18 Summers Of Family Vacations Is All We Get

When we became parents it was obvious that our little one would not stop us from travelling the world. We love to travel and it should come as no surprise that our little one has been to 6 countries before his first birthday. We hope that he will become a true global citizen and follow his wanderlust when he grows up.  Recently  we have thought a lot about childhood memories and how to curate them for our little one and we heard about the concept of 18 summers, in an unlikely place – the website of the Idaho Department of Commerce and Tourism Development     ( we were looking at Idaho, as a stop over on our sabbatical).

Source: https://visitidaho.org/18summers/

*Bonus: There is even an 18 Summers rap songs by  dad and rapper Dillon Chase.

The days are long, but the years are short

Mom travelled by herself for the first time internationally when she was 15 years old…and by the time she was 18 she had moved abroad and went on holiday with her friends. Family holidays became a rare occurance. Dad joined the Marine Corps and was seconded abroad and stationed all over the country, so also for him his family barely made the 18 family summer’s count.

Looking back on our life journey’s we would not want to change anything and are happy that our families allowed us to explore the world on our own as of a young age. But being parents ourselves, we now realize that our little one might only spent another SIXTEEN summers with us, before we will hear about his travel stories, but not be part of it anymore. The thought is scary and liberating at the same time – We want to MAKE EACH SUMMER COUNT and live by the credo ” the days are long, but the years are short”.

Our 5promises to our little one FOR OUR 18 SUMMERS TOGETHER

We will always take the triP

We have all been there, hearing about a place or seeing pictures of a place and getting major Fernweh, but then we stall ourselves and time, responsibilities, money & co get in the way. But keeping in mind that we only have 18 summers with you, we will always take the trip! Whether that is to the local playground to ride your little red car around the skatepark , to a local famers market or to see the world during our upcoming family sabbatical. Our 18 summers will be spent seeing them through your eyes ( and often at your pace. Everyone who has ever let a toddler take the lead on a walk will understand that there is an entire amazing universe on a path of less than 20 m, which can take an hour to explore).

WE will always MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A home

We want to show him the world, and make sure that he understands that life in other cities, countries and on other continents is something that is an option for him and that any place can be home. Also travelling to other places and interacting with other  cultures fosters understanding, resilience, takes away the fear of the unknown and creates a strong sense of empathy. Our little one is a 3rd culture kid , a citizen of everwhere and nowhere  .We want to make sure that he has roots! Mom was born in Germany, Dad in the United States, he was born in The Netherlands, and we don’t know where his sibling(s) will be born. But we hope that through travelling and making him see, feel, touch, smell and taste the world we can help him to find his place.


Living an internationall mobile lifestyle, and not having found our family forever home yet, means that our little one will have to be flexible and adapt to new places, people and situations. Mom’s childhood home still has the wooden doorway where you will find all the various family members height being measured. Our little one won’t have such a place, therefore we will make sure to take plenty of pictures and curate (travel) memories of not only our 18 summers, but all our adventures near and far and  mundane daily life ( also see our article:10 Best ideas to curate travel memories for children)


Family time does not have to be ‘special’ and action packed all the time. Snuggling up on the couch together after a bath and smelling the scent of our little ones fluffy soft baby hair. Being the only person allowed to heal an ouchie.  Dealing with a major tantrum at a supermarket because of not being allowed to bite into all the apples in the fresh fruit section. All this is family time, and as much as sometimes it feels more like a chore than a blessing, we will prioritize it. Why? Because it is going to be short lived that we are the centre of our little ones universe. So we will enjoy the beauty, mess, tears and laughter of our 18 summers.


We believe that while toys, are important for developmental purposes and play, we think that it is not toys or clothes or souvenirs that will build memories, but it is the time we spent together to create memories. Therefore we choose making memories over owning thing, and trust that our little one will be ok without  owning the average 238 toys.

Do you find the thought of only having 18 summers scary or liberating?

Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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10 Best ideas to curate travel memories for children

How to curate travel memories  for children? During my hunt for inspiration I came across so many wonderful ideas. Let me share the 10 best ones with you.

Research by Cornell University shows that we experience the same increase in happiness when we buy something we want and when we go traveling. However, the amount of happiness we derive from our purchase falls over time, whereas the memories of our traveling experience continue to supply us with happiness hormones for much longer.

We are preparing for our sabbatical and apart from sorting out the obvious like finding insurance and accommodation, we also started to think about how we will document our travel memories of this trip (apart from this blog) for our little one. Much is written about planning a trip, ideas for how to keep toddlers and babies entertained while travelling  are shared on many sites and how to immerse children in the travelling mentality through picture books is also a hot topic ( at the end of this post you will find 4 book recommendations). But how do you deal with the reverse culture shock when coming home from a longer trip and keep the memory of the trip alive?

Let me share the 10 best ideas I came across.


#1 Choose one TYPE OF SOUVENIR and buy it everywhere you go

A former colleague of mine collects Hard Rock Café Pins, it is his ambition to collect a Hard Rock Café Pins from each existing Hard Rock Café. It is a tradition he started when he was a kid on holiday with his parents. They are small, easy to store and won’t break the bank. And there are Hard Rocks cafes on each continent, so reaching his life ambition to get a pin from each will truly take him on a trip around the world.

You can of course also collect T-shirts or other souvenirs like magnets.  Instead of sticking the latter on your fridge  you can start a world map with your kids  to help them visualize where you have been.

#2 Make a postcard journal

Why not send yourself a postcard from each destination that you visit and then make a journal out of it. In that way you might get postcards for a while, after you have already returned home (Who does not love to receive good old fashioned snail mail?!?).Cate from Smallplanetstudio,  took the idea of sending yourself postcards even further she makes a postcard journals (see picture below).

