Given my passion for France and all things French, it goes without saying that I love swapping French travel tales with anyone willing to share. I could literally chat for days about all the things I love about France and I absolutely adore it when I pick up some new tip or little French secret.
Sometimes however my conversations about France don’t go the way I want them to. Specifically, this occurs when I hear the words ‘I’ve always wanted to travel to France but…’ After those words I usually hear something about priority clashes, it never being the right time to travel with children, the cost or the ability to get enough time off work.
Regardless of the words chosen they always make me so sad.
I’m a firm believer chasing your dreams and in finding ways to overcome perceived obstacles – and let’s face it, we all have obstacles of some kind to get past. It took me over 15 years – until I was in my mid thirties – to fulfil my own dream of travelling to France. Friends were concerned that I would be disappointed once I finally made it onto French soil. It goes without saying that I wasn’t and, as a result, Scott and I now have a new dream – to travel to France at least once each year.
Today, I want to have a look at one of the most common obstacles people share when they explain to me why they’ve not yet made it to France – the fact that it is not the right time to travel with children. Hopefully my thoughts will inspire others to find a way to explore the country I love so much with their families.
Technically, there is never a great time to travel with kids. At least that’s the assumption I could easily make based on the number of times children are suggested as a reason for not travelling to France any time soon. You can’t go when the kids are toddlers because it is too hard to fly with them. You can’t go while they are in primary school because they won’t remember or appreciate the trip. You can’t go when your teenagers are starting high school because they need to transition and settle in. You can’t go when they are in their final years of education because their education is too important.
Personally, I hold an alternative view – I believe it’s always a great time to travel with children. And the benefits of travelling for your children – things like the exposure to new sights, smells and tastes as well as beauty and history – far outweigh any of the barriers our minds sometimes throw up.
Take, for example, the idea that our kids need to be beyond primary school in order to remember a trip. I’m of the opinion that our youngsters remember more about their holiday adventures than we might expect…but they also remember in a different way than we might expect. As well as some key highlights, they seem to remember the feeling, and in particular, the feeling of joy and excitement they pick up from their family members. They just know they are on a good thing and that feeling stays with them – for a very long time. The first question I ask people when they put forward the suggestion that they really want their kids to appreciate the trip is whether or not they remember any of their own childhood holidays. It’s interesting how many of them remember their own childhood trips, whether they were local or abroad, with great fondness yet are reluctant to travel internationally with their own children.
Toddlers also seem to handle flights better than we might expect. Yes, some poor littlies do shed tears when the pressure gets to their ears but as a general rule most little ones sleep and play as they might at home, and the flight crew are generally extremely supportive of travelling parents. Having said that, their comfort toys are a must – I don’t recommend losing a precious teddy bear just before the return journey like we did once.
When it comes to balancing travel with children’s education this can also be achieved with a little thought and planning. We travelled internationally with our son during four of his six high school years – some trips for over a month. With a little organisation we were able to minimise the amount of time our son was out of school. When we did have him out of school for any length of time we contacted the school for homework (most of which we would encourage him to finish before we even left home).
I will always remember one year level coordinator actively encouraging us to travel with our teenager – he felt that both the history and the life skills travelling would teach him far outweighed anything that could be learned in classes. Managing the travel around school holidays also encouraged us to experience France in winter…and as a result, the winter months are now amongst my favourite times to visit France.
If you’ve been one of those who has been putting off your dream visit to France due to children and timing, I really encourage you to to reconsider the situation. I promise you that the lifelong memories of a fabulous French family holiday will be more than worth it.
Until next time – au revoir.