Traveling Abroad with Kids by
(164 Stories)

Prompted By Family Trips

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The family trips I remember as a child consisted of traveling by cousin. We always drove somewhere where we had relatives who would put us up. On the way there, we stayed in motel rooms that allowed roll-away beds to accommodate a family of five. Since we had family in Cleveland, Bridgeport, and the Boston area, we generally drove to one of those locations. Renting a cabin on Cape Cod was as exotic as it got. My husband’s experiences were similar.

I wondered if they would have been just as happy going to a resort near home that had a pool.

When we thought our own kids were old enough to appreciate exciting travel, we decided to take them to Paris and Israel. Our son was turning thirteen, we had family in Israel, my parents were meeting us there, and we thought being in Israel would have a greater impact on him than the modest Bar Mitzvah we had planned at home. Paris was to be an exciting appetizer to break up the long flight and expose them to a bit of culture. We naively thought that our daughters, who were ten and seven at the time, were ready for this adventure.

What we didn’t anticipate was chicken pox. Out of nowhere, our youngest came down with this illness a few days before we were set to leave. Her older sister had already had it, but not her older brother. As we waited for her to recover, we shaved days off of our time in Paris. Finally, she seemed fine, but as my mother-in-law drove us to the airport, she vomited in the car. That should have been a bad omen, but she was prone to getting car sick. Unfortunately, she continued to vomit into various containers I held for her the entire flight. We arrived with her feeling chipper and ready to roll. I, on the other hand, was beyond exhausted.

We now had only three days to see all of Paris. I’m pretty sure we ran through the Louvre in an hour. Nevertheless, we persisted. Eiffel Tower — check. Notre Dame — check. The Seine — check. Latin Quarter — check.  Champs-Élysées — check. Montmarte — check.  Arc de Triomphe — check. Sainte-Chapelle — check. Luxembourg Gardens — check. Centre Pompidou — check. As I recall, the kids mostly wanted ice cream and places where they could run around. Maybe our oldest remembers some of this? I know chicken-pox girl doesn’t.

Then on to Israel and Kibbutz Ein Dor where my aunt, uncle, and cousins lived. My parents and uncle met us at the airport, and I was relieved to have some back up in managing the kids. Once we got to the kibbutz, most of the kids running around had active cases of chicken pox. I figured correctly that if our son hadn’t caught it from his little sister, it was fine to let him swim in the pool and eat in the communal dining room. Of course, everyone shared everything there, and our ten-year-old daughter came down with a fever and stomach bug. No problem. The kibbutz doctor gave her a shot of penicillin in her butt, an indignity she had never experienced in the good old USA. The high points for them were climbing to the top of Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, getting soaked in Ein Gedi, shopping in the Arab market, running around the outdoor sculpture garden, and finding archeological treasures. The low point for me was almost losing little chicken-pox girl in the crowded streets of Jerusalem — See The Story of the (Almost) Lost Child.

With my aunt and parents

I know the kids enjoyed Israel better than Paris. It was a much more active vacation with mostly outdoor touring and afternoons spent in the kibbutz pool. I wondered if they would have been just as happy going to a resort near home that had a pool. Which is what we did the following summer. It was so much cheaper and more relaxing for us.

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Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Wonderful story, I can see exhausted Laurie trying to mitigate the damage as Chicken Pox Girl vomits in the car.

    I remember our young son and a friend on a day trip with us when I had – cleverly I thought – brought a bunch of comic books for them to read in the back seat to keep them entertained as we drove.

    I didn’t know reading in a moving car made the friend carsick.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Oops, Dana, that was a fatal error. The funniest part of the chicken pox episode was getting to the kibbutz where almost every kid had them and, like the good comrades they were, shared freely. My son never did get them, which is pretty weird.

      • By your chicken pox story I’m reminded of a trip to Mexico City years ago. We were staying at a hotel with our son and visiting friends who lived there. Their kids were all great friends and the family invited Noah to stay with them in their house for the remainder of the trip.

        Meanwhile back at the hotel, fearing Montezuma’s Revenge, Danny and I were careful about what we are and drank, the hotel even provided bottled water for brushing teeth.

        We both were fine but the day we flew home Noah got horribly sick – of course he had been eating and snacking at our friends’ house with no thought on anyone’s part of caution! But twas a great trip nevertheless!