Cate states on her blog that she “labels each postcard with the date, location, and trip “Day #. I keep the written postcards in a ziplock bag in my travel backpack or suitcase until I get home. If you’re on a long trip and don’t want to carry them around the world with you, just mail them home[…]Leave your postcard journals on your coffee table or hang them on a bulletin board. They’re a great way to invite questions and conversations about your travels without feeling like you’re forcing the topic on anyone.”

#3 Start a stone collection

Sometimes it is also nice to take a piece with you. Whether you are standing on an amazing black lava stone beach or found a beautifully shaped stone in a stream in a National Park. Take it with you and start a collection. Every time you go on a trip collect a nice rock  and write the place and year on it. Before you know it you have a piece of the entire world in your house.

Source: http://quarryorchard.blogspot.nl/2010/02/vacation-rocks.html

Disclaimer: Make sure you are allowed to pick up a stone and take it with you. Some countries have VERY strict customs rules about removing stones from their countries i.e. potential archaeological artefacts.

#4 Scratch Maps

If you don’t want to carry around any souvenirs with you  how about decorating your kids room with a big scratch map and each time you come back from a trip, you reveal another part of the world you have explored with your little one(s). There are numerous scratch map styles, with country flags and without & co.  We particularly like the Landmass scratch maps.

#5 Collect foreign currencies

While travelling in the Eurozone might not make this a very interesting collection, once you venture further afield this is an interesting way to collect keep sakes. According to Travelex there are 180 current currencies across the world, as recognized by the United Nations. The British pound is the world’s oldest currency that’s still in use, dating back to the 8 th century.

#6 Create a flight journal

Fight journals are fun and we love the one from Simply for Flying.  they are wonderful keepsakes. The books are designed to be given to the crew for the captains to fill them out and it is wonderful to see the kids getting all excited when the captains or cabin crew hand it back. And often the flight journals come back from the cockpit with added keepsakes such as a print out of the actual route report or weather maps.

#7 Travel journaling

It is easy remembering the big moments of a trip but keeping a travel journal helps you remember details of your travel memories you might forget otherwise.  And kids see the world through different eyes. The below bullet points are copied from Vikki Reich’s post Travel Journals for Kids: Why They Are Worth the Hassle, as I could not express it any better than she did:

  • By asking kids to reflect on their day, you discover what was most enjoyable or important to them.
  • Journaling reinforces the experience and strengthens their memories.
  • It is a good way to wind down after a busy day of sightseeing. Family vacations are intense. You are together 24/7, usually in a hotel or smaller space than you are all used to, and are flooded with new experiences. That’s a recipe for exhaustion and bickering. Quiet time at the end of the day can be a gift. Grabbing your notebooks and cuddling up in bed with some colored pencils is a nice way to wind down.
  • Looking at old journals is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming.
  • The journals become a keepsake they’ll appreciate when they’re older.

FREE DOWNLOAD Children Travel Journal (pdf)

It also seems to be a popular new trend to create email accounts for your kid(s) and email them photos, videos and co. regularyl. And then give them the password on their 18th birthday, it is like an online time capsule.


One of my favourites is to visit local markets and spice shops and buy spices that are typical for the area. Then when I come home I cook with them, it  keeps the travel memories alive and often forces me to try out new recipes. Often the smell reminds me of our trip. On my last trip to Israel I have discovered Sumac, and it is something that is a staple in my pantry ever since. Also for kids it is an interesting subject for an inpromptu history lesson.  Explain to them how important spices and other commodities were back in the days, actually pepper was once so valuable that it could be used to pay the rent, It is an interesting read how the spice trade changed the world.

#9 TURN YOUR children’s drawings INTO WEARABLE ART

Ask your child(ren) to draw a picture of his/her favourite experience on holiday.  And then transfer the drawing onto a T-Shirt for them to wear. It makes them beam with pride to show off their art and share their travel stories. It is very easily done, a simple instructions on how to do it can be found on No Time for Flashcards Blog . Fabric Transfer Paper is available at most craft stores, office supply stores and online.

#10 And obviously …Take loads of pictures

Do you keep the pictures on your hard drive and hardly ever look at them?  Do you print out loads and hang them up? Maybe you make beautiful collages with them to decorate your house? Whatever you do with the pictures you take, it is an easy way to journal. You and your kids will undoubtedly look at the pictures later and start a trip down memory lane. Shutterfly allows you to print of a photo books, print on canvas, coasters, pillows.

Some parents set up Instagram pages for their kids and print them off using services, such as Chatbooks.


Personally we really want to try out  FLYTOGRAPHER. Flytographer is a community of local photographers ready to capture your memories in 200 cities around the world in front of iconic backdrops. It is the ultimate session for people who never get around to have a family photo session while at home, this way you can have professional family pictures taken while being on vacation!

And last but not least some book recommendations to get kids into the world explorer spirit.

Travel Book for children Recommendations

Atlas of Adventures Early Explorers Subscription Kit Walk the World City Atlas
Explore seven continent maps, packed with hundred of activities and challenges to inspire armchair travellers of any age. Atlas of Adventures is part of a series containing 6 other books. A great way to discover the world and all its treasures at home or while travelling. Beautiful to look at as it takes us on a tour of the world. There are over 80 flaps to open up and explore which give you little insights into other worlds. 30 best-loved cities from around the world are brought to life . A search-and-find game on every page helps young readers to explore every city and spot the hundreds of details that makes each place unique.

What’s your favourite travel souvenir and what memories does it evoke?

Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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