How to balance career, family, and travel

Since starting this blog, my objective has been to show that it is possible for parents to balance a full-time career, a family life, and frequent travel. I’ve been asked along the way, “Just HOW do you do it?”

I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy; it takes a lot of work. At times it can be quite stressful. So why do I keep with it? It’s simple. Travel gives us so much joy as a family. In Lucia’s six years and Anthony’s almost-two years, we have made lifelong memories that we call upon frequently. The backdrops for such memories just happen to be some of the world’s greatest cities and most significant landmarks. Further, travel allows my husband and me the opportunity to provide our children with real-world, hands-on life experiences. We believe strongly in education and agree that what our children learn via travel can only enhance what they will learn in the classroom.

Because travel, in any form, is a priority for our family, we make it happen. Here’s how:

We maximize our time off work

Unfortunately, Americans get less paid vacation time than most people in the developed world. For most of us, that translates into two weeks off. I’m lucky in that I get about 4-5 weeks paid vacation time per year, but my husband unfortunately is in the “two weeks off” category. This means he, the kids, and I usually get to take one big trip together a year and the rest of the time I’m traveling alone or with the kids on my own.

Because of our difference in paid vacation time, we have learned to maximize the time off work we are awarded. Aside from that one big family trip per year, the rest of the calendar year is dotted with shorter trips closer to home, spending a weekend in the country or even a day trip to a nearby town. Travel does not have to span time zones in order for it to “count”.

Alma Highland Festival & Games | Alma, Michigan

Learning about Scotland & Scottish culture at Alma Highland Festival & Games – Alma, Michigan

We do as much “Hometown travel” as possible

I say “hometown travel” instead of staycation. My family and I live in Chicago and we explore the city and surrounding areas as much as possible. I understand that we’re lucky to live in such a culturally rich and diverse city as Chicago, but hometown travel can happen no matter where you live. Travel is a state of mind and is all about experiencing something new and making new memories, and that can be done anywhere. Visit museums and historic sites; try out a new restaurant offering an unfamiliar cuisine. Such examples of hometown travel can temporarily sate the feelings of wanderlust and supply the family with learning and cultural opportunities, while providing ideas for future trips.

Eataly Chicago

Hometown travel to Italy – Eataly Chicago

I draw on my support network

I’d never be able to maintain my job, my family, my travels, and my writing projects without the phenomenal help and support of my husband and my mother. We even bring my mom along on our family trips. Allowing my children to share experiences and make memories with their grandmother is not only invaluable, but incredibly enriching. If my husband and I get to take a trip without the kids, I can count on my mother to look after them. Sometimes I even get to take solo trips and I can relax knowing that, between my husband and my mother, my children are well taken care of in my absence. I wouldn’t be able to do half of what I do without them.

Benefits of multi-generational travel

Lucia and my mom in Assisi, Italy

Another option is to visit out-of-town family and friends and draw on their local knowledge and personal resources. For example, when we visit family in Arizona, they allow us to use their cars to explore the area and have us over for dinner. By taking advantage of their generosity, we are able to save some money on things like car rentals and dining out.

So, that’s how I do it and manage to balance it all. It requires much prioritization, planning, and support, but it’s not impossible.

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17 Responses to How to balance career, family, and travel

  1. Tami June 24, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

    Loved your picture of the band at the Scottish games!
    Tami recently posted…From Solvang to San DiegoMy Profile

  2. Kieu June 25, 2015 at 12:41 am #

    You’re my idol! I can barely figure out career and travel… to throw family in there too?! Something I’ll need tips on in the near future I guess. LOL!
    Kieu recently posted…See, Eat, Do: SevilleMy Profile

  3. Erin Marie June 25, 2015 at 9:27 am #

    This is a great post! Seriously, you are amazing. I can barely balance teaching and travel – kids, forget about it! Great tips on here…I’ll keep them handy for the future. 😉
    Erin Marie recently posted…Surviving the Spartan RaceMy Profile

  4. Sarah Ebner June 26, 2015 at 10:36 am #

    We also love travelling together and, like you, make the most of our home town, London. There is so much to do here, as in Chicago, that we don’t always need to travel somewhere which means staying away (though that’s good too!).
    Sarah Ebner recently posted…Go on an amazing holiday and help a charity!My Profile

  5. Mark June 26, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

    You are too sweet! Thanks for all the adventures we have taken and I look forward to the ones to come!!!
    Love you!

