February 13, 2020

Taking a poll: Italy or skip?

Last year Ed went on a high school trip to Europe over spring break.  It was his senior year.  He was a 4th year Latin student.  He had a great experience visiting Paris, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany.  The trip was not cheap.  It cost $3,500.  Ed paid $1,000.  My mom chipped in $500.  Coach and I paid the rest.

Photo of the Eiffel tower by Eddie.
Lad was a bit bent out of shape because he did not get to go on a Europe trip in high school.  He barely skated thru the Spanish classes he took freshman and sophomore year.  The Europe trips at our school are open to all students (I think), but students who are seriously studying a language are first introduced to the trip and they sort of get first dibs.  The trip Ed attended filled up fast.  

Translation:  we never really knew anything about these kinds of trips while Lad was in high school.  

Background:  not sure if you have caught on to my long-term, middle child syndrome issues since I keep that on the down-low.  Let's just say as a result of my upbringing, I try when I can to be consistent.  I desperately try to avoid playing favorites and I like to be as even-Steven as possible.  
Guess who got to see Notre Dame weeks
before it burned?  I am not 100% sure that this
 is Notre Dame in this photo from his
trip, but if not it is another cool church.  

I will not bore you with details of my brother, Pat, and his travels to Ireland for his music competitions when we were kids.  

Fast-forward to Curly and her international travels for dancing and I assure you that I struggle with leaving some kids behind on these trips.  When I just booked flights to go to Dublin for World Championships, I tried to bring Reg and Tank.  Reg assured me he could not leave the country during March Madness.  And Tank feared it would be an Irish dancing centered trip - even though I insist that the dancing will just be one or two days.  It is once again just the girls.  

A few years back, Curly was dancing in Orlando for July 4th.  Mini and Reg were dancers, but had not qualified to dance in the National competition.  I decided to take the two of them.  

Backstory to the backstory, Irish dancing detail:  They did not qualify because we got unceremoniously kicked out of our dance school since I complained about verbally abusive teaching methods.  Their age groups had to qualify, but we had to sit out of a qualifying round because of our transition to a new school, thus no Orlando.  All this to say, I felt bad that they were getting screwed in the school transfer deal and wished I had the foresight to ditch this school before it got so ugly.  It was a traumatic experience and I felt we all deserved a little Orlando amusement park fun.  

Tank was not involved in the dancing drama at this point.  So when recently-retired-from-dancing -Tank found out that I was taking the 3 littles, he seemed bummed.  

I froze.  Could not sleep.  I thought I had run the travel itinerary past him, and he had shrugged it off.  Now he seemed wilted and left out.  He was a 7th grader.  I drove up to the middle school midday and took him out of class.  I asked him in the school front office if he wanted to go to Orlando with the 3 youngest and I.  He sheepishly said he felt bad about the added expense.  I got all choked up and explained that I had planned to take the 3 dancers and thought he was initially OK with it.  He begged me to stop crying because we were IN THE SCHOOL FRONT OFFICE.

I came home and booked him on our flight.  Coach was a little miffed.  $$$.  My emotional state over-ruled all talk of the expense.  

After Curly danced, we visited the Disney parks for 2 days.  The heat of July was insufferable, but oh my gosh - we had a blast.  I would have felt awful if Tank missed out.  Lad and Ed were in high school, and were not overly sad that they did not get to go.  

Present day:  Mini is in her 2nd year of Latin.  Her teacher is taking a group to Italy over spring break of 2021.  I attended the informational meeting about the trip even though I already knew the cost was OUTLANDISH.  The trip is $4,500.  They are only going to one country.  Eddie told me that he didn't feel that it was worth it to only see one country.  The trip sounds amazing, of course.

Mini kinda wants to go, but she is more nervous about going without knowing friends on the trip.  Plus the cost.  

In the mumbled up files of my brain, last year when Ed traveled to Europe I justified it by saying to myself that we could send Tank and Mini on a trip together (I do not think we could send Tank to a foreign country without a responsible sibling tagging along on the same trip) when they would be senior/junior.  In the same brain waves, I insist that we will find a suitable Europe adventure for Lad to attend after graduation, so you know  - no one can point fingers and claim favoritism.  Not on my watch!

Well, hello very expensive trip!  Times two?  I guess it is out of the question.  Like Lad, Tank is not a serious language student.  He is in his first year of sign language.  

If we signed Mini up for the trip by Feb. 1st, she would be eligible for a $500 scholarship that they were going to raffle off.  We did not register her.  Coach insists that I have lost my marbles, and was not really all that interested in entertaining the idea of even one kid attending the trip.

I spoke to my mom about it last week while I was still grappling with the Feb. 1st possible $500 thing.  (by the way, we can put down a $200 deposit to hold a spot and then if she doesn't go we lose the deposit).

I lamented to my mom how I would feel bad if I sent Mini and not Tank.  

My mom:  "Well, I just think Mini would enjoy it more."  Translation:  Mini is smarter, just send her.  

I reminded my mom that Tank is crazy interested in history and the trip would include LOTS of history.   

My mom:  "Oh, well that's true."  

I don't think either of the kids are going.  Do  you think I am crazy?  Or just jaded by my middle child crap?  Do you think we should send one of them?  Both of them? (if you vote yes here, please suggest fundraising ideas).   Has anyone sent a post college kid to Europe? 

My brother, Pat, and I studied in Ireland on the same program while in college for an entire school year.  We traveled around Europe at Christmas.  It was amazing, but I do think there is something to be said for traveling on a tour with guides who know stuff.  We knew nothing and referred to 'Lete's Go:  Europe' like it was our bible.  The tour the high school uses arranges great meals and special tours, etc.  

Save me, friends.  My brain hurts.  

EDITING TO ADD:  Speaking of brain hurting, in my effort to schedule my posts on Tues/Thurs everything got mumbled and I inadvertently posted 3 things this morning.  If you were the one person that read all three posts, rest your eyes and hope you enjoyed your sneak peek of what is to come.  I have moved those premie posts to a bit later in the rotation.  Watch after all this the writing class will be a breeze and I will not have needed to be a busy beaver and stockpile posts like this.  (wishful thinking)


Kara said...

My oldest two are doing a 17 day trip to Europe in May/June 2021, with their high school. It will be the summer before Senior year for my oldest, and summer before Junior year for my middle. It's going to cost us $5150 per child. We told the kids they each need to contribute $1000, my parents will give us some money, and we'll foot the rest. This is after the both went to Washington DC for their 8th grade trips that cost us $1700 per kid. My oldest will be 18 by then, and it's written into the guidebook that she will be legally allowed to drink beer and wine while on the trip. I know it will be a trip of a lifetime, but now we have to find something to do with the youngest child, as she's been left out of DC and now Europe. Maybe she'll get to go to Disney World or something like that, without them.

Ernie said...

Kara - Yowza, that is a hefty price tag. It does sound like an amazing trip. My kids have all gone on the DC trip with their 8th grade class as well. Lad was our only kid who graduated from privates school, so his class did not do an 8th grade trip but we did go as a family when he was in high school. Can your youngest look forward to an 8th grade trip and a Europe trip eventually? Otherwise, I vote Disney - love that place.

Charlie said...

Wow! That’s an expensive price tag for a trip. Do they really want to go that much? We don’t have school trips that expensive here. Surely you could ALL come to Europe for a week for not much more?! I’m doing the opposite trip tomorrow and we’re flying from the UK to New York (yay -50 here I come!) It’s cost us about $700 each for flight & 5 nights in a Manhattan hotel. I know that doesn’t include food or trips, but still!

Ernie said...

Charlie - Have a wonderful time. I was considering very briefly flying out to visit Lad this weekend (more of a landlord from hell situation than a visit) but we could have met up. I think they are both fine skipping it. I just know it is a great trip. I know it is pricey but I think it is because of the tours they will take, staying right in the center of things, and eating at decent places. I saw Europe on a major budget and ate baguettes of bread and carried around a jar of jam. My mouth was raw from ripping off the hard crusty bread. I am excited to hear about your trip. Happy 50th to you!

Charlie said...

Thanks Ernie. If you do end up in New York this weekend please let me know. I’d love to meet up!

Suzanne said...

I went to Europe in high school, and, based on that, I would NOT send my kiddo to Europe with her class! LOL - this could just be because I had VERY relaxed chaperones. It was definitely interesting and we saw some GREAT places but it was more about the social aspect, for me. I just wasn't mature enough to get a lot out of it from an educational perspective. So I would rather take my daughter on a parent-led trip... Or fund a study-abroad year in college. I guess I am voting against Italy, it seems, even though I am a big proponent of international travel!

Bibliomama said...

I don't feel remotely qualified to vote on this. It must be really tough to try to be even-handed over six kids. My daughter went to Greece with her best friend's family last summer - we only really had to pay for flights and a pittance for a few hotel rooms and meals, mostly they stayed with family. Angus has traveled around Canada and the U.S. quite a bit for baseball. I don't think he'd really appreciate Europe until he's older.

Anonymous said...

I would recommend skipping it, personally. I think there's a dollar value beyond which it isn't worth it to send a kid on a trip, and the cost for Europe is beyond that number. You can buy a lot of at-home or near-home enrichment for that kind of money. Or a chunk of upcoming college costs. Equality for kids is not in dollars, but in choices that suit them within what you can do with your finances/time/energy. You're doing a TON of stuff with all of your kids, as far as I can tell from only just having run across your blog.

If your kids really want to have an international experience, they can do it on scholarship as study abroad once they're in college. Or as vacations they pay for themselves as adults. Europe will still be there.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Oh my gosh. This is a big one.
I really don't feel like I could give any advice here. My girls never had big trips in school and when they were in school, this probably wouldn't have been affordable to us at the time either.
I wish I could help!!
Good luck.

Ernie said...

Suzanne - I get where you are coming from. Not sure if it is a sign of the times or not, but this trip would be closely chaperoned. The trip would be combined with the other 'entitled' school in our district. Mini knows very few kids attending the trip, so this would not be a social event for her. She is also mature beyond her years and is very interested in what is going on in the world then and now and how it impacts they way life is now, etc. I think she would gain a lot by attending. She could wait and see what trip is offered her senior year and see if they cover more countries and if the price is more manageable. That would eliminate Tank from the equation, but it would go along with the reason that Ed went: 4th year Latin student.

It is my hope that all of my kids study abroad while in college and part of me thinks a trip in high school peaks their interest and gives them an idea of where they want to study. That didn't happen for Lad which is a bummer but hard to do as a division 1 athlete especially one that transferred form another school and had to catch up on their required courses.

Ali - It is tough to try to keep things consistent for the whole gang. Most of my kids seem to feel like equity is a central theme in our fam - at least as far as what they communicate to me. Last year we flew Lad to Montana to spend spring break with his best friend who goes to school near Yellowstone and Lad had an amazing time. The boys have not objected to the girls' Irish dancing travels. Last year's trip to Vancouver was an all-in deal so I was glad to be able to be inclusive on that one, which was no easy feat. Surviving the airbnb debacle was a family character building experience in and of itself!

Ed really did appreciate Europe last year. One of the teacher chaperones from the other school in our district was overheard by one of my good friends who teaches at the same school. She was describing Eddie as being a leader on the trip who set the tone and raised the bar. She felt like the other students took in more and attended to the tours more because Ed was totally engaged. He didn't screw around and encouraged others to follow the rules like removing headphones when the group was addressed, etc. Super proud mom moment for me when my friend texted me to say how strongly the teacher felt about him, but I also wasn't surprised. Tank would definitely fall into the goofball side of things, whereas Mini would be more on the same page as Ed. Totally focused. Still, I think we are skipping this trip.

Anonymous - thanks for 'stumbling' onto my blog. I appreciate your insight. I agree that there is an amount that becomes too much for a trip like this. The difference between $3,500 and $4,500 is substantial really. (see above for my thoughts on how Ed gained much from the experience). As I said above too, I do hope that each kid chooses to study abroad during college. Studying in Ireland my junior year was pivotal. I get kind of blurred vision when it comes to what makes sense and how to keep from appearing to play favorites. Baggage from my childhood.

Suz - It is a 'big one'. Tough decision. I don't care that my kids miss out on owning lots of technology gadgets, new cars, fancy 'stuff' because they come from a big family with a small budget, but I try not to let our big family stand in the way of great experiences. Lad never seemed overly interested in attending the trip. He wasn't in the language class where it was highlighted/discussed, so that might be part of it. I will be curious to see if there is a trip that is not as pricey Mini's senior year that might be a good fit for her. So for now, I think we are going to take a pass on this trip.

Nicole MacPherson said...

I can't give advice, but I did go to Italy, Greece, and Turkey on a school trip in grade 11 and it was pretty fabulous. I think I would have gotten more out of it when I was older, but we did learn a lot of history prior to going. As for the cost, it seems expensive to me, but I'm not sure what things cost in the States. Big decision for sure.

Ernie said...

Nicole- I do think it would be fabulous. Must be because a parent raised her hand to ask if she could attend the trip with her child. She was serious and had already asked the tour group if parents could attend. They said it was up to the lead teacher's discretion. I cringed a little for her kid and for the put-on-the-spot teacher. Considering it is $1,000 more that last year's trip, I think it is pricey.

Anonymous said...

I can't comment on whether they should go or not (that is a pricey trip but sounds awesome). My kids have done some school trips and we worked it out that they will pay for the trip but we will pay up front and they have until infinity to pay us back. Each kid has a google sheet with expenses added and subtracted as we go along. One daughter owes me $1500 right now and the other $2700. When they're working, they throw some money at me as they make it and can afford it. This makes them really consider is it worth it as they don't like owing me $!

Ernie said...

Anonymous- that sounds like a good alternative. It would sure cut into my kids' goals of working for college tuition. Something to think about!