Three Things I Learned at FT4RL2


A ton of people have already posted on the very successful Family Travel For Real Life (2!) conference this past weekend so I’m not going to rehash the conference. Suffice it to say there were a lot of great presentations and it was a lot of fun. Part of me wants to say “Why weren’t more people there!?” while another part of me thinks the success of the conference was in large part due to the smaller and more intimate numbers. But I digress. Here are three things that I’ll take away from the conference.

1 – It’s fun to turn internet friends into sorta real life friends

To be honest, I felt a little awkward when I went to the hotel. In fact, I had dropped by the night before – I was at the front desk and I heard someone say “Leslie!” – I now believe that was likely Dia. I didn’t turn around to say hello because I’ve never been in the situation where I’m meeting people I only know on the internet for the first time!

Anyway, my social awkwardness was totally confirmed when I rode the elevator up the next morning with Dia, who told me she was glad I made it – I had no idea who she was until an hour later when the conference started! AWK-ward.

But after the initial weirdness (I sat next to Chasing the Points but didn’t know if he knew if I knew he knew I knew who he knew I knew he was), eventually I had met everyone in person and it was all good.

The After Party - photo courtesy of Leslie from TripswithTykes
The After Party – photo courtesy of Leslie from TripswithTykes

The internet is a weird place – you talk to people all the time who you’ve never met and when you finally meet them you’re never quite sure if they’ll turn out the way you imagine. While I was mildly surprised at a few people’s real life personas, to a person everyone at the conference was kind, smart, and incredibly savvy at points and travel.

It’s even more fun to be surrounded by great minds in person than it is to be surrounded by them on the internet!

2 – Others’ travel stories inspire me to travel more

When you’re one of the few ¬†families amongst your “normal” friends dragging a toddler around the world, it’s natural to start second guessing your decisions. So it was nice to be at a conference where the people who prefer staying at home are the “weird” ones, even if it was only for 24 hours.

This conference really reaffirmed my belief that traveling with kids, even toddlers, is worth it. A month or two ago, my Uncle asked me why we drag M everywhere – “You know she won’t remember a thing.” Well here are some paraphrased quotes that run counter to that thinking that really stuck with me.

Future travel pro?
Future travel pro?

“Even if she doesn’t remember it, her experiences are shaping who she is and she’ll be better off for it…by the time she’s four she’ll be a pro at traveling.” (Kenny from Miles 4 More)

“I’ve gotten the chance to see how travel has shaped my son into the man he is becoming and it’s amazing to see.” (Shawn from Miles to Memories, who really was dropping gems all weekend)

“Traveling regularly together bonds us in a way that I don’t see other families I know experiencing.” (Kirsten from The American Travel Project, and many others)

“My most vivid memories from my childhood are from when I traveled and I just want to be able to give that to my own family” (Tom)

“Now that my kids are grown, we still travel together as a family – it’s a different and fuller experience than if we were just to get together and sit at home” (Cheryl)

“You are a rude adult.” (the wife of Dan from Points with a Crew to someone who called her kids “unaccompanied monsters”)

“My daughter doesn’t actually have a great imagination, she has a great memory.” (Dia the Deal Mommy to her daughter’s teacher who was skeptical at her in class travel recap)

3 – Traveling with the family is a lot of hard, yet worthwhile, work

Talking about the conference with my wife after (she, incidentally, spent the day in Charlotte taking M to see animals with her sister and her husband – overstimulation city), I posited that the biggest thing I took away was the desire to continue to travel with our family. Dare I I’d even want us continuing to do it even if we couldn’t use points and miles – they are just a means to reach that end.

No matter how you pay for it, traveling with the family is a lot of hard work, for points and miles enthusiasts, that hard work also extends to the “earning” portion of the trip.

The Orlando version of this sounds next level
The Orlando version of this sounds next level

But after you’ve acquired the means, you still need to plan the trip – and thanks to Leslie from Trips with Tykes I now know that I need a PhD in nuclear physics to plan a trip to Disney World. Fastpass+/rider switch/pin trading whaaaaa?

But no matter how hard the work is, I think ultimately it’s worth it. Like Tom, my most vivid memories from childhood are from traveling or living overseas. I’m sure it was tough for my parents to take us around (we still all remember a 2-day drive to Disney with a stay at the Johnny Appleseed inn, not to mention being stuck all day in the Outer Banks WITHOUT FOOD I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU MOM AND DAD JK).

Yet those are the stories we still recall with laughter when we get back together and some of our most cherished memories. In the end, mom and dad, whatever you went through was worth it in my book. Hopefully one day M can say the same to us.

Final Thoughts

Special thanks to Dia for organizing a wonderful conference and all the speakers and attendees for making the community so great. This post may sound soapboxy, partially because it is. But 4reallife – consider traveling with your family and children. You just might surprise yourself at how much you enjoy it. And if you’d like a kick in the butt to get into gear to get out there and do it – there’s a boot with your name on it at Happy trails!

Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

8 thoughts on “Three Things I Learned at FT4RL2

  1. It was a great weekend and I really enjoyed meeting you and recording the podcast(s). You are right that everyone’s stories are inspiring and it feels good to be in a room with people who all think about family travel in a similar way. Hope we can do it all again sometime soon!

  2. Unfortunately the dates of the conference didn’t fit with our schedule. It’s a shame too, because Charlotte is easy to get to and I REALLY wanted to be there. Maybe next time.

    And the next time someone makes the “they’re too young, they’ll never remember it,” there’s a real simple answer for that:

    “You’re right, they won’t. But I will.”

  3. Here’s another quote (well, paraphrase) about traveling with kids. I listened to a Rick Steves podcast (as recommended by rapid travel chai) called globetrotting with kids (nov 29 2014 episode). The guests were Anya Clowers, author of “Jet with Kids” ( and Ashley Steel, co-author of “Family on the Loose” (Rumble Books). I think it was Anya Clowers who said, we read to our children when they are very young, not because they are going to remember it, but because we are imparting upon them a love of reading. It’s the same with travel. She said it a bit better than that, but I totally agree with the idea that traveling with kids shapes who they are partly by making it second nature to be comfortable with traveling, new ideas, different environments and people. No, they don’t remember every experience, but the experience does become part of them.
    Here’s the link to the podcast, it’s a good one

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