Jennifer Close–mom, educator, writer, traveler– who writes Two Kids and a Map, has agreed to write about family travel at least once a month for A Traveler’s Library. Jennifer is the only one of the new contributors I did not know when we started our adventure, but she was recommended by a family travel writer I highly admire, Mara Gorman of Mother of All Trips. Reading through Jennifer’s blog (and what a great name it has!), I knew that we were soul mates. Her descriptions of her travels with her mother (follow links below) took me right back to family trips with MY mother. Her first entry here, about aquariums, was very popular with the readers and you’ll see as you read her answers below why she is such a great fit for A Traveler’s Library. Welcome aboard, Jennifer.
A Traveler’s Library: Which came first–travel or writing?
Jennifer Close: The travel definitely came before the writing but only because my parents began traveling with me when I was a baby. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved writing essays and short stories. I used to sit for hours and journal in my many diaries (all with special locks and hidden in just the right place so my sister couldn’t find them).
ATL: How does your family’s travel style differ from the way your mother and father (and siblings?) traveled when you were young?
JC: When I was growing up, a lot of the trips that we made were focused on family or moving. We always lived far away from extended family so our vacations were spent visiting them when we could. I grew up in a military family so we moved pretty regularly. When we moved, it was always across country: Florida to California; California to Virginia; Hawaii to Florida. Each of those trips involved an extensive road trip where we always visited roadside attractions, stayed at hotels with pools, and ate picnic lunches at rest stops. My family’s travel style doesn’t differ too much from the way my parents traveled except we are lucky enough to live near most family so we don’t always have to use our vacation time to visit them. We are able to visit places that we really want to see in addition to visiting family. My mom instilled a love of getting lost, trying new things and enjoying the drive as much as the destination and I hope that we are doing the same for our kids.
ATL: Is there a place you are waiting to take your kids when they get older?
J.C.: I dream about taking my children on an African safari. We have family friends who run the Mission of Love Orphanage in Zambia. I am putting our pennies away to hopefully someday take my family to Zambia to volunteer at the orphanage for some time and then go on a safari trip. I think that I would like my kids to be around 10 and 12 years old for this trip. They are 5 and 7 years old right now so we have some time to save!
ATL: Is there a trip you’d like to make WITHOUT the kids?
J.C.: For our tenth anniversary, my husband and I went to Hawaii. We had an amazing time on that trip but our young children still haven’t forgiven us for leaving them behind! They are planning a trip to Hawaii with us and are hoping that we will follow through! There isn’t anywhere in particular that I would like to go without the kids but I do believe that traveling without the kids is important. It helps me remember why I married my husband!
ATL:Are your kids eager to travel, or are they more “Do I HAVE to?”
J.C.: Both of my children are eager travelers. Whenever we tell them we have a surprise for them, the first question they always ask is “Are we going on a trip?” If we have been home for three or four weeks, they start asking when we are going to stay in a hotel next. I am sure that as they get older there will be a lot more of the complaining about traveling with us. I hope that our trips are so enticing that they are willing to give up social activities to join us without complaining!
ATL: What do you wish someone had told you about family travel before you went on a trip with your kids?
J.C.: The main thing I wish someone had told us about family travel was not to panic and to remember that there are kids everywhere. When my son was ten months old, we took him to Europe. We did a whirlwind trip through many different countries on our own with him. When I was packing back in the states, I was so worried about bringing enough diapers, baby food, and more. Even though I thought I had planned perfectly, we ran out of everything and had to shop in the local stores. We didn’t have a problem finding what we needed and could have saved on our luggage space.
ATL: In what ways is family travel actually easier than traveling just with adults?
J.C.: Traveling with my children is much easier than traveling with other adults. It is easier to compromise with my children. We don’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings or missing out on something that we want to do. Recently, I have made several trips by myself with my kids. I thought that it would be really difficult and that it would stress me out but we did well and made some great memories.
ATL: Have you ever gone on a guided trip for families? or stayed at a family camp? Is that better or worse than independent travel for families?
J.C.: We much prefer independent travel. I don’t want to be on anyone else’s schedule when I travel with my family and I want to be able to change my mind at any moment. The closest we came to a guided trip or family camp was a recent stay at the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, North Carolina. The High Hampton Inn and cottages sit on a lake where kids can swim, canoe, play on the playground and more. Meal times are loosely scheduled for you as are the daily activities that you can choose from. Think summer camp for families à la Dirty Dancing (at least that is what it made me think of!). Even though there are daily activities and meal times, there is also a lot of flexibility. If you are heading out for a hike, you can order a boxed lunch. If you don’t like volleyball, you can skip the scheduled game. This is probably as close as we are going to get to a guided trip…at least until our safari!
ATL: What have your kids taught YOU about travel?
J.C.: My kids have taught me to look for adventure around every corner. I thought that I was teaching them that but they have helped my husband and I to slow down and appreciate what is in front of us. We often visit places and attractions that we might not have put on our itinerary before we had kids like playgrounds and fountains. They also remind us daily that we don’t have to travel to far-flung destinations to have a real adventure. We can adventure in our own backyard.
Jennifer Close took all of these pictures and holds the copyright. Please do not reproduce without express permission. Thank you.
When Jennifer started talking about her mother and the picnic tablecloths (see link above) I wondered if she was actually a younger sister in my family that I somehow missed. It all sounds SO familiar! Road trips, getting lost, trying new things, seeing new places–it was all part of our life growing up. How did your family travel experiences as a child shape the way you travel today?