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    I loved those old family pictures. You created great memories which I suspect your children appreciate more in retrospect than they may have at the time. The description of your trip through Paris reminded me a bit of “if it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium”, but even the glitchy parts don’t mean you regret the effort. Using vacations to visit relatives and friends is also a wonderful way to find excuses to travel, which I have used many, many, many times, and hope to again, soon.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      My husband had planned an itinerary for Paris and he was not going to give up anything despite our compressed amount of time there. So, yes, it was definitely an “if it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium” experience. The great part of our Israeli adventure, aside from its slower pace, was seeing things through the eyes of my family who actually lived there and experiencing kibbutz life.

  3. Marian says:

    What an adventure, Laurie. I’m sure your memories of this trip are much more vivid than your kids’. Interesting that my dad would not permit or fund any overseas travel (Canada excepted) for us kids because he believed we would not remember or appreciate the experience. For my January term at Mills during my junior year, I wanted to go to Paris and London to study theater, and my dad said I could go if I earned the extra money needed, so the summer before I worked my tail off and did. I did go and remember something about almost every day of that 21-day trip. Guess Dad was right!

  4. Suzy says:

    Love this story, which could be subtitled Chicken Pox Girl and the Exhausted Mother! Your description of your three days in Paris cracked me up. Good that you have pictures to prove you were there. The Israel part of the trip sounds a little easier, with more adults to supervise and other kids for your kids to play with (even if they did all have chicken pox). I’m sure you’re right that the kids would have been just as happy at a resort with a pool. But at least did they brag to their friends about going to Paris and Israel?

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Terrific story, Laurie, particularly since (like mine) you focused on the issue of traveling with kids and what interests them and what does not. And, as with my kids, it was being active and around other kids that seemed to be key to their happiness.

    Unlike me, however, you have also provided a wonderful supply of pictures of your trip, which really enhance your story. Particularly all the ones of actually smiling kids.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I’m a firm believer in taking tons of photos, John, unlike my kids. I know this habit annoys them, but we were just at my Indiana daughter’s this weekend for a graduation party at which people took pictures of the food but not the people! I tried to sneak in a few pictures of my grandkids, but I have none of the food. Like you, we tried to take our kids to interesting places but unless they could run around and swim, the vacation was a dud.

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wow, Laurie – you are brave and committed. Love that you take as many photos (and love them) as I do. Great aren’t they? Thanks for sharing them with us! But how harrowing that your kids were sick for so much of this trip. Your poor daughter (aka “Chicken Pox Girl). My heart goes out to both of you; not fun at all, much less trying to see Paris in THREE DAYS! Israel sounds better for all concerned, even if the kids on the kibbutz all became sick too.

    What do your children remember of the trip?

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Betsy, I think we are the most avid picture takers at Retrospect. My husband is a determined trip planner, so he ran us through Paris at am amazing pace. I’m sure the kids remember very little of it. Except for Chicken Pox Girl, who was too young for this trip, the others remember many things from their experience in Israel. They both went back together on a birthright trip when they were in their early 20s, so I guess our first visit made them want to return.

      Hope all is going well in your household.

      • Betsy Pfau says:

        Glad your kids enjoyed their birthright trip. My David had an awful one, but that would make a good Retro story, I suspect.

        Thanks for the good wishes, Laurie. Day by day. Off to the spine surgeon at noon. If we get a good report, I’ll probably do a social media update. Dan got this stitches out last Thursday, though now that gash has turned black and blue. Always something!

  7. Dave Ventre says:

    O my, the memories!

    Just out of college I discovered skiing, so I got a job working weekend ski tours out of a shop in northern NJ. Leave Friday, hit Lake Placid or an area in southern Vermont, return Sunday night. Load the bus for the guests, party with the guests, etc. No pay, except for a room, meals and…lift tickets!

    My very first tour, I had to pull the car over less than a mile from the shop to throw up. No warning, just there it was. Felt better, so on I went.

    I vomited my way to Lake Placid, and through most of Saturday. Shaky all the way home. Not much use on the tour. The owner almost fired me, but a couple of the other guides vouched for my efforts to assist while tossing my cookies….

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