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”.
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.
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.
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.