Ever wondered if you could take an epic, family-friendly vacay? You know, the one that checks all the boxes - the sights, the events, the food, the drinks - THE vacay. The one you'll talk about for years to come. I'm here to tell you, it's possible. How do I know? Because at least once a year (and sometimes more), we do it. Now maybe you're wondering, 'Kristy, seriously how in the world do we haul young kids halfway around the world every year and come out unscathed, with an epic vacay under our belts to boot? Are you magic? Did you bring your nanny or therapist? What sorcery IS this?'
The answer is no, on all counts. We aren't special, magical, nor wealthy enough to travel with our amazing nanny or therapy team, and I'll be honest - it's difficult more often than it isn't. If you're reading this and you're a parent, then you already know young kids bring their own challenges to travel, especially international travel, but add sensory-seeking and special needs kids to the mix and the vacation monster takes on a whole other look. But we still do it, and we keep trying - and we started at the height of the COVID lockdown.
Why do we keep trying, in spite of everything?
Because it's possible, and it's important.
And if we didn’t travel, we’d go crazy(ier).
It's possible to take that amazing vacation, get some great shots of the fam together that DON'T require video games and phone time bribes; snorkel epic, world-renowned swim holes; splash with the dolphins and sample incredible local fares. And it's important - to carve out that time with one another, to expose yourselves, and your kids to other cultures and environments, to push the boundaries of what could be and what is, and to live out your dreams and passions. We've gotten to experience so much in so many different ways as we’ve traveled, unlike anything we could have otherwise, and we've figured out more about who we are as individuals, and as a family, along the way.
Our boys have swum with dolphins, sea turtles, crabs and nurse sharks. Swimming like a fish at three, Alex learned he loves to snorkel; Fitz is not far behind, although he prefers swimming without snorkel gear. They love to climb and explore in new places and aren't (usually) afraid of dirt, animals, or sweat. They've flown over 30 times, traveled in planes, trains, busses and boats, and are comfortable with and around changing atmospheres, environments, and people they look nothing alike - and if you're not familiar with sensory-seeking kiddos, that is a BIG deal.
We've learned we are not fancy people and don't usually enjoy those environments (although I'm not sure that was ever really a question, ha!) - we much prefer sandwiches and chips to steak and potatoes, with the sand between our toes, flops on our feet and the wind in our hair. We’ve learned we can juggle a lot more than we thought when we work in tandem, and that we still have a lot to learn about parenting, the eternal lesson.
It's not all fun and games, of course; our boys have also puked and pooped those sandwiches, chips, and mouthfuls of sand on us mid-flight, have performed epic temper tantrums and meltdowns cancelling expensive, non-refundable event tickets, and have at times made us question our traveling adventures (and our sanity). But at the end of every vacation, we've had something amazing come out of the experience that we wouldn't have gleaned had we stayed home, reminding us why we keep trying.
And it’s because of those experiences that Steve and I realized we were ready to pursue yet another dream: our long-time aspiration of live-aboard sailing; a venture we once thought impossible with kids.
So, if like so many, you don't think you have what it takes to venture out into the great unknown on a family vacay, or you’re not sure it’s worth the effort, think again, and try. Start small if you need to and big if you want to, but just try. One of our most favorite getaways, ever, was a spur-of-the-moment, summer weekend camping trip* to the Keys when we couldn’t yet afford a hotel stay, not but a six hours’ drive! We ate hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and s’mores the entire weekend. And it was EPIC. Also hot. But mostly, epic.
Family vacations won't always be stunning sunsets and suntans, perfectly-curated mimosas, well-behaved toddlers and teens or an open bar and turn-down service, but I promise you, if you make the effort and try, they will always be worth it.
*we do not recommend traditional camping in the Keys in July. It’s not for the faint-hearted and it’s definitely not for young kids unaccustomed to the heat.
Want to keep up with our past, current, and on-the-go adventures and travels? Follow us on IG @adventureswithalexanderandfitz @justkristyleigh @littlestfish and @theswimmingkid where you’ll find a myriad of family candids. I’ll be posting fun shots from our previous trips to Aruba, Hawaii, and Atlantis over the next few weeks-and don’t miss our upcoming trip this spring! Want to help us pick the next adventure? Vote on our FB or IG page and let us know where, and why. If we pick your spot, you win a $50 Alexander and Fitz gift card!
Are you a family with special needs members? Check out AutismTravel.Club online if you’re traveling domestically. The site provides a list of hotels and attractions that have trained staff for special needs guests.