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Prolonging the Wonders of Family Travel

Matt Villano

My family has been home nearly a week from our epic New Year’s vacation in the hills above the Northern California coast. For my 3.5-year-old daughter, however, the lessons continue every day.

This isn’t by accident; because she discovered so much new and fascinating stuff on our trip, my wife and I have gone out of our way to extend and amplify some of the excitement—a strategy we try to incorporate whenever possible.

Take our family’s sudden interest in driftwood.

One day, while our group was frolicking on the beach, L expressed curiosity about the giant pieces of wood that collect at the tidal lines along our beaches. Since our return, we’ve found on the Internet dozens of pictures of the stuff, and have concocted meal-time stories about tiny little fairies that live on it and travel the world.

Then there have been the lessons about croquet. During our visit to the Breggo winery, outside of Boonville, Calif., the grown-ups tasted wine while the kids whacked balls with mallets. Since then, L has asked all sorts of questions about the sport. We, in turn, have rolled out the history (thank you, USCA).

Generally speaking, this is the way we roll—we go places, see stuff, then fixate on it for a while once we get home. Some might consider it obsessive. For us, it’s continuing ed.

The way we see it, the best way for our kids to experience something new is to discover it once, then get familiar with it again and again. Sure, sometimes our kids (like all kids, really) lose interest after a while. More often, however, this strategy results in follow-up experiences that keep the wonder flowing long after we’ve gotten home—a phenomenon that makes every trip special long after we’ve unpacked our bags.

IMHO, there’s another benefit to this strategy, too; a selfish one for us parents.

By harping on certain aspects of vacation for the benefit of your kids, we moms and dads also give ourselves a chance to go back to that happy place. Long after we’ve returned, long after we resume the respective grinds of our everyday lives, these reminders are welcome respites to help pass the time until the next big trip.