  6. Traveling Ted June 28, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    I definitely admire you for doing work, family, kids, travel, and blogging. You amaze me how well you juggle everything.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…Chevy Trax Summer Camp road tripMy Profile

  7. lola June 28, 2015 at 6:02 pm #

    You are an amazing traveler and an EVEN better mom! I love you Francesca!!!
    lola recently posted…Fun Jewels on Loan with RocksboxMy Profile

  8. Katja - globetotting June 28, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    I am always shocked with how little holiday time Americans get (I am British) but it really sounds like you and your husband make the most of the time that you have for travelling together. I’m also a big fan of multi-generational travel so it’s great to see that your mum comes along on trips too – go the grandmas!!
    Katja – globetotting recently posted…Chincheros, The Sacred Valley, Peru – with kidsMy Profile

  9. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family June 28, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

    Squeezing wanderlust into and already packed life of full time work outside and kids must be so difficult. I haven’t worked outside the home since becoming a parent and can’t even imagine how exhausting it must be.
    Bethaney – Flashpacker Family recently posted…10 Tech Tips for Travelling in EuropeMy Profile

  10. Colleen Lanin June 29, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    I love that you say travel doesn’t need to span time zones to count – so true! And how wonderful that you have such a great mom (and your kids have such a great grandmom!) that helps out at home and during your travels. After raising kids for 9 years apart from family – I am feeling so grateful to now live near my parents and brother. In fact, I’m dropping the kids off in just a few minutes so my mom can watch them for me while I get some pre-trip work done!

  11. Tamara @ We3Travel June 29, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    I’m glad to see my husband isn’t the only one with the ridiculously low amount of two weeks vacation time. I also resort to a lot of weekend trips or mother-daughter travel.
    Tamara @ We3Travel recently posted…20+ Family-friendly Museums in New EnglandMy Profile

  12. Jolanta | Casual Traveler July 3, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    BRILLIANT post! You put it so wonderfully. I especially like “Travel is a state of mind and is all about experiencing something new and making new memories, and that can be done anywhere.” How true! We do a lot of local trips as well. You don’t have to spend big bucks on all-inclusive resorts to say you travel. It’s all about being curious what’s behind the corner, whether that corner is miles away, or in another city. I’m sorry for your husband, but I’m glad to see you’re making the most of your time off, instead of staying home. Keep traveling and writing, and we’ll keep reading!
    Jolanta | Casual Traveler recently posted…Old Quebec Bus Tour: Les Tours du Vieux QuebecMy Profile

  13. Sarah @ A Family Travel Blog July 6, 2015 at 8:42 am #

    Ahhh yes, BALANCE. What we all strive for right? Great tips! It IS possible to balance busy family lives and travel, and SO important in my opinion:)
    Sarah @ A Family Travel Blog recently posted…The Best Waterfall Near Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa RicaMy Profile

  14. Tanj from A Travelogue July 6, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    I wish we have family across the globe and visit. Would totally love it. Glad you had fun huh?

  15. Crysta @ WellWornSuitcase July 6, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    Awesome tips! It’s all about prioritizing what is important to you! We prioritize travel, too!
    Crysta @ WellWornSuitcase recently posted…Bahamas: Visiting the Atlantis ResortMy Profile

    • Francesca July 8, 2015 at 8:28 am #

      Thank you! Travel is a top priority for us 🙂

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