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What Mom Never Told You About Family Travel

Remember the carefree joy of being a kid? Hopping in the back of the family car with your pillow, excited for whatever adventure your parents were about to take you on? Your only responsibility was keeping yourself entertained on the road and not fighting with your sibling (if you could help it).

Family travel seemed so easy then. If you were tired, you fell asleep. If you were hungry, your parents fed you. You didn’t have to worry about where you were going, how you were going to get there, where you were going to sleep or eat, or how it was all getting paid for. You were just a kid going along for the ride.

Now that the torch has been passed and you are the parent, all the work, preparation, compromises, money and stress that you were so conveniently naive to as a child have been made abundantly clear as you plan your own family vacations.

Now that you are the adult, you realize that there is something your mom never told you about family travel. Something that you are now discovering as you scrape and save, book and plot. Mom never told you that family travel can be really freaking hard sometimes.

As I look back on my childhood, I feel really bad about the time I cried, because I wasn’t happy about the hotel. What a brat, right? Ugh.

In my defense, traditions are really important to kids. Every time we visited this particular destination, we stayed at this particular hotel. Well, one year we going for a wedding and stayed at a different hotel and I guess I just couldn’t deal. My parents still won’t let me live that story down.

Okay, so kids cry, they whine, they get bored, they get tired, they get hungry, they wiggle, they squirm, and they could care less about the significance of some historical site. Comedian Jim Gaffigan made a joke about very topic. He said, “How can I spend an enormous amount of money, be uncomfortable, and listen to my kids complain and whine all day? Disney!”

CuddleBear Meltdown at Disney
CuddleBear Meltdown at Disney

Yet we continue to do it, over and over again. I’ll be the first to admit that I am guilty. I am a Disney annual passport holder and no one laughed harder at Jim Gaffigan’s joke than me.

So why do we do it?

Because for every rough moment, there a million AMAZING ones and those moments are the ones we hold to and carry with us for the rest of our lives.

We are not going to remember that meltdown in the airport or the argument over directions to the hotel, and if we do, those memories will most likely be remembered with laughter.

My parents used to argue every road trip. My mom would complain about my dad’s driving, he would threaten to pull over and let her drive, and then she would nonchalantly wave her hand in the air dismissing the ridiculousness of his frustration. This scenario would occur every trip like clockwork and guess what? He never pulled over and she never drove. My niece and would sit in the backseat, roll our eyes and plug in our headphones. Now, it is a memory that my niece and I bond and laugh over now as adults, much to my parent’s dismay.

Things like this happen all the time. It is just part of the family travel experience. Expect it. Deal with it. Laugh about it. Love it.

What Mom Never Told You About Family Travel

I’m a traveling mom. That means my eyes could be burning red with exhaustion, but I don’t get to just fall asleep whenever I want. I could be starving, but I might not get to get eat right away. Sometimes when I really need a cocktail break, I’ll have to take the kids to the playground first before I get my turn for fun.

I am now the one who has to make sure we have the money to cover our expenses and that all the travel arrangements have been made properly. I am no longer just along for the ride; I am now responsible for the ride’s success. Phew. That’s heavy, but I love every minute of family travel and can’t stop taking on another adventure with my kids!

Sure, my son had a meltdown every morning in Scotland, because he insisted on wearing the same pair of sweatpants the entire two-week trip. However, those extremely annoying moments did not break the joy of that travel memory.


Instead, my kids happily talk about all the things they miss about various family travels. In fact, last night my 5 year old went on and on about all the restaurants and food she missed from Scotland. My 3 year old son begs to return to certain destinations, laughing at the memories he holds dear. You may think your kids are too little to remember such grand adventures, but it is amazing what sticks.

What Mom Never Told You About Family Travel

Anyway, this post is not meant to discourage you from taking on family travel. It is meant to encourage. You are not alone, family travel is not easy for anyone. No matter how perfect other people’s vacations sound, behind every smiling photo there were a few crazy moments.

CuddleBear Meltdown in Las Vegas
CuddleBear Meltdown in Las Vegas

Despite all the work, it is one of the most rewarding experiences. We don’t realize the impact family travel has on our kids until you hear them recount their stories as they grow. Family travel is a beautiful thing and worth all the effort.

So, when things get a little hairy, take a deep breath and put your frustration into perspective. Remember to pull back on the itinerary a little. Be present with the family, instead of rushing from site to site, making the experience a blur. Remember to laugh and to go with the flow. No one’s trip is perfect, but every trip is significant.

26 Thankful Moments in Travel

What mom didn’t tell you about family travel was that she was subconsciously bonding your family together for a lifetime.

What is your favorite childhood travel memory?

Do you have any travel fails that turned into a funny travel memory?


I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".

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