Don’t waste time! Don’t do it. You’ve heard it before and as cliché as it sounds, the time really does fly by. Before those little kids of yours decide to leave the nest, you should really consider going far and going early. Family travel changes fast so make those seemingly far off destinations the first on your list if possible.

So, staring out my office window in my 9-5 day job (is that wrong), I sit here typing away on my all-to-infrequent side “job” wondering what’s next. For the first time in my life travel itinerary, I find our family at a crossroads. The habit that we developed and many travel-as-family travelers do is the guarantee of trips dispersed between school obligations for our two kids.

The Good Old Days

For as long as I can remember, and certainly since we’ve been collecting…and burning miles and points, is that we have always had certain guaranteed dates to expand our horizons. There is the Summer, Fall Break, Winter Break and of course Spring Break. Without fail, a big trip was always literally around the corner. Over the years we’ve hit many islands, Europe a few times and anyplace else in between. For the longest time it felt as if the only obstacle that stood in our way was finding the best deal for a trip or even the craziest location.

We certainly milked the school year calendars and stretched our pennies to some of the most far off places we could go. I guess deep down we knew that the schedule would eventually not be as kind so we thought outside the box and pushed our points and miles thriftier but smartly. Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic were just a few of the destinations we squeezed in. All the time knowing that there was this sense of rush to see all of these places as a family before we all “grew up”

But life isn’t always simple. And we are in the beginnings of what will need to be our new normal. College for our oldest is coming, and coming fast. Over the last year I’ve sensed many changes in our lives due to this impending change. I’ve been nearly invisible on this blog site and am certainly thankful I have yet to be kicked off, stress yet. (This will be making a comeback to!) Between the necessary 9-5, searching for the right college fit for my daughter and doing everything in our power to prepare for the inevitable hit on finances, life had already become chaotic. But through it all, the trips, even those we reinvented from college tours, continued at a steady pace.

Only now, as the dust is settling, do we see our wandering freedom starting to slightly fracture. Two kids, two different schools, 2 DIFFERENT BREAKS! Yes, it was this moment that in our hurried pace we took a few minutes to check out the school calendars to realize the horror. Not only are the breaks not at the same time, they’re not even close. Tragic! Couple that with our child’s desire to study between semesters (can’t get mad about that), and we will soon be looking at a new way to travel.

When Life Brings Changes, Can You Adapt?

Looking at my own situation I realize that all travelers encounter life changes. Part of travel, especially those who make it their hobby, is that you must be easily adaptable to what the day throws you. It should be treated no differently when the cycle of life intervenes. How you travel and where you go all depend on what is manageable. Sending a child to college is a terrific life experience and certainly a milestone in all of our lives, but it’s equally important for us to not define it as a reason to no longer travel.

Simple changes can be made to continue feeding the travel bug. Yes, part of this could be considered talking myself into it! Setting realistic goals in regards to travel makes sense. If you’re a parent of young children, it could be that you have the luxury of planning some pretty big trips, especially if you dabble in rewards and points. It was an early decision for our family to explore as far and wide as we could rather than wait for a time that may never come. We became quite used to earning and burning at a fairly aggressive rate. We were also keenly aware, if not at the level of the subconscious, that the above life change was certainly close at hand. Having explored some far off places, it is quite possible that we may have to “downsize” our travel plans. It’s at least a prudent decision to make.

Whereas we are not completely unprepared for the changes in plans we will be making, I offer this to parents who enjoy traveling with their kids. Research early those trips that you may be saving for those retirement years and maybe move the calendar up significantly on them. Those short little trips or easy-to-get-to destinations could maybe be saved for a later time when they will be more relevant, or at the very least economical and kind to the calendar. We’ve been lucky over the years to visit places with our kids that I would have considered years ago “bucket list” trips. With careful planning and a bit of courage, many travelers out there can do it, even on a limited budget. Our travels suggest we’re well off, the reality is we’re just normal folks who push the travel envelope as far as we can.

It’s safe to say based on my past actions that I may not even pay attention to my own words of downsizing. In between paragraphs I find myself searching for a way to get a 12 day trip to Greece on the books for under $1000 total for the four of us. Oh yes, it’s possible. Certainly my kids will want to stick around a little longer for that? Ugh, so much for practicing what I preach. But…it’s great in theory! Like I always say, “Live Within Your Means, Travel Beyond Them!