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the meaning of family travel

The Spanish Steps

My family on the Spanish Steps in Rome.

By the time you read this, I will have shuffled off to Buffalo for the TMS Family Travel conference in Niagara Falls.

I’m so excited about this because, at this stage of my life, travel is the only extravagance I really indulge in. I don’t really care about “things” any more, but give me a chance to visit a different place, experience a different culture or activity, or try a different mode of transportation, and I’m packed.

Camel in Dubai

This conference is all about family travel, and you may wonder what that means to me since my husband and I are now empty nesters. Well, it literally means the world to me!

When we were first married, Michael and I took vacations in the Caribbean every year. Those were relaxing escapes from work and city life in New York and Boston, and we basically just hung out on beautiful beaches, reading and holding hands.

The Caribbean

Once the kids were born, we substituted Disney World for the Caribbean. Our annual visits were so much fun, with Alex greeting the characters as if they were long-lost members of our family. Sara, a little more practical, examined the characters carefully and, at the age of three, turned to us and asked, “Where’s Mickey’s zipper?” Some of my favorite family photos include Mickey, Goofy and — most beloved to my kids — the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood.

Mickey Mouse

As the kids got older, we headed into the wild (ish), rafting on the Truckee River at Lake Tahoe, snowboarding in Salt Lake City, hiking around Big Bear, Idyllwild and Lake Louise. We searched for frogs on Cape Cod, turtles in Hawaii and moose in Banff.

Lake Tahoe

We also decided to try cruising, starting with Alaska, moving on to the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and Russia, and, most recently, the United Arab Emirates. My husband and I discovered how much we enjoyed cruising, and our empty nest bucket list trips now include a cruise around the world and a river cruise anywhere.

Life jackets on cruise

Over the years, we’ve traveled together and in a variety of combinations – father/daughter, mother/son, father/son, mother/daughter – and I’ll definitely be writing about some of those trips because they inspired such great memories. I’m also grateful for the annual birthday spa weekend I get to go on with my mom and sister – a tradition we started six years ago and which we look forward to all year. I’d love for my daughter to join us now that she’s turned 21!

Spa at La Costa

I’m excited about continuing to travel with my kids now that they’re grown, and look forward to traveling with grandchildren one day too. I’m grateful that we’ve raised travelers, and am convinced there’s no better way to learn about the world than by actually seeing it. Travel gives you a chance to experience the way other people live. It opens your mind and shows you we are really more alike than we are different.


My son volunteered at an animal sanctuary in Africa.

Meanwhile, as empty nesters, we spent a week in Ireland last summer, fulfilled my lifelong dream to visit Africa this summer and unwind at spas as often as possible. My husband really wants to take a Lost in America road trip in an RV and, as long as he’s driving, I’m ready to load the iPod, stock the cup holders and ride shotgun.

I totally believe the world is my oyster – and every trip is a pearl.

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen

At the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.



  1. Sharon Greenthal says:

    Travel is on our agenda too, now that we are empty nesters. Looks like you’ve had a lot of great times both with and without your kids!

  2. We travel a lot! We just got back from a 2 week trip to Asia sans kids.

  3. sisters from another mister says:

    What a wonderful view into years of your family life you have here … can only imagine the albums and framed photos that you own.
    Memories – so very special.
    As homeschoolers, we say The World is our Classroom .. and I love that my kids have seen quite a bit of it.

  4. We love travel, and have gone to many of the places you mentioned (except Africa and the Arab Emirates). One of our faves was for Gary’s 50th when we went to Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, and on up to Jasper. Breathtaking.

    That photo on your in the two piece – VA VOOM, BABY!

    Love this post. Makes me want to travel. Have fun at the conference.

  5. Family travel can be such fun and a wonderful way to learn about the world around us rather than just watching about it on TV.

  6. Travel certainly is a little easier with older kids. I hope to do a lot more travel in the coming years. I didn’t know about this conference. It’s definitely something I will keep an eye out for next year. Have fun!

  7. We travel a lot, too, and almost always with our kids. My two oldest sons were especially proud that the number of stamps in their passports was higher than their age! When they were 7 and 4, we took a Mediterranean cruise, and were followed all week by a travel writer, who was soaking in my boys’ enthusiasm about seeing the world. There’s actually a section in her book on cruising with kids about us! (But, alas, she misspelled my name, so some chick named Lisa got the credit for those cute kids.) Anyhoo, next big destination for us is Greece. Planning for 2015!

  8. As you know traveling is in my blood as well. Loved this travelogue.

  9. Family travel is the best way to create lasting memories – I think!! Some of my best memories are from trips. And… OMG your son is just chilling on a cheetah? That’s priceless for sure!!!

  10. Wow, you have had some amazing adventures. I would have loved it!

    PS I still believe in the magic at Disney. My brother Brian was always “where’s the zipper? Where did they hide xyz” and he’s the one who did the behind the scenes classes instead of rides when we’d go as we got older…

  11. We just recently found the means to start traveling with our family of six… the size of our group has kept us from doing so in the past. I know that the trips we’ve taken one on one with the kids have special meaning to them and I’m excited to share 6 nights in the Caribbean with them this winter. <3 traveling…excited to share it with the FAM!

  12. My family always took a 2-week trip every year when I was growing up. Mom hated to fly so it was always by car, but we hit over 40 of the 50 states. The one exception was going to Europe when I was in Jr. High. I have great memories of all those trips and just recently we have taken some trips together as adults too. GOOD TIMES!!

  13. What wonderful travel stories and memories you have. I’d love to travel more. The nest is empty, but so is the pocketbook right now. Eventually, though. Enjoy Niagara Falls! I look forward to photos and stories.

  14. Where do you get the money to do all of that? Always thought my retirement would include doing travel but in this economy? So your travel log is vicarious for me. Thanks ! Never figured that my retirement would also include taking care of my 94 year old mom! That’s rathar limiting also…. but, then whatever is the plan of our lives we never know when intentions are crossed with duties? Blelssings and gentle hugs to you and yours and all the readers…..

  15. You’ve traveled to a lot of great places – awesome! I hope to travel one day once we’re empty nesters. We joke about buying an RV and traveling the US since I can work from anywhere. It sure would be fun though!

  16. Oh Lois! What a fabulous post, memories nestled in with the future, such joy!

  17. I love to travel! It’s so great, especially to unique places surrounded by family (:

  18. Oh wow it looks amazing – I wish I could travel more but my body doesn’t seem to like it much among other things. x

  19. I always feel that our family has not traveled enough. Hopefully I can change that this year.

  20. Our family vacations were the best times ever because is was the most quality time we ever had with our kids. It was just us all the time and we really had time to talk. And these trips span a lifetime because the pictures and memories will always be there. We still talk about many of the fun moments we had, like when our car was attacked by a swarm of locusts once.

  21. We travel a lot but we tend to stay in the states! We are considering venturing out somewhere new!

  22. Ruth Curran says:

    As empty nesters we started doing things that take us (to quote a wonderful Spanish traveler) “knee deep in the sea” of a culture. Cooking classes are now at the top of my list — amazing how much you can learn about people by cooking with them or for them :)! Next up for us: “voluntourism”! Can’t wait to hear about what you find!

  23. Great post! How wonderful that you have had such great experiences traveling in your life. I love the pictures! We have been fortunate to travel some with our children but recently I got everyone applications for passports with hopes to travel out side of the United States someday 😃

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