We wouldn’t be going if my husband didn’t travel like an astronaut for work, thus allowing us to use his frequent flyer miles to secure four free tickets to Paris. (Thank you Delta!) Even with the free flights, it’s still expensive. Since we won’t be taking trips like these a lot, I’m trying to wrangle as much memorable experience out of the trip as possible, including the months leading up to it.

This is why I created a multimedia plan to get ready for our trip. From movies, to books, to puzzles and French 101, we’re having a blast these next few months teaching the kids a little about France and enjoying some French culture. I figured, why let the trip last for only ten days when we can create excitement leading up to it for weeks?

I thought you might like to take a peek at what we’ve been up to, since it may inspire you to do something similar the next time you take a trip.


  • What To Do In Paris 1 of 6
    What To Do In Paris
    My first step was to by copious amounts of travel books on Paris. (It's a problem I have.) I love planning trips, and so I always buy tons of guidebooks to learn different things about my destination. I'll be making a detailed itinerary for our trip.
  • The Hunchback & Other Stories 2 of 6
    The Hunchback & Other Stories
    Next I searched Amazon to find books about Paris or related to France that the kids might enjoy on their own. We've already read most of the ones I got, so I'm going to have to search out some more.
  • Bonjour Monsieur! 3 of 6
    Bonjour Monsieur!
    I took 8 years of French, but am sad to say I don't remember much. I'm using books and games like Spot It French to teach the kids some "bon mots" here and there. There are also some good iPad apps for this, like "French for Kids." They got quite a giggle upon learning the French word for seal. (Look it up.)
  • What’s the French word for puzzles? 4 of 6
    What's the French word for puzzles?
    This past weekend Jack and I built the Notre Dame together, or at least a 3-D puzzle version.
  • Les Bonbons 5 of 6
    Les Bonbons
    Over the next few months we plan to make some meals out of the cookbook French Feasts. Tonight I'm making crepes. I think they'll be up for everything except snails. I don't blame them.
  • Les Films 6 of 6
    Les Films
    Okay, so they may show an Americanized version of Paris, but we'll be watching movies like "The Aristocats" and "Ratatouille" and looking for monuments in the movies that we'd like to see in person.

Have you done something similar for one of your family vacations? If so, share your ideas! I’d love to get even more things for us to do before June.

writes here at Babble as well as at her own blog on postpartum depression, called Postpartum Progress. You can also follow her on Twitter as she tweets inane things about her day, or learn more about her here.

Photo credits: Katherine Stone

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