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  • Margo McDonough

Travel Snobs No More

My kids have been traveling since they were infants, on treks across the U.S. and across the world. As our family’s passports filled with stamps, I must admit that we became travel snobs. There are a number of rules by which a travel snob lives, the first of which is: Never pack more than a carry-on bag. Rule #2: Skip the escorted trips and travel independently.

A decade ago, we broke Rule #2 and had our best trip abroad ever.

We were eager to see Italy with our four kids, who then ranged in age from 6 to 16. And we wanted to take my husband’s parents, too. But grandma and grandpa aren’t travel snobs, on the contrary, they had only traveled abroad once before. On that previous trip, to Paris, I was the de facto tour guide and mapped out all the sightseeing and meal options.

On this planned jaunt to Italy, I wanted to kick back and let someone else do the hand-holding. I had heard good things about Go Ahead Tours so I looked into the 9-day Naples, Sorrento and Rome tour.

The ruins of Pompei. Exploring the Blue Grotto in Capri. A mozzarella-making lesson at a family-run farm. The Colosseum and Vatican (and maybe a little shopping) in Rome. The itinerary sounded fabulous. Hopefully, our guide and fellow travelers would be, too.

On our first night, feasting on Pizza Margherita in a cozy trattoria, I realized that my fears had been unfounded. I had envisioned guided travel as a grown-up version of a school field trip – complete with stern chaperone. But our guide was laid-back, witty and already proving to be a font of knowledge as he explained how modern-day pizza was invented for Queen Margherita upon her visit to Naples in 1889. Our fellow tour participants came from all walks of life. They seemed interested in immersing themselves in the culture and traditions of Italy, not just get a snapshot of the monument of the day and hit the gift shops.

Our nine days in Italy went by all too fast but I never felt rushed or harried because someone else was doing the legwork. We enjoyed the included tours and my in-laws took advantage of every optional excursion. While the in-laws watched a lively performance of tarantella dancing, my then first-grader and I made friends with a local mom and daughter at a Sorrento gelato stand. While they were at “dinner with the tenors” on our last night in Rome, my husband took the boys out for a late-night (and final) taste of authentic pizza.

I’m happy to report that my family is no longer part of the travel snob clique. However, the snobs do have one rule that still makes sense -- pack only carry-ons. That’s all we brought on our nine days to Naples, Sorrento and Rome and all that we bring on any trip less than three weeks.

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