Tempe and Chandler, Arizona
We’ve just returned from a family-oriented FAM tour to sunny Arizona, hosted by the good people at the Tempe and Chandler Tourism Boards. I must confess, prior to accepting the invitation, Arizona rarely entered the conversation when planning our future family trips.
In hindsight, this was a huge oversight, because Arizona meets most of our current travel needs – a short flight from Vancouver, limited time zone change, lots of sunshine and plenty of toddler-friendly activities.
We’d be lying if we said we weren’t nervous.
First, our boys are quite young, so we feared this type of a trip would overwhelm them. Secondly, we feared our boys would disrupt the rest of the group because the other kids were quite a bit older (and didn’t require afternoon naps). But, given that the tour was designed specifically with families in mind, we thought it would be fun to give it go.
Then, we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best!
The family FAM tour was an interesting experience on its own.
We’ve been on many press trips and FAM tours before, but not one that’s centered around kids and families. Upon arrival, it became very evident that a lot of effort went into organizing the tour. The planning and logistics alone were enough to make my head spin. I’m pretty sure our hosts Toni and Kimberly needed a vacation after the tour finished.
Similar to previous hosted trips, the days were jam packed with activities and group meals, one after the other, from sunrise to sunset. It was a lot to ask of our boys, but they did very well and managed to keep their cool most of the time (how did parents survive before tablets and smartphones?!).
Fortunately, our hosts were very thoughtful and gracious, which made the experience enjoyable for everyone. The cookies and fishy crackers on the bus also helped.
As we continue to figure out this parenting thing, we’re learning a lot about ourselves and what does/does not work when traveling with our boys. We enjoy spending time with them, so it’s important that we change our attitudes and expectations, otherwise nobody has any fun.
Before having kids, our ideal trip included a combination of outdoor adventure, entertaining nightlife and late morning coffee sessions. Now, as our pile of luggage grows with car seats and a double stroller, I’ve come to realize that our travels will never be like they once were.
Normally, an epiphany like this would be met with thoughts of reluctance, but this recent jaunt to Arizona has opened our minds to a new style of travel, one that focuses on family friendly activities we can all enjoy.
After all, isn’t travel supposed to be fun for everyone?
As I reflect on our trip to Arizona, I find myself struggling to properly capture the experience. It all happened so fast.
We visited several locations in a short period of time, ranging from bird watching to cowboy shows to boating around Tempe Town Lake. Our highlights were visits to the Phoenix Zoo, SEA Life Arizona Aquarium and Rawhide Western Town.
Ironically, we ended up having more fun than our toddler, reminding us that touristy attractions can be a lot of fun when you give them a chance.
We’re glad we accepted the invitation to join this family FAM tour. We met some wonderful people and we enjoyed spending quality time with our boys at a destination we likely would not have visited otherwise.
We can see ourselves returning one day, but I can’t say we would travel all the way to Arizona specifically for its zoo or aquarium (that’s not a knock on Arizona, that sentiment applies for any destination). We would, however, return for its warm weather and guaranteed sunshine. That, we believe, is the region’s greatest attraction (okay, the Grand Canyon is kind of a big deal too).
Although the trip was short and somewhat rushed, it gave us a small taste of Arizona and left us wanting more, which is exactly how we like to feel when a we finish a trip.
Have you visited Arizona? What was your highlight?
Share your experience and/or travel tips in the comments section below.