Launching a Travel Site During Plague-Time

The plague column in Vienna

Timing is Everything

Yes, I’m launching a travel site for families during the midst of a global pandemic. Yes, we’ve canceled our own travel plans in order to be safe. Because it’s not the virus that we’re afraid of. We know we’re going to get sick. We have kids. Who touch EVERYTHING. We’re more concerned about not being able to get back home or exposing the vulnerable population. Because we’re all in this together.

And that’s one of the things I’ve learned from traveling. That we are all the same. We all love our kids. Most of the time. And we all want the best for them. And I am convinced that traveling is the best thing for children. Because it exposes them to different situations and people and customs. It makes them curious rather than complacent. And it helps them make more friends, which, in a world that wants to emphasize difference, is more important than ever. I love that my kids will come running back to me in a hotel or on a playground and tell me they have new friends. They may not know their names, but they know what their parents do, where they live, what languages they speak and their favorite apps, and they are totally best friends for the day.

It’s not to say that traveling is easy. I think it’s easier for the kids, but not for the parents. Because there’s the planning, the budgeting, the scheduling, the laundry, the prepping, the cleaning, the packing, the double checking for the medicine, the passports and the USB cords.  And by the time you’re on the plane and no longer have wi-fi, you realize you have no idea how to get from the airport to home base. Or, because you were rushing to catch a flight, you didn’t see that your kids left the refrigerator door open. For ten whole days. Or your kid gets Norovirus on your trip.

And despite all that, I really really want to travel more. In part, because I think we’ve figured a few things out. Our trips have gotten easier (although maybe not the laundry; that just seems to have grown exponentially) and the kids are more engaged. It’s become fun to travel. And I realize all the hard work I’ve put into planning has paid off. Which is why I’m relaunching Itty Bitty Itineraries. 

What's New, Pussy Cat?

For every trip that we take, I do a ton of research. There’s where to go, how to get there, what to see while we’re there, what to eat, where to stay. And that’s just the beginning. I’ve also taken to teaching the kids ahead of time about where we are going. Which means finding books to read, or kid-friendly videos to watch, so they can recognize the importance of what they are seeing. And then, there’s the crafts. Because traveling is not just about looking at buildings or museum exhibits. It’s about immersing yourself in a story or idea. It’s about singing songs (My kids can now sing “Love that Dirty Water” in both English and German). It’s about living. When we got back from Barcelona, the kids excitedly told their friends and teachers about making Pan con Tomate and mosaics. They still talk about gelato and gondolas in Venice. They remember picking cherries with our 7-foot tall host in Split and going to Sunnyland in Sarajevo with our friends. 

But, it’s not all rainbows and unicorn farts. Even with the planning, the husband and I find ourselves asking what do we do next, because the sites we wanted to see are too crowded for the kids, or they’re tired, and hangry, and so are we. And if we don’t have local friends to tell us what to do, we often wander around looking for a restaurant that’s actually open and not booked, and we reach our breaking point because we can’t find anything. Or we skip the museums so the kids can run around at a playground. Which is to say, traveling with kids is way way different than traveling with adults. 

Which brings me back to this site. It’s all the things we’ve realized that kids, and parents, need to travel and have fun. It’s the research about how to get around, what’s open and what’s closed. It’s what to see and what to skip, because it’s more about having experiences with your family than checking monuments off your list. Our itineraries are built not around the top 10 things to see, but around 3 easy and fun things to do with the kids that will teach them about where they are and why it matters. And, one of the features we’re working on is the “panic button” where, if things aren’t working out, the kids can choose what to do next — eat, play, or trying something completely different. 

I’ll still publish stories from our trips. We actually have a lot that I haven’t posted because well, I’ve been doing laundry. But looking back at the pictures has made me realize how much we’ve seen, and learned. Like, for instance, don’t go up the third-tallest volcano in the world because you and your kids will get elevation sickness. Or your kids are more resilient than you realize. And so are you. 

We may not be traveling right now, but we will still be exploring through videos, stories and taking tours of where we live. So when this whole mess clears up, we will be ready for our next adventure. We hope you will, too.