Where we’ll travel in the next 40 years

This guy is 40.

This guy is 40.

Saturday was my 40th birthday.

Forty. 40. The Big Four-Oh. I’ve been saying and writing it a lot lately, largely because I can’t believe I’ve been on this planet for 40 years. It seems like just yesterday I traveled with some high-school classmates to the first inauguration of then-President Bill Clinton (in 1992). I remember stuff before that, too—the first time I visited Cape Cod (in 1983), the first time I saw a whale in the wild (1981), and more.

You guys, I’m old.

When I’m not sitting here freaking out about receiving my AARP card, all this reflecting on the past has inspired me to think at least a bit about the places I’d like to travel with my family in the next 40 years. Here, then, in no particular order, are some of my picks.

  • Egypt. Powerwoman is an archaeologist, and considering my big girls both are obsessed with mummies and pyramids (largely because their mom is an archaeologist), we MUST go to Egypt as a clan. When we do, I’ll sit back and watch my bride teach her kids how to love antiquity. And it will rule.
  • India. Who WOULDN’T want to go to India? I’m not crazy enough to want to do it with the girls until they are MUCH older (at least teens). But I cannot wait to expose them to life on the subcontinent. Or the food (Indian food is among my faves). Or the Bhangra (I listen to it often when I’m working).
  • South Dakota. Good ol’ S.D. represents one of only four states I’ve never visited (the others are North Dakota, Tennessee and, oddly, Mississippi). It also happens to have two of the American treasures I most want to see: Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. Of all the items on my list, this is the most doable in the immediate future. Stay tuned.
  • Maine. I spent a bunch of summers of my childhood in New England, and none of my girls (including my wife) has ever been there to experience it for herself. At some point—preferably when the kids are still young—I want to take them there to show them the quiet beauty that is our northeasternmost state. (Also, I’ve got a dream to take them sailing on an old schooner.)
  • Italy. Nevermind that both my wife and I each are 50 percent Italian; I want to visit Italy with my family so the girls appreciate time-tested architecture, renaissance artwork, great food, and, of course, REAL GELATO. I’d also love to give the kids the chance to experience The Vatican.

Some people refer to these sorts of lists as “bucket lists.” I’m not a huge fan of that phrase and I dislike the concept of a list of stuff you do so you can say you did it before you croaked. Also, by no means is this list set in stone; I want my picks for places to visit to evolve organically over time.

For me, this list is a start for my next 40 years, a road map, if you will. What’s on yours?

Birthday vacation in the Big City

The Birthday Girl on the Golden Gate.

The Birthday Girl on the Golden Gate.

We like to celebrate birthdays with panache in this family. When I turned 30, for instance, Powerwoman and I were living in Lima (in Peru), and we spent a weekend dining at some of the best restaurants in town. When L turned 4, we had a party with a cupcake-to-human ratio of at least 4:1. Last September, when R turned 2, we were living in London, she was obsessed with the London Eye, and all she wanted was to ride the thing (which we did).

Naturally, then, this year the pressure was on for us to take the fiesta to the next level.

After much deliberation, we decided to do what any San Francisco Bay Area-based parents of a tourist attraction loving-kid would do: We made plans to travel to the Big City and walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Because no Villano can ever do things half-assed, our plans comprised more than just a bridge walk. In addition, the itinerary included a) a Friday overnight at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, b) a family dinner party at Mel’s Drive-In downtown, c) a morning trek to the carousel at the Children’s Creativity Museum, and d) a picnic lunch in the Marin Headlands.

The bridge walk itself was hilarious. It took us about 45 minutes to find a parking spot at the visitor center on the Sausalito (i.e., the north) side, then another 45 minutes to walk out part of the way. We didn’t even make it from the northern end of the bridge to the first station before the Birthday Girl announced, inimitably, that she was “freezing cold” and that she wanted to go home. Still, she managed to enjoy herself (and Mom and Dad managed to snap a few pictures).

What preceded the bridge walk was special for other reasons. We were welcomed at the hotel with special check-in amenities such as chocolate cake, Panda (as in, Pablo Sandoval) hats, and stuffed San Francisco Giants dolls. We commemorated the start of R’s special day with room-service breakfast. Because we got to the carousel right after it opened, we had the whole attraction to ourselves.

Oh, and at the family dinner, everybody (at least everybody in our immediate family) got milkshakes.

Technically, all of this happened less than 100 miles from our house. Still, because we overnighted, because we “road-tripped” to get there, we all considered it a destination birthday. (Yours truly even made special “road trip trail mix” for the ride down.)

Like I’ve said before, you don’t have to travel very far to have the kind of vacation about which you’ll be talking forever. And for us, R’s birthday celebration was yet another vacation to remember.

What are your favorite ways to mix birthdays and family travel?

4 Things to Love About Intergenerational Travel

Grandma and L hit the park.

Grandma and L hit the park.

My parents have joined us here in London, essentially transforming the next 11 days of our experience into an intergenerational family trip.

At first, both my wife and I were concerned about the length of their stay: Eleven days is a long time for a visit from anyone. After the first 48 hours, however, those concerns have disappeared completely. We are delighted to have my folks in town, and we have identified a number of benefits to the notion of traveling with grandparents.

Benefit 1: Extra hands
If two hands are better than one, it stands to reason that eight hands are better than four. Translation: Adventures with the extended family are much easier because we’ve got two extra humans to pitch in.

From a logistical perspective, this means we’ve got four extra arms to carry children, push buggies, lug bags and/or help getting on and off the Tube. From a practical perspective, it means Powerwoman and I can breathe a little easier when we’re out and about and tired of schlepping around a bunch of crap.

It also means negotiating buggy time isn’t nearly as difficult as it usually is. Normally, when the girls are tired, we give each daughter ten minutes in the one-seat stroller before making the two of them switch. With two extra humans, however, there are three times as many options for carrying tired girls (and, subsequently, three times as many options for resting tired arms). That keeps everybody happier.

Benefit 2: Additional perspective
Our elders have been around a while, which means they’ve had plenty of time to get pretty smart. On a family trip, the addition of this perspective helps couch everything in a different light—a reality that usually enhances the experience for the kids.

During our first few days as a family of six, Grandma and Grandpa have pointed out stuff that Powerwoman and I never would have noticed. Animal statues! Men dressed in gold! M&M’s in footguard costumes! Dancing flautists!

It’s been a treat watching the girls see new stuff around London at the behest of such fresh perspective. It’s also helped Powerwoman and me recalibrate our own respective radars to be more aware of sights and sounds we otherwise might have overlooked.

Benefit 3: New dynamic
Normally, the dynamic in our tiny family involves four; when my folks (or my wife’s folks, for that matter) are around, that number increases by two. Extra humans in the mix mean a multiplicity of additional potential interpersonal interactions. Put differently, having grandparents in the mix simply changes up the vibe.

Admittedly, sometimes (especially when the kids are tired) these extra bodies can make things stressful. But most of the time, life as a party of six is more unpredictable, more lively, and—as a result—more fun.

Like when Baby R got silly during a diaper change and had her grandmother crying with laughter. Or when L forced her grandfather to watch her favorite episode of “Peppa Pig” and he spent ten minutes snorting like a swine. Long after my folks fly home, these are some of the moments I’ll remember most. So far, they are my favorite moments of this extended visit.

Benefit 4: Built-in babysitters
Finally, one of the best things about having my folks here is that we’ve got built-in babysitters—babysitters with whom the girls are completely and totally comfortable.

This will come in handy in the early part of this coming week, when I will call upon Mom and Dad to watch the girls on a few afternoons while I furiously wrap up a huge guidebook project. Later in the week, as Powerwoman and I celebrate our birthdays (which fall six days apart) with a romantic three days/two nights of solo time, the girls’ grandparents will come to our flat for some live-in help.

Could I/we survive without my folks watching the kids? Somehow, yes, I’m sure we could. That said, it sure is nice to know they’ve got our backs. And it sure will be wonderful to savor some Mommy & Daddy time for a change.

What are your favorite things about intergenerational family travel?

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