Family Travel: Thoughts on Italy (& beyond) with kids

One morning, while we were in Positano, we rented a boat from one of the stands along the beach. Most people decide to rent a rubber boat—the likes of what we rented in Sardinia—and jet down the coast with the sea-air whipping through their hair.

We were taking two small children out, so we went with the charming, but very slow fisherman’s boat.

Hudson was quite thrilled and looked out intensely. I asked if he was okay and he told me that’s the face he makes “when I very interested.” Fair enough!

He’d point to passing boats and exclaim “Those boats are fast! But not as fast as ours… Right daddy?!” Sure kid.

But about 10 minutes later, only slightly out of the village’s harbor, he was a bit bored; Aron and I both admitted that the slow rocking was making us a little queasy; and Skyler’s fussy squeals were a sign that she would not be sleeping as expected. Aron and I exchanged frustrated (nauseated expressions) and wondered how soon to call it a fail and turn the boat around.

I tried to channel those memories of Sardinia, when being out on our own boat was so exhilarating and recalled that it was the thrill of jumping off the bow into the cool water—the sort of thing completely unique to being out on a boat versus going to the beach—that really made the day.

And so we pulled into a small, picturesque cove and dropped anchor. Hudson counted to three and I lept! That queasy feeling disappeared instantly. Hudson and Aron went next as we took turns in the boat with Skyler.

It changed everything.

It’s not as if the memory of that slow ride disappears, but it’s now something to look back on and laugh about, to maybe even say “not again” in reference to—but to wholly appreciate.

That morning changed from total fail to total highlight—even though those actual moments of jumping in and swimming were brief. It felt incredible and I’ll appreciate it for a lifetime.

When we returned the boat, we were on a high and decided to walk from the main beach to Fornillo beach to get lunch. Then, Hudson had a meltdown—we should have known not to push it around nap time—and back to the room we went.

This is all to say: the pictures never tell the whole story. I don’t pull out the camera and snap photos of Hudson crying. It’s not because I’m trying to hide anything or forget that it happens, but it’s just not what makes sense in that moment—and it’s usually not representative.

From my experience, one of the biggest threats to a happy vacation is having unreasonable expectations. One wants to assume that because you’re somewhere amazing, doing really special (and expensive!) things, your kids will be so wowed by it all that they’ll behave differently than you’re accustomed to. But in my experience, kids are kids, toddler are toddlers, wherever they are. Hudson’s pretty terrific as little travel companions go, but we play to his strengths (and remember his weaknesses) whenever possible.

So I always hope that as you read these travelogues and you have kids, you just take for granted that even if I don’t describe every time Hudson wanted that piece of basil removed from his pizza or cried because we closed the door and he wanted to do it, it is still happening.

We endured all of those same toddler antics in Italy that we endure in Davis. I think my children are wonderful and I of course don’t want to go out of my way to have Hudson think that all I noticed on any trip were those exasperating moments. But I want to be honest, too.

And the honest truth? Most of the time, you just dive in and it’s all well worth it.

Coming up next: A travelogue from Rome

Update: Thanks for asking–source for my swimsuit

Related posts:

Travel Guides

Browse By Category