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Traveling With Kids … Is It Really That Important?

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

Fat Mama, Fat Papa, and Itsy Bitsy at a Gilroy ostrich farm (April 2021)

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t love to travel. Even though my family didn’t have much money when I was a kid, we did a good amount of traveling. All our relatives lived out of state; this meant what little travel we did ended up being big trips.

Every summer we jumped on a plane (thanks for the tickets, grandma and grandpa) to spend a week or two in Washington where just getting to my grandparents’ house was an adventure. We would drive to the airport, fly to Seattle, rent a car, drive onto a ferry boat, eat clam chowder on the crossing (because you have to), drive for 2-hours through the densest forest I have ever seen, then arrive at our destination about 20 minutes south of the Canadian border.

Then there were trips to Texas, which were usually road trips because flying was too expensive. When I was 15, we drove from Southern California to Kerrville, Texas. I had my learner’s permit, so of course, a big, long, road trip was the PERFECT PLACE (sarcasm, dripping sarcasm here) for me to learn how to drive our 12-passenger van . . . through miles of highway construction in El Paso, hadn’t even been driving for a week yet. Needless to say, I almost crashed. But what a great experience!

There was also the amazingly long road trip to Yellowstone to meet up with family. We stopped at Bryce Canyon National Park along with Zion Canyon National Park, and the Grand Tetons National Park (GiGi and Pappy are big National and State parks fans). That trip was amazing! We saw so much of the western United States, listened to great audio books and made lasting family memories.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the yearly camping trips. One year, I was convinced our old orange Jeep Grand Cherokee was going to explode (we called it the Beast, I loved that car). Or the yearly trips to Magic Mountain (Jackalope and I earned a free ticket every year for reading enough books; thank you Book It and Pizza Hut). Or going to the Magic Castle in Hollywood when Fabby and Funcle would visit (it’s nice having well-connected relatives). Plus, all the beach trips in the summer. And that time we went fishing at Hemet Lake and I caught a catfish before GiGi and Pappy even had the campsite setup. And I can’t believe I haven’t even talked about the school trips to Washington, DC and Italy, or the youth leadership trips to Mexico and Chicago!

17-year old Jodie, not yet a Fat Mama, in Rome Italy (February 2004)

What I am trying to say is that by the time I graduated from high school, though money had been tight growing up, GiGi and Pappy had completely filled my childhood with travel experiences. I have distinct memories of being a kid in school and realizing I had done things that my other classmates didn’t even know were a thing. My parents gave me so much more than experiences. They gave me a real sense that adventure, and knowledge, and true connection is out there waiting to be found. But more importantly, they gave me the kind of love and support that turns into confidence. The kind of confidence to know that no matter how long I am away from home, no matter how many amazing places I see, or how much I experience . . . home is always waiting for me, whenever I am ready to come home.

Fat Mama and Fat Papa in Reno

So, in 2009 when I met Fat Papa, and fell hard and fast in love with him, we created a relationship around a travel mindset. We didn’t have much extra money for travel, and our jobs were too good and stable to just drop everything and budget travel for a year. But we took the occasional week-long trip here and there. We visited friends and family who lived out of state. We did tons of weekend trips, and we traveled extensively in a 2-hour radius around Silicon Valley. Fat Papa and I have been very privileged to live in the Bay Area of California, which allows us to travel without really going anywhere. It seemed like every weekend we were joyriding through the Santa Cruz Mountains, attending every county fair within reasonable driving distance, going to local festivals and art shows, pumpkin picking in Half Moon Bay, wine tasting in Sonoma (and Livermore, and Gilroy, and Watsonville, oh, and Paso Robles), and don’t get me started on all our weekend trips to Reno.

When we were not traveling, I was always planning a trip, and even if the trip didn’t happen, it was just fun to plan. Or we were drinking beer that reminded us of our honeymoon in the UK. I would cook themed meals, so we felt like we were off in Japan (never been, can’t wait to go). Sometimes we would even throw random holiday parties to get excited for future travel, Happy Oktoberfest everyone (Germany is a definite bucket list destination). My point is, we found ways to always be doing, experiencing, trying the things that life in our typical Monday-Friday routine didn’t offer. Our friends always joke that we should be the Fullhardts not the Fillhardts because we live life to the fullest.

So, when Itsy Bitsy came along in June 2016, we wanted to make sure we passed on our love of travel to her. Since Itsy Bitsy was born, our life has been more TRAVELFUL than ever. Suddenly, trips we had been putting off, we were booking. Work travel turned into family travel. No one was too far away to go and visit. I wanted Itsy Bitsy to grow up traveling even more than I had, and Fat Papa wanted to make as many travel memories as possible. We fully admit to spoiling our child, and yes, she has over 100+ stuffed animals in her bedroom, but really, we spoil her with experiences. I am a big believer in the idea that “I don’t know what I don’t know.” For this reason, I want to introduce Itsy Bitsy to as much stuff, to as many new experiences, to all parts of this world so that there are as few as possible things out there that she doesn’t even know she doesn’t know. And you know what? It’s working.

Itsy Bitsy leading us around Legoland (October 2019)

Traveling with Itsy Bitsy has helped her be comfortable talking to anyone about anything (okay, sometimes this can be a bit of a problem, but we are working on it). She has the confidence to ask questions when she doesn’t know something. She is always excited to try something new (not food, she is a super picky eater). And she approaches life with more natural inquisitiveness than any kid I know. GiGi likes to say we are raising a scientist because she asks so many questions and always has to find the answer. But I think we are raising an explorer who always wants to learn more. It has been so rewarding to watch the ways that traveling has made Itsy Bitsy into a wonderfully open, exuberant and thoughtful child.

Traveling as a family is one of the best things we have done. I feel like it has made Fat Papa and I better parents in so many ways. Not only are we introducing our child to a broad expanse of experiences, but it takes us away from work and home so we can focus undivided attention on Itsy Bitsy. Travel also brings us closer together as a family through shared experiences. Every adventure we have demonstrates that we can rely on one another in all types of circumstances. Travel is teaching Itsy Bitsy, and us as well, to be open to new experiences and cultures. To be more open minded, accepting and ready to learn about new perspectives and ways of life. Travel is making all of us into better people. As Trevor Noah said in his standup special Afraid of the Dark, "Traveling is the antidote to ignorance." I can’t even begin to think how different Fat Papa, Itsy Bitsy or I would be if regular travel wasn’t part of our lives.

Is traveling with kids hard work, taxing and more tiring than just about anything else out there? Yes!

So, is traveling with kids really worth it? Yes. Unequivocally yes!

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