It all started three years ago, on a warm summer evening. We were reading the book Madeline to our youngest daughter. My oldest daughter then 7, piped up and said, I want to go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa too! The younger one jumped on board. “Me too!” My husband and I looked at each other and then smiled. Because in that moment, we knew that we were going. OK, we told them, let’s go. We don’t know when, but let’s go.
We figured that two things needed to happen – first, our youngest needed to get a little older and second, of course, we needed to save up enough money. A few weeks after that initial conversation, we switched credit cards and got one that gives mileage benefits. We put a big change jar on the counter, which the kids have been faithfully throwing their allowances, quarters, and pennies into ever since. As the kids talked more and more about the trip, we all agreed that we should see Venice too (why not?), and so we started saving even more aggressively. The kids have been looking at atlases and saying, Bonjourno (still working on explaining the difference beteween Bonjour and Bongiorno!), and Oui! Oui! which makes them laugh hysterically every time.
My husband and I have spent hours (days, really) discussing potential itineraries, budgeting, frequent flyer mile manipulation, and studying airfare charts. Because we wanted to see two countries, we wanted to fly into one and out of the other. For months, I couldn’t find a break in the irritatingly high airfares listed. And then for some inexplicable reason, the fares dropped on one day in May. I wasn’t sure I read it right. I stared at it all day long and the next morning the fare was still there, but only on that one day in May. My husband and I had another silent exchange – I pointed at the screen, raised my eyebrows, he nodded, and I nodded back at him. The tickets were booked before we finished our first cup of coffee.
And so we are going. Today. Two adults, two kids, 4 backpacks, 7 planes, 1 rental car, many trains, a few boats, some taxis, a bus and a mule. Just kidding about the mule. Though you never know what could happen with the all the talk of European austerity.
Excitement, yes. I am excited to see their reactions to a room full of passionate, loud, hand gesturing Italians (I love Italians!). I am excited to watch their face when they try gelato for the first time and to see what they think of all the pigeons outside Piazza San Marco. I am excited to watch just how well they can haggle at a market (at home they are pros) and I am excited to see their faces peering up at the gorgeous ceiling at Sainte-Chappelle. I am excited to watch them and to be with them as they begin to discover just how big our world is. And mostly, I am excited for us to have each other all to ourselves for two whole weeks with no activities, no work, no school, no phone, no email (ok, minimal email), nothing except just us.
I’m also afraid because doing a trip like this with kids is a whole different thing than doing it with just one backpack in your 20’s. What have I missed? What if I haven’t done enough research? What if we arrive to find that one of the apartments we rented was a scam? What if someone gets sick? What if it really does rain every single day that we’re there, as the weather forecast predicts? What if what if what if? But I am doing my best to stuff the what if’s. Hopefully we will fare better in Europe than the Griswolds did:
This trip is about a goal that all started with a childrens’ book. I am a proud mama that my kids set this goal and then diligently helped to save for it. This is their trip, really. If you’d like to follow some pictures from our trip, come check us out on pinterest. We will be posting pics to the European Adventure Board. Arrivederci!
SJPmama is the schemer, founder, and the editor at San Juan Parent. She created San Juan Parent because she wanted to find fun activities for families that would tire her kids out and make them go to bed at a decent hour. She has been banging away on computers for longer than she can remember and freelances at various tech jobs. She considers herself extremely lucky to have such awesome friends and family who are willing to let SJP feature their stories on the interwebs.